Director Quentin Tarantino criticizes the studio’s decision to change a character’s race in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, calling it a societal compromise.
Director Quentin Tarantino slams Columbia Pictures for changing the race of a character in Martin Scorsese’s 1976 film Taxi driver. The film follows Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle, a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who lives in New York City and works night shifts as a cab driver, only for the city’s crime and decadence to ignite his deepest urges. violent. In the film’s final act, Travis saves a young sex worker he met earlier in the film named Iris by shooting her pimp, Sport, played by Harvey Keitel, as well as the other men with her in the room. stage. By the end, he is seen by society as a heroic vigilante, despite his violent tendencies displayed throughout the film.
According IndieWiredespite being a fan of the Scorsese film, Tarantino argues in his book Cinema Speculation that the studio’s involvement diminished the weight of screenwriter Paul Schrader’s original vision for the film. It highlights Keitel’s character’s race change from a black person to a white person as an example. Check out his quote below:
The film makes it clear that he sees black men as malevolent crime figures. He is repelled by any contact with them. They are to be feared or at the very least to be avoided. And since we’re watching the movie from Travis’ point of view, so do we. […]
And who couldn’t handle that? Black audience? Or is it more likely that the white people financing the film were the ones who felt uncomfortable with the footage from Schrader’s original script? So uncomfortable that the fear of black men causing violence in movie theaters was conveniently presented as an excuse to change Schrader’s Sport from black to white? Whichever way you slice it, Scorsese, producers Michael and Julia Phillips, and Columbia Pictures changing Sport’s pimp character from black to white was a societal compromise.
Tarantino’s Taxi Driver Casting Ideas Would’ve Taken The Film Too Far
Tarantino elaborates by saying that the change undermines the racism Travis displays towards black people throughout the film, and he goes on to call on the studio to be afraid to cast a black actor in the role and imagery he would create. It’s true that despite being considered heroic in the news at the end of the film, Travis is far from a heroic character for audiences after his trip, and his racist attitude is just one of many. reasons why. It seems that, for Tarantino, the film’s refusal to delve into this aspect of the character was a societal compromise on the part of the director, producers, and studio. However, due to the race riots a few years before the film was released, this would certainly have been a more controversial casting decision, considering who the character was and the violent way he was killed off.
It’s interesting to think how differently Scorsese’s film and Travis’ character would be viewed if Sport’s run stuck to Schrader’s original script. Travis could widely be considered a controversial figure, as Taxi driver raises moral questions about whether the results really justify the actions or the intentions. However, many would likely be able to view his actions as even less justifiable if they turned out to be racially motivated instead. The original casting decision could have potentially allowed audiences to find out more about who Travis is as a character, but fully engaging with that aspect would arguably also remove the ambiguity of trying to figure him out in the first place.
Tarantino isn’t shy about voicing what he believes to be a missed opportunity to bring Schrader’s original Taxi driver scenario to life. While he claims the original version would have strengthened the film’s story and characters, it’s just possible that audiences weren’t ready to see it portrayed that way just yet, and not even today. Meanwhile, Scorsese’s version Taxi driver that audiences received has garnered critical acclaim over the years and cemented its cultural significance in film, so perhaps the final decisions Scorsese made for the film were the best.
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Source: Movie Speculation (via IndieWire)