Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Godfather

Like everyone else in the world, I was hopelessly hooked by The Godfather and marveled at its master craftsmanship. There's very little that can be said now that hasn't already been said before about the film, particularly with the many ways it can be viewed, i.e., a critique of America and American capitalism, a multi-generational immigrant saga about making it in the New World, or a story about the corruption of power, etc. I think most people just get swept away by the themes inside its grand-opera framework, which could be found in many 19th century Italian operas: honor, loyalty, betrayal, and revenge. Almost all Italian operas involve honor and revenge – think of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor; think of the curse, the father’s honor, and revenge in Rigoletto; think of Amneri’s thirst for revenge in Aida; or think of Iago’s treachery in undoing his enemies in Otello. And, of course, the third act climax of Part III literally presents an opera about Sicilian folk justice in Cavelleria Rusticana.

Personally, though, I've always been fascinated by its openly symbolic contrasts: personal vs. business, façade vs. reality, the bright exterior of the family wedding vs. the dark interior of the Don’s office where bad men discuss evil deeds, and ritual vs. chaos, which were of course, the murders that were intercut with scenes of normalcy, i.e., the baby’s baptism (I), Michael in his boathouse (II), and the performance of the opera (III). Not only that, I loved the contrasts found within the characters, especially Michael Corleone.

Not long ago, friends and I conducted a study on
Character Depth and we viewed characters through two specific angles:

  • A believable contradiction in the character’s personality
  • Depth through Cast Design

And with this view in mind, here’s what I wrote of Michael Corleone:

“He was the best and the brightest of the Corleone brothers. He was the family hero, the most respectable son of Don Vito Corleone, who had the highest hopes for Michael in the 'legitimate world.' But when his father was shot, Michael could not keep himself from getting mixed-up in the family business. Inevitably, he took over. What followed was his freefall into a bottomless corruption. While he once distanced himself to Kay from the ways of his family, Michael eventually grew to embody the worst of everything his family represented. He loved his family dearly. Family was the most important thing in the world to him. Yet, he was so vengeful, he would kill his own brother, Fredo. He was sane and mad, kind and cruel, powerful and weak. He was a masterful, strategic thinker blinded by vengeance. He would publicly renounce Satan and all of his works at the baptism of his godson and promise that he would protect that child from the wickedness of the world while outside his men murdered all of his enemies. To Kay he was loving and tender, then callous and even sadistic. He could negotiate with anyone, but yet he could not talk to Kay. In that one crucial moment when he agreed to be honest with Kay and tell her about his business, he lied. He used corrupt methods to muscle his family into a legitimate life, thereby sealing his family in a permanent state of corruption. He made so much money he could invest in a multi-national conglomeration like Mobiliare, but yet, he brought his own family to ruin. He lost his marriage, lost his daughter, lost all of his brothers, tried to escape that life, could not find redemption, and in the end, death followed him everywhere. And he died alone.”

The first time I was given the opportunity to read the now famous March 29, 1971, third draft by Coppola and Puzo, I was in my early twenties and had already consumed the novel and had the movie completely memorized. At the time, I was just starting out, and it was very eye-opening to notice how many lines were changed ever-so-slightly, probably by the actors, to give it a just little more texture and to make it sound more real as it rolled off their tongues. You also notice the thousands of details, the extraneous words and sentences in dialogue and pointless scenes, that were appropriately cut.

For example, following Johnny Fontane’s arrival at the wedding, he sings his first song. Then we read:

JOHNNY finishes the song and the CROWD screams with delight. They call out for another when DON CORLEONE appears.

My Godson has come three thousand
miles to do us honor and no one
thinks to wet his throat.

At once a dozen wine glasses are offered to JOHNNY, who takes a sip from each as he moves to embrace his GODFATHER.

I kept trying to call you after my
divorce and Tom always said you
were busy. When I got the Wedding
invitation I knew you weren't sore
at me anymore, Godfather.

Can I do something for you still?
You're not too rich, or too famous
that I can't help you?

