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Wednesday December 19th 2018

Taxi Driver | 1976

Taxi Driver location: The bloody shoot-up: 13th Street, East Village, New York
Taxi Driver location: The bloody shoot-up: 13th Street, East Village, New York

Robert de Niro is so iconic as unhinged loner Travis Bickle, it’s hard to remember anyone else was ever in the frame, but first choice for the role was crooner Neil Diamond. How tempting does that sound? Next up was Jeff Bridges under the direction of Robert Mulligan.

But sense prevailed and we got the dream teaming of Martin Scorsese and de Niro, and one of the key films of the Seventies. 1976 was a vintage year. Apart from Taxi Driver, we had Alan J Pakula’s compelling take on Watergate, All The President’s Men, and Sidney Lumet’s scabrous Network. So the Academy gives Best Picture to... Rocky. Uh, yeh.

From the opening notes of Bernard Hermann’s brooding, jazzy score (his last) to the climactic ‘God's eye view’ shot, Scorsese’s classic remains as thrilling as it ever was, with legendary performances from de Niro and Jodie Foster, and dirty old Seventies New York, before the big clean-up, the perfect, bilious breeding ground for urban paranoia.

Scorsese, naturally, uses real New York locations. The city is constantly changing, sprucing up and becoming gentrified, and some of the locations no longer exist. The cab office Bickle works out of was at the western end of 57th Street, at 11th Avenue. The building is still there, but the photogenic backdrop has been bulldozed to make way for the West Side Highway.

Taxi Driver location: Columbus Circle, New York
Taxi Driver location: Bickle plans to shoot the candidate: Columbus Circle, New York

Gone too is the café where Bickle meets with Wizard (Peter Boyle) and the other drivers. It was a real cabbies’ hangout, the Belmore Cafeteria, which stood on Park Avenue South at 28th Street.

The porno theatres, where Bickle spends his days, are along the 48th Street block of Eighth Avenue. The political rally is on Seventh Avenue at 38th Street. Bickle sports a mohawk to shoot the senator at Columbus Circle.

Taxi Driver location: Columbus Circle, New York
Taxi Driver location: Bickle is picked up by Betsy: St Regis Hotel, East 55th Street, New York

He’s finally picked up by Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) outside the St Regis Hotel, 2 East 55th Street at Fifth Avenue. The venerable hotel, founded by John Jacob Astor, is also featured in The Godfather.

You can still, though, see the site of the bloody carnage, when ‘God’s lonely man’ wipes out the lowlifes in his quest to rescue the young hooker, Iris (Jodie Foster). The scuzzy ‘hotel’ is a house at 226 East 13th Street, between Second and Third Avenues, in the East Village. It’s been smartened up a lot, and the pillared frontage is gone. A few doors to the right, at 204 East 13th Street, and even more gentrified, you'll find the doorway in which Iris’s pimp, Sport (Harvey Keitel), hung out.