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Who Inspired Taxi Driver?

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Taxi Driver is a 1976 American psychological thriller film directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Paul Schrader. The film is set in New York City, soon after the Vietnam War. The film stars Robert De Niro and features Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, and Cybill Shepherd. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won the Palme d'Or at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival.
Creator(s): Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader
Type: Movies/TV/Stage
Genre(s): psychological thriller
Year Released: 1976

Martin Scorsese cites Alfred Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man as inspiration for the Taxi Driver.[1]

Martin Scorsese also cites Jack Hazan’s A Bigger Splash as inspiration for his camerawork in the movie.[2]

In Scorsese on Scorsese, Martin Scorsese mentions the religious symbolism in the story comparing Bickle to a saint who wants to clean up both life and his mind. Bickle attempts suicide at the end of the movie as a way to mimic the Samurai’s “death with honour” principle.[3]

When Travis meets Betsy to join him for coffee and pie, he reminds her of a line in Kris Kristofferson's song "The Pilgrim, Chapter 33": "He's a prophet and a pusher, partly truth, partly fiction—a walking contradiction."[4]

On his date with Betsy, Bickle takes her to see Language of Love, a Swedish sex education film.[5]

In writing the script, Paul Schrader was inspired by the diaries of Arthur Bremer (who shot presidential candidate George Wallace in 1972).[6]

Paul Schrader was also inspired by Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground, which is considered by many to be the first existentialist novel.[7][8]

The writer Paul Schrader also used himself as an inspiration, prior to writing the screenplay Schrader was in a lonely and alienated position, much like Bickle. Following a divorce and a break-up with a live-in girlfriend, he spent a few weeks living in his car. He wrote the script in under a month while staying in his former girlfriend's apartment while she was away.[9] “At the time I wrote it I was very enamored of guns, I was very suicidal, I was drinking heavily, I was obsessed with pornography in the way a lonely person is, and all those elements are upfront in the script,” said Schrader in an interview.[10]

Also featured in the film is Jackson Browne's "Late for the Sky", appearing in a scene where couples are dancing on the program American Bandstand to the song as Travis watches on his small TV.[11]

In his 2009 memoir, saxophonist Clarence Clemons said Robert De Niro explained the line's ("You talkin' to me?") origins when Clemons coached De Niro to play the saxophone for the movie New York, New York. Clemons says De Niro had seen Bruce Springsteen say it onstage at a concert as fans were screaming his name, and decided to make the line his own.[12]

Writer Paul Schrader thought that the hit song “Taxi” by Harry Chapin could have subconsciously inspired the idea of a taxi driver as an isolated anti-hero.[13]

In writing the story, Paul Schrader wrote the part of Travis Bickle with Jeff Bridges in mind.[14]

Music critic Greil Marcus said that Martin Scorsese told him, in 1978, that the first fifteen minutes of his movie Taxi Driver was based on Astral Weeks.[15]

Taxi Driver has a few similarities to the 1956 film The Searchers by John Ford. Both the main protagonists of the two films are loners who had a hard time to fit into the society.[16]