Forty-seven years after its initial release, Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” continues to be regarded as a tipping point in film history. One of the pivotal films of the New Hollywood movement, “Taxi Driver” helped usher in an era of morally dubious antiheroes and movies that offered unflinching looks at societal malaise. Robert De Niro’s legendary performance as disturbed taxi driver Travis Bickle also provided generations of actors and filmmakers with a template for creating psychologically complex characters who are radicalized by their inner demons.
But while the film remains one of his most acclaimed works, Scorsese isn’t thrilled by how much life has imitated art. In a new interview with GQ, the director looked back on many of the iconic film characters that he’s had a hand in creating over the past five decades. When the conversation turned to “Taxi Driver,” Scorsese lamented the prevalence of real people battling the same demons that plagued Bickle.
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“We kept thinking in terms of the character and his loneliness and his acting out, not condoning the acting out, but he does act out and yet an empathy with him, which is really tricky,” Scorsese said. “Ultimately, what stayed with us was the psychological and emotional state of that character. As we know now, tragically, it’s a norm that every other person is like Travis Bickle.”
“Taxi Driver” recently returned to the news when rumors began to circulate that De Niro would be reprising his role from the film in a new commercial for Uber. “Taxi Driver” screenwriter Paul Schrader had harsh words after hearing the rumor, taking to Facebook to write, “Why Bob would do this is beyond my reckoning. But I haven’t seen it. If I’m lucky I never will.”
Both Uber and De Niro’s representatives soon moved to dispel the rumors. While both parties confirmed that they are collaborating on a British commercial, they denied that De Niro would be playing Travis Bickle in the ad. “We are filming with Robert De Niro in London for a new Uber UK campaign, which will launch later in the year,” the company said in a statement.
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