Martin Scorsese Says “Psychological and Emotional State” of ‘Taxi Driver’s’ Protagonist Has Become a Tragic “Norm” Nowadays

Martin Scorsese explains how Travis Bickle has become a personality not so far off of us humans. It is now, normally found in us.

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Posted: September 28, 2023

Martin Scorsese says that more and more people are starting to live in the mental and physical state of the isolated and lonely protagonist of Taxi Driver, namely Travis Bickle, Portrayed by Robert De Niro.

In a recent GQ cover story, the filmmaker discussed his most memorable films, including The Wolf of Wall Street, The Departed, Goodfellas, and Gangs of New York. Scorsese also discusses his approach to Taxi Driver, including how he pondered moving the production to a different location to cut expenses, but finally came to the conclusion that there was no other cab culture like New York’s. And he was absolutely right about that.

Scorsese also discussed how he came to portray BickleA young, white, depressed loner whose thoughts and actions constantly became more and more violent over the course of the film.

“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 recalled. “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.”

Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro on the set of 'Taxi Driver'

Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro on the set of Taxi Driver

The Irishman and Killers of the Flower Moon director also spoke on the reactions to his Oscar-winning picture Raging Bull, as well as the film’s violent male lead, played by De Niro. While the Mean Streets director was aware that many disliked boxer Jake LaMotta, he was shocked to learn that his crew felt the same way.

“We threw everything we knew into it, not knowing how it was going to be received,” Scorsese recalled. “We understood that people didn’t like him and even the crew, it turned out — I didn’t know until later — why are we making a film about this guy? He’s a horror.”

While the director acknowledges LaMotta is unsavory, he defends him as a character, he says that he too tried to find peace the way LaMotto did in the film.

“This man may be this way but he still is a human being. He’s got a heart. He’s got a soul. By the end of it, he finds some kind of peace with himself and maybe the others around him,” he explains. “And I think I was going there, to try to find peace in myself.”

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