I'm not rich anymore, Godfather, career, I'm almost washed

He's very disturbed. The GODFATHER indicates that he come with him to the office so no one will notice. He turns to HAGEN.

Tell Santino to come in with us.
He should hear some things.

They go, leaving HAGEN scanning the party looking for SONNY.

In the movie, we see this very briefly without any dialogue. (MOS as it is sometimes called in the biz, meaning “without sound,” which originated from Eric von Stroheim who would tell his crew, “Ve’ll shoot dis mid out sound.”) In any case, it was a good cut. Did we need to hear any of those words? Absolutely not. The fact that Johnny had probably returned because he was “in trouble” was already set up by an off-hand comment from Tom Hagen and then paid off immediately with the cut to Johnny slouched on Don Corleone’s desk.

Let me ask a question - what’s the Inciting Incident of The Godfather?

As we all know, the Inciting Incident is that event that propels the story forward, that sends the protagonist on his or her journey; it’s the incident that as McKee writes, “radically upsets the balance of forces in the protagonist’s life.” Most of the screenwriting books will stress to newbie writers to place the Inciting Incident as early as possible, and preferably within the first ten pages, and then you take the story quickly into an Act One climax by about page 25-30. I believe Blake Snyder places the Inciting Incident on his
Beat Sheet at page 12.

So what’s the Inciting Incident and when does it occur?

Is it Connie’s wedding in the beginning? No. That’s a subplot designed to introduce us to all those many characters. How about the arrival of Michael Corleone? No, because it didn’t really upset the balance of things in the family. Unquestionably, the Inciting Incident is when Don Vito Corleone gets gunned down in a street and that would not occur until 45 minutes into the film. We aren’t even made aware of Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo and his drug business until 33 minutes into the film. The meeting (and the Don’s rejection) ends at 40 minutes, and then the Godfather is gunned down at 45 minutes.

Because Coppola followed a more operatic structure, all of the subplots are introduced first and the Inciting Incident IS the Act One climax. What follows in Act II is the cinematic equivalent of a “real page turner” with such evenly paced plot turns that I still marvel at its disciplined writing.

On exposition:

The Godfather taught me some great lessons in exposition. This particular aspect of dialogue is one that, next to
subtext, writers experience the most difficulty. Do you remember the scene at the wedding early in the film in which Michael told Kay the story about his father and Luca Brasi and the offer that couldn’t be refused?

Here’s an earlier version:

Once upon a time, about fifteen
years ago some people wanted to
take over my father's olive oil
business. They had Al Capone send
some men in from Chicago to kill my
father, and they almost did.

Al Capone!

My Father sent Luca Brasi after
them. He tied the two Capone men
hand and foot, and stuffed small
bath towels into their mouths.
Then he took an ax, and chopped one
man's feet off...


Then the legs at the knees...

Michael you're trying to scare me...

Then the thighs where they joined
the torso.

Michael, I don't want to hear

Then Luca turned to the other man...

Michael, I love you.

...who out of sheer terror had
swallowed the bath towel in his
mouth and suffocated.

The smile on his face seems to indicate that he is telling a tall story.

I never know when you're telling me
the truth.

I told you you wouldn't like him.

This version serves one and only one function – to establish that Luca Brasi is a very scary guy. This had to be set up so that we can feel the Corleones' vulnerability after Luca Brasi’s been killed by Sollozzo’s men. Here, though, Coppola and Puzo tried to be cute by trying to make a connection with real world mobster Al Capone. For one thing, a real world connection like that betrays the operatic style of mythology they were trying to create. Second, the version in the film that I’m sure you know well in which Michael tells Kay how his father and Luca helped Johnny's career by putting a gun to that band leader’s head and telling him that either his brains or his signature would wind up on the contract, served MULTIPLE PURPOSES. It not only set up how scary Luca Brasi is but it integrates Johnny more into the story. It also defines how scary Don Vito Corleone really is, despite his charisma, and it introduces the phrase “made him an offer he couldn’t refuse,” which has a huge payoff with Brando a couple of scenes later.

