Although full of now-famous faces, Taxi Driver caught its collaborators on the cusp of greatness rather than in the full throes of it. It was therefore a pain to get made.
“This picture is one that just doesn’t ever want to start,” Phillips wrote, recalling broken deals with Warner Bros and disinterest from Columbia. Schrader remembers the same. “The script kept banging around, and everyone would say, ‘Gee this is fabulous! But it’s not for us.’”
In the end De Niro left to make 1900 with Bernardo Bertolucci, and Scorsese couldn’t refuse an offer to direct Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore with Ellen Burstyn, flush from success with The Exorcist.
With Alice finished, Scorsese had another studio film to his name, and finally the project had enough momentum to lurch into production. “Michael and Julia figured there would be enough power to get the film made, though in the end we barely raised the very low budget of $1.3 million,” remembers Scorsese. “In fact, for a while we even thought about doing it on black and white videotape.”