Scorsese had worked with both De Niro and his Taxi Driver co-star Harvey Keitel on Mean Streets, but before the role of Travis Bickle was finally cast it was offered to at least one other famous face.
“I remember meeting Martin Scorsese,” says nearly man Dustin Hoffman. “He had no script and I didn’t even know who he was. I hadn’t seen any of his films and he talked a mile a minute telling me what the movie would be about. I was thinking, ‘What is he talking about?’ I thought the guy was crazy.”
According to producer Julia Phillips, though, Scorsese and De Niro always came as a package. “Marty sidles up to me at parties and tells me how much he wants to do this picture,” she recorded in infamous memoir You’ll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again. After viewing a rough cut of Mean Streets, she gave in, with one condition. “Get us De Niro to play Travis, and it’s all yours.”
He did just that, and De Niro gave the role the full treatment. He wore Schrader’s jacket and boots to get close to the character, and even flew back from filming in Italy to drive his own cab around New York on weekends.