It also served one other function - it created a crucial moment in the relationship between Michael and Kay, because he tells her, "That's my family, Kay, that's not me."

And so, what I took away from that lesson was that exposition must be absolutely integral to the story in a variety of ways and hopefully, setup multiple payoffs.

A few other random thoughts:

* For a time, I used to obsess over the various motifs that ran through the film, particularly the use of oranges, which were symbols of death. Don Vito Corleone tried to buy some oranges just before he was gunned down. He also put an orange in his mouth just before he died. In Part II, I think you could see oranges when Johnny Ola visited Michael near the beginning of the film. Michael also sucked on an orange when he had a serious discussion with Hagen and company about killing Hyman Roth. And of course, Michael was holding an orange when he died in that final scene of Part III. There were quite a few other motifs involving fish, automobiles, wine, water, and thunder. Thanks to The Godfather, it’s a habit of mine to incorporate rich symbolism into my own stories.

* A lot of writers would try fancy schticks to convey the idea that a particular character is powerful, especially through excessive talk or a huge office. But in the opening shot, I am still moved by the simplicity of how easily Coppola conveyed to the world that Don Corleone is a powerful man. He was not in a huge office, and the Don didn’t have to say anything special to prove how powerful he was. We knew it from the way Amerigo Bonasera poured his heart out to the man in front of him and begged for justice and with the way the camera would pan back, and we would look at Bonasera over Brando’s shoulder.

* The dialogue has a poetic quality that elevates it above realism. It’s like they were able to take ethnic dialect and elevate it to this syntax of opera librettos. In other words, the dialogue and mannered phrases operate at a theatrical level and display a kind of operatic loftiness, which no one else has been able to achieve at that level. And that poetry in words is reinforced all the more when they speak Italian.

* The ending is a montage, is it not? Wouldn’t the montage be formatted differently in a contemporary spec? Does this not make you wonder if the montage is by definition the very height of cinema? Because this was high emotion, rich visual contradictions, surprising action, superb payoffs, and it’s done almost wordlessly through music.

While The Godfather is one of my favorite scripts, I'm going to post another article tomorrow about another Coppola script I return to again and again because it failed - The Godfather Part III.


Thursday, March 29, 2007


Submitted by our very good friend, Pat (GimmeABreak), as part of our Screenwriting Blog-a-Thon:

My fav SP is Amadeus by Paul Shaffer. It was a 1984 Oscar-winner based on a stage play from the 70s so the SP itself has the formatting common to that period (a lot of "we see"s and "cut to"s, long monologues, detailed descriptions, etc.) (an early draft is available here

I've studied this extensively and it hits most of the classical beats where it should so it's a good example from that perspective (opportunity - Salieri's father dies; change of plans - Salieri vows to destroy Mozart after learning of the seduction of Cavalieri; point of no return - after Mozart public humiliates Salieri, Salieri hires the maid to spy on Mozart and concocts a plan to use Mozart's father's influence as a weapon; major set-back - Mozart takes ill; climax - Constanze takes the Requiem manuscript from Salieri and Mozart dies). The writing is very visual (a collaboration between the playwright and the director) and borders on what reviewers nowadays call novelish. It skips around in time. It has a narrator and lots of V.O. It spends most of the screen time on the antag, not the protag. It's a tragedy with a major downer ending. In fact, it does almost everything that McKee said you shouldn't when writing a screenplay. What's most unusual about it, though, is that the "villain" is the protag and the movie is named for the antag.

It's a fascinating character study and a marvelous example of how to imbue an unlikable protag with traits that make him sympathetic. It does the same with the antag, too. While we see him as a thorn in the protag's side, we also see the demons that drove him to his actions. It gives us an unlikable but sympathetic protagonist and a tormenting but tormented antagonist.

On a personal note, this was one of the few movies that my ADHD son sat through and enjoyed. I guess he inherited my love of tragic stories and classical music.

