Widely regarded as one of the best films ever made, Taxi Driver’s greatness is synonymous with the performance of Robert De Niro, who carried the film on his shoulders as disillusioned and insomnia-ridden Vietnam veteran Travis Bickle. We see the city of New York almost exclusively through his eyes, and, as the movie was filmed amidst both a heat wave and a garbage strike, it underscores the claustrophobic tension throughout, mounting with each scene until it eventually erupts in one of the most violent and controversial endings in film history.
As De Niro turns 72 today, we look at his substantial creative investment that he put into this iconic Oscar-nominated role.
He drove a cab for months in preparation for the role.
After eventually being offered the role by Martin Scorsese, De Niro was busy filming 1900 in Italy. However, every break from filming he’d get, he’d fly to New York and, having actually obtained his cab driver’s license, worked 12-hour shifts until returning to Italy to resume filming. Having already won an Oscar for his work on The Godfather Part II, he would occasionally be recognized. Stories include De Niro once telling a passenger, “Well, that’s acting. One year the Oscar, the next you’re driving a cab!”