Taxi Driver: How Scorsese Cast the Film–Harvey Keitel, Jodie Foster, Cybil Shepard

taxi_driver_3_de_niroTaxi Driver, written by Paul Schrader and directed by Martin Scorsese, celebrates its 40th anniversary with a special presentation at the 2016 Tribeca Film Fest.

 

 

How the Film Was Cast?

Harvey Keitel as the Pimp

Paul Schrader: I had written the character of the pimp that Harvey Keitel plays as black, and we were told by Columbia we had to change it to a white guy because the lawyers were concerned, “if we do this and Travis kills all those black people at the end, then we’re going to have a riot. And we’re going to be liable for this.”

 Jodie Foster as Teenage Prostitute

Jodie Foster: I had done Alice Doesn’t Not Live Here Anymore with Scorsese. He called my mom about the part, and she thought he was crazy. But I went in to meet him for an interview. My mom thought, with my school uniform on, there was no way he’d think I was right for it. But he said yes, and she trusted him.

Michael Phillips We had to get approval from the Los Angeles welfare board, and we were running into a roadblock, so we hired Pat Brown [former governor of California] as an attorney, and magically the problem went away.

Foster: Part of the deal was that any scenes that felt uncomfortable sexually, they would have an adult be a stand-in. So my sister Connie, who was over 18, stood in for a couple of over-the-shoulder shots.

Cybil Shepherd as Betsy, De Niro’s Love Interest:

Phillips: At the last minute, Columbia felt they needed more star power, and that’s how Cybill Shepherd came in.

Cybil Shepherd: When I got the script, my character had no lines, and I threw it across the hotel room, aiming for the garbage can. But because of Mean Streets, I trusted De Niro and Scorsese. My agent at the time, Sue Mengers, told me, “When you go in to the interview, one, don’t talk, and, two, do your hair and makeup.”