American Beauty

Submitted by Juliane Cartaino as part of our Screenwriting Blog-A-Thon:

"If you want to learn how to write, you have to read". So goes the hackneyed adage so oft invoked to inspire aspiring fiction writers. I assumed the same holds true of aspiring screenwriters such as myself, and as such embarked on a quest for an appropriate screenplay to peruse. So, having never read (nor written)a screenplay before, imagine my delight to realize that masses of screenplays are, at my discretion and leisure, available on the Internet(thank you, mysterymanonfilm, for the many useful resources to script websites).This brave new world is like a mental candy store to any self-respecting cinephile. What's next, cellular phones?

As you can probably surmise, I am as new to computer and internet technology as I am to screenplays, but even being a techno newbie and a script virgin, I nevertheless managed to find several to pick, read, and analyze.

I imagine the challenge of reading an unproduced script and assessing it for its possible theatrical adaptation would be that certain je ne se quois ability to visualize the finished product. In this."assignment", the process is reversed: the script is read but assuming a corresponding movie has already been produced and assuming the dear reader is relatively familiar with said film, the images that correspond with the exposition, the tonality of the actors' voices, the cadence and inflection of their speech...these and other aspect's of the script's theatrical production have already been cemented in the reader's memory. It's like reading a recipe for something instead of eating it. At the same time, reading a script to a previously viewed movie is a trigger for so many repressed memories of the original viewing experience that-depending on how much time has elapsed-it's like taking out that box from the back of your closet, and having no idea what was in it even though you packed it yourself, yet opening it to discover mementos from your childhood that make you feel like no time has passed at all.

Such was my experience with the first screenplay I read in its entirety, just tonight, which was American Beauty. Having seen the film many times before, I figured it would be familiar. I bought my first VCR about six years ago (Remenber what I said about being technologically behind the times?) Anyway, you can't very well purchase a VCR without a tape to go with it and that was the one I picked. I couldn't really afford to buy any other tapes for a bit, so for several months I just played it in a loop since I didn't have cable either. Anyway, bits of dialogue from the film would kind of hypnotically permeate my daily routine. For example, whenever Annette Bening's character, Carolyn, would ambitiously proclaim the mantra-like, "I will sell this house today," and then go about ferociously cleaning, it would inspire me to scrub the countertops in my own house that much more thoroughly. This movie was like one of those decorative fireplace logs that never goes out, not some piece of plastic you have to take back to Blockbuster by five o clock.

My point is that after that many repeated viewings you would think that it would be so familiar that it would be old hat. In fact, quite the contrary. I don't know if it was the amount of time it's been since I've seen the film, or the change in and/or novelty of the medium but I read it with the kind of can't-put-it-down-hide-under-the-covers-with-a-flashlight avid interest usually reserved for cliffhanger novels. They say that you don't always notice good acting, but you certainly notice it when it's bad. The same must be true of scripts. Before I settled on American Beauty I tried to read other scripts for movies I had seen but I found the exposition and other technical aspects of the formatting so distracting that it was impossible to forget that you were reading a script. Whereas,a script in which the story and dialogue stand alone so well, it is easy to suspend disbelief and find yourself immersed in it. That is a thing of beauty indeed.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Taxi Driver

"Paul Schrader wrote Taxi Driver during a very low point in his life and Travis was drawn from all the bad things he felt within himself at the time. I think this is why he tells us a lot (in the script) that Travis is drifting towards violence, but pulls back from making him as sinister and violent as he could in dialogue and action. He could not quite follow through with making this character as insane and out of control as Scorsese and De Niro did because that might mean that he was that insane and out of control. Or maybe he did feel that insane and out of control and was unable to fully explore it out of fear."

- Miriam Paschal, from her new Script-to-Screen Analysis


Taxi Driver Script


Master Scene Breakdown


Miriam's Script-to-Screen Analysis:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4



Profile of De Niro by Tarantino


Taxi Driver Documentary:

Part I and II

Part III and IV

Part V and VI

Part VII and VIII


Around the Web:

Paul Schrader Interview - "I was in a bad place."

