TAXI DRIVER | “YOU TALKIN’ TO ME?”

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1976, New York — Robert De Niro, as Travis Bickle, and director Martin Scorsese, on the set of Taxi Driver.  The two had previously collaborated in the 1973 film, Mean Streets.  It’s hard to believe that Scorsese originally offered the role of Travis Bickle to Dustin Hoffman, who turned it down.  Hoffman recalls, “I remember meeting Martin Scorsese.  He had no script and I didn’t even know who he was. I hadn’t seen any of his films and he talked a mile a minute telling me what the movie would be about. I was thinking, ‘What is he talking about?’ I thought the guy was crazy!  The film was Taxi Driver.”

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1976, New York — Robert De Niro, as Travis Bickle, and director Martin Scorsese, on the set of Taxi Driver. — Image by © Steve Schapiro/Corbis.  When he signed-on to play Travis Bickle, De Niro was still abroad filming Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900 in Italy.  De Niro would finish shooting on a Friday in Rome, get on a plane and fly to New York.  He even obtained an official NYC taxi cab driver’s license, and when on break would pick up a cab and drive long shifts on the streets of New York City for a couple weeks at a time before flying back to Rome.  In typical De Niro form, he shed 30- 35 lbs. for the role and studied the diaries of Arthur Bremer (who shot presidential candidate George Wallace in 1972) to get inside his head.

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1976, New York — Director Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro on the set of  Taxi Driver. — Image by © Steve Schapiro/Corbis.  Oliver Stone believes he was the model for De Niro’s Travis Bickle, pointing out that he was being taught by Scorsese at NYU film school at the time, and like Travis he was a Vietnam veteran turned N.Y.C. cabdriver and wore his olive drab army coat while on duty.

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