Magnificent Obsession by Matt Zoller Seitz

The Last Temptation of Travis Bickle by Andre Caron

Postmodern Antihero by Matthew J. Iannucci

The anguish of God's lonely men: Dostoevsky's Underground man and Scorsese's Travis Bickle by Andrew J Swensen

Visions of Hell by Scott Curl

A Personal Journey: The Films of Martin Scorsese

Screenwriting News!

Above is the notorious film of Klaus Kinski berating Werner Herzog.

(Personally, I could’ve calmed Kinski down. I would’ve told him, “Dude, I loved you as Jack the Ripper.”)

Why do I share such a video?

Because the most interesting thing on the web right now (in my humble opinion) has to be Dennis Cozzalio’s post on
The Huckabees Maelstrom. You must see Lily Tomlin's dual tirades, David O. Russell's on-set explosion, and also take in the stories Clooney told about Russell while filming Three Kings.

Cozzalio writes, “I’d be curious to hear from those who have film production experience, be they actors, directors, crew members, whoever—How do actors and directors involved in something this grotesque and public get themselves back on the rails, creatively and interpersonally? Clooney suggests that Russell walked away and, upon his return, pouted for the rest of the shoot in, I would assume, relative silence. But recounting the aftermath in such a sketchy way doesn’t indicate just how awful it must really have been, and it doesn’t seem much of a jump to think that the creative juices that Tomlin felt were oozing rather than flowing at the time of the blow-up must have dried up completely, at least for a while. And while I’m fishing for answers, I’ll fish for an opinion or two as well: Can working with a volcanic director actually be good for the creative process?

Sure, Dennis. It’s possible. But I’ll let someone else be the guinea pig, thank you very much.

Note to self: don’t ever work for David O. Russell.

Jim Emerson’s
follow-up on this topic is noteworthy as well.


New Screenplays:


The Number 23

Mini’s First Time (Hey, it's a TriggerStreet Production! He really could’ve used our reviews.)

Nick of Time


Around Scribosphere:

Don't forget - A Screenwriting Blog-a-thon THIS WEEKEND!

You gotta love
Billy Mernit’s last dozen posts. Why aren’t you reading him?

Unk’s Transformational Character Arcs parts
three and four.

I loved Serge Daney’s analysis of Lynch’s Elephant Man.
“It is the monster who is afraid.”

John August’s
Writer/Directors and Co-Ops.

Craig Mazin’s take on
The Whole Writer’s Co-Op Thing.

And MaryAn Batchellor’s take on
The Whole Writer’s Co-Op Thing.

Danny Stack’s Fund Your Feature, Parts
1, 2, and 3.

Girish’s post on
Abbas Kiarostami’s Early Films. (Why? Because the video was really sweet and now I’m interested in his films. I also read Zach Campbell’s post on Kiarostami. Why aren’t screenwriters this brilliant? Maybe we're just too busy being brilliant in our scripts...)

A new David Koepp interview.
“I'd be a fool if I didn't consider the history and impact of the Indiana Jones movies before starting this one. I mean, Raiders was the movie that made me first consider screenwriting as a valid career choice. Until then, it had never occurred to me that somebody actually WROTE these things and that, in this case anyway, it seemed like they had a pretty good time at the office while they were doing it. Of course, I'm somewhat daunted by the past when trying to push "Indy" into the present, but the first thing you have to do in any writing job is put all the voices -- studio, critics audience, etc. -- out of your head and write a movie that you, yourself, would enjoy seeing. Any other approach and you're chasing the parade instead of leading it.”

You know a script sucks if LatinoReview hates it
On Rush Hour 3


Thanks to GreenCine Daily:

"Marilyn Monroe may have been tricked into killing herself as part of a plot hatched with the knowledge of the former US attorney general, Robert Kennedy, according to a secret FBI file." Kathy Marks reports for the Independent and Australian writer and film director Philippe Mora lays out the evidence for his argument in the Sydney Morning Herald: "The document [PDF], hidden among thousands of pages released under freedom-of-information laws last October, was received by the FBI on October 19, 1964 - two years after her death - and titled simply 'ROBERT F KENNEDY.'" The document says (starting around page 17) that Marilyn was "induced" to make a suicide attempt, as a way of garnering sympathy for her plight, and they led her to believe that she would be found in time to get her stomach pumped. Instead, she was left to die.

I hate it when the conspiracy theorists are right. Bastards.



ASA Announces Quarterfinalists

WBW Interview: Screenwriter Dave Kalstein

Hollywood Nexus Announces Contest Results



Jonah Nolan to write Spielberg’s Interstellar
Bastard. I’m so jealous.



Superman Won’t Fly
Gee, maybe there is a God. Let it be said that in the war between Batman and Superman, Batman kicked his ass.

Cruise’s best effort, Sony acquires Coppola’s film.
“Youth Without Youth' is what we call a full meal, satisfying in all departments," said Sony Classics' Michael Barker and Tom Bernard. "It is personal, sweeping, and entertaining. It is unlike anything we've seen before. It is the kind of innovative movie we've come to appreciate from new successful independent filmmakers while at the same time possessing a mastery of story, sound, and visuals that you can only get from a Francis Coppola movie. The title says it all.”

Coppola talks Tetro, his next film.

Joe Roth recut Julie Taymor’s “Universe”
And, well, Julie’s not happy. Julie may take her name off the film.

Scribe duo sells animal-trainer comedy
"Warner Bros. has preemptively snapped up an untitled comedy pitch by Mike Lisbe and Nate Reger ('Space Invader') set in the world of wild animal training for mid- against high-six figures." The - what? Bastards. I can’t believe they bought that shit.


CS Daily:

Attention Screenwriters With Fresh Out of Ideas
All Jonathan Lethem is doing is giving away the rights to his next book for free! If you're interested, you may want to click above. And, even better, in five years, the rights enter the public domain. (Dear CS Daily, you DO know how to write, don't you? Your title makes no sense.)

Writers Going to the Wells
John Wells Productions begins the Writers Co-Op, a production venture designed to give gross participation to screenwriters in the making of their films.

Crowe Looks Good in Bra
Russell Crowe will make his directorial debut for Imagine Entertainment with Stuart Beattie's Bra Boys, a fact-based drama about a surf community in Australia.

Beattie Gets His Gears In Motion
And in further Beattie news, New Line acquires the rights to Microsoft video game franchise Gears of War and hires him to write the script. Yes, he's busy.

Kevin Smith Is Somewhere Crying
Columbia Pictures options the rights to The Green Hornet, vowing to get the film onto the big screen after several false starts at various studios.

The Biggest Mystery of All
Even though the first one hasn't been released yet, the team behind this summer's Nancy Drew film announce their plans for a sequel, with Andrew Fleming returning to write and direct.

Another Dance for Adler
Fox Atomic buys an untitled spec from Save the Last Dance and Step Up writer Duane Adler. The script is said to be a music-driven tale of forbidden teen romance. Good to see he's branching out.

First Time's a Charm
First Snow's Mark Fergus how he and co-writer Hawk Ostby took their little independent film and turned into a writing gig on Iron Man.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Profile of De Niro by Tarantino

Script-to-Screen - Taxi Driver (Part IV)

From this point to the end, Scorsese followed the script pretty faithfully. He goes to the firing range, burns the flowers, and tells his diary, "My whole life has pointed in one direction." He sends money to Iris and tells her, "By the time you get this, I will be dead." Scorsese switched the order of these two scenes, but otherwise they play faithfully.

He goes to the third rally and sticks his hand into his jacket as he approaches the platform. The Secret Service agents rush him and he escapes. The only difference is that Scorsese gave him a Mohawk haircut. Schrader described him as "…the most suspicious human being alive. His hair is cropped short, he wears mirror-reflecting glasses. His face is pallid and drained of color, his lips are pursed and drawn tight…he looks sick and frail."

Schrader had Travis go home and check the mail to find that the letter to Iris has gone before he strips to the waist and walks back and forth in his apartment.

There's another difference here. In the movie Sport pays the customer who goes up to see Iris, so I figured he was Sport's connection. In the script, he's a private cop and there's no mention of money being exchanged. I think Scorsese felt it would be too confusing if there wasn't something clearly off about this customer, so he showed the pimp paying the john.

Travis shows up and shoots Sport. Scorsese didn't use most of the dialogue that Schrader wrote, but did include, "suck on that." He also had Travis sit down on the steps of the building for a while, maybe waiting to see if anything happens, or maybe in disbelief that he just shot a man. In Schrader's world, he goes straight into the building.

Schrader had Travis blow off the old man's whole hand, but I thought just blowing away most of the fingers was more shocking.

Sport shoots Travis, Travis shoots Sport, the private cop shoots Travis, and the old man comes after Travis. This is all the same.

"Travis, trapped under the heavy Old Man, reaches down with his right hand and pulls the combat knife from his right calf. / Just as Travis draws back the knife, the Old Man brings his huge left palm crashing down on Travis: the Old Man's palm is impaled on the knife." Same.

Iris is screaming, police sirens are screaming, and Travis picks up the last gun: the one carried by the private cop. There's dialogue here. The old man begs for his life and Iris screams, "Don't kill him, Travis! Don't kill him!" I honestly don't remember any dialogue: just horrified screaming. But there might have been dialogue.

The cops arrive. "He forms his bloody hand into a pistol, raises it to his forehead and, his voice croaking in pain, makes the sound of a pistol discharging." The only thing Scorsese added to this was the blood dripping from his finger.

Schrader even called out for an "OVERHEAD SLOW MOTION TRACKING SHOT" here and Scorsese used it.

Fade to all the stuff in Travis' apartment about the brave cabbie battling the gangsters to return innocent little Iris to her parents and the letter from Burt Steensma.

And finally we see that Travis has returned to work and grown his hair out. Betsy gets into his cab and they discuss how brave he was. Then Schrader writes, "CAMERA FOLLOWS TRAVIS' taxi as it slowly disappears down 56th street," and that's the end. Scorsese put in one more shot of Travis' eyes in the rear view mirror and a tiny hint that all was still not quite right in his world, which again made the Travis we met more sinister than the one Schrader wrote.

Schrader wrote Taxi Driver during a very low point in his life and Travis was drawn from all the bad things he felt within himself at the time. I think this is why he tells us a lot that Travis is drifting towards violence, but pulls back from making him as sinister and violent as he could in dialogue and action. He could not quite follow through with making this character as insane and out of control as Scorsese and DeNiro did because that might mean that he was that insane and out of control. Or maybe he did feel that insane and out of control and was unable to fully explore it out of fear.

But Scorsese and DeNiro had already made Mean Streets together. They have always been fearless about bringing it all out on the screen.

Much of Schrader's dialogue skates over the issues, or doesn't explore them at all. The dialogue in the first scene with Betsy in the diner was completely re-written for the movie. Schrader was probably the one who re-wrote it, but he did it as Scorsese's direction, and very likely worked with DeNiro and Shepherd while he did, so it had way more impact in a much shorter time than what he'd written originally.

Skating over the issues worked during the scenes between Betsy and Tom, and Scorsese left them alone, but he did a lot of tinkering with the dialogue between Betsy and Travis.

He also left most of the diary entries alone. Schrader couldn't bring himself to make Travis as sinister with other people as Scorsese did, but he did manage to find that very dark place when he and Travis were alone together.

Script-to-Screen - Taxi Driver (Part III)

Travis stops at a convenience store to pick up a few things and ends up killing a potential robber. The only difference in this scene from script to movie is that there is a little more dialogue in the script. Schrader tended to fill his scenes with that "hello, how are you" kind of dialogue that directors don't like. Scorsese took it all out.

Now Scorsese shows the American Bandstand scene. I wrote, "Travis frowns at the TV. Is he curious, mystified, angry, or all three?" Schrader answered that question. "…his face is hard and unmoving. He is, as the Scriptures would say, pondering all these things in his heart. Why is it the assholes get all the beautiful young chicks?" So I guess the answer is, "all three."

Schrader goes from the murder at the convenience store to Travis killing his TV. He also didn't describe Travis as caressing his gun as it was a cat or even his own penis. Scorsese stuck that little bit in. In Schrader's world, Travis tries to bring the TV back to life, but Scorsese went straight from killing it to holding his head in his hands (AND the gun) and muttering, "Damn, damn."

By this time Scorsese has shown Travis at TWO Palantine rallies. Schrader hasn't even done the first one.

Travis visits with the other cabbies. Schrader included more "hello, how are you" dialogue and this is the first time in his story that the others call Travis "Killer." In the movie he gets his nickname before he buys the guns. In the script it's not until after, which makes more sense. Travis tells Wizard he has to talk to him and Wizard completely misses the clues that Travis is cracking up. Scorsese moved this scene (with the late, great Peter Boyle) way up in the time-line, but Schrader put it here, during Travis' slow break with reality.

Now Schrader finally gets to the first Palantine rally, where Travis talks to the Secret Service agent and gives a false name and address. The only real difference is that Scorsese (or DeNiro?) put in the little bit about too many numbers in the zip code. Nobody realized DeNiro is as deft a comedic actor as he is with drama until years later, but he always had that sense of humor. Anybody who has seen Greetings and Hi Mom knew it. So he could have been the one who came up with the extra numbers.

The other difference is that Schrader adds a diary entry about how many more rallies are coming up. In his story, Travis is already planning his attack, but I got the feeling during this first rally that Travis was still trying to make some kind of human connection. It's the placement of this scene in the time line that makes the difference, as well as that diary entry. By showing it to us right after Travis starts to get into shape, Scorsese tells us that Travis is in the middle of a life change. In Schrader's mind, he's already made the change.

Travis nearly hits Iris and her friend and follows them until they pick up a couple of johns. Schrader put in another child hooker who hits on Travis while he watches Iris and her friend. "TRAVIS quickly turns his face away from her in a combination of shock, embarrassment and revulsion. He is the child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. The very presence of this crassly, openly sexual human being frightens and sickens him."

Scorsese decided he didn't need to drive the point home so hard. Travis is obviously not attracted to Iris and the other child hookers, but he's also afraid to approach Iris.

Scorsese also put this second "meeting" with Iris earlier in the story, before the first Palantine rally, the "you talkin' to me?" scene, and killing the potential robber.

In Schrader's world, Travis has already killed his TV. In Scorsese's world, it has yet to happen. So now we come to the second Palantine rally, where Travis sits in his cab and watches while we hear what he's written to his parents about his work in the government (Schrader says it's the Army) and the wonderful girl he is seeing (who dumped him months ago) and how he wishes he could call more. In the background, Palantine gives a speech about putting an end to disunity and working together. A policeman tells Travis to move it along.

Scorsese inserted the scene where Travis kills his TV here, but Schrader went straight from this to Travis finally going to see Iris. In the movie, he does this here too, but first he kills his TV.

Travis goes to see Iris, who sends him to Sport. Schrader put in the bit about Sport calling him a cop to make sure he isn't, and Scorsese added an exchange about how Travis could do anything he wanted to Iris, come in her mouth, fuck her up the ass, etc. Travis is disgusted, but pays for the time.

Finger-man is "OLD MAN" in the script and Timekeeper in the movie. He takes Travis' .38 in the script, but Scorsese doesn't mention or show any guns in this scene.

In the script, Iris gets more undressed and does more to Travis. Obviously Scorsese couldn't shoot it that way because Foster was only 12 at the time, but Iris still unnerves Travis. Schrader didn't have him throw her away from him to the couch. In the script he's gentler, and more uncertain. Other than that Scorsese didn't change the scene at all. All the dialogue is almost exactly the same.

The following scene, where Travis gives back the $20 bill, is the same too, except the old man gives back the gun.

At this point Schrader inserted a scene with Palantine that Scorsese didn't use at all. He went straight to breakfast with Iris. This scene is almost the same. Iris has a little more rambling dialogue that Scorsese cut and she also tells Travis, "You're not much with girls, are you?" Scorsese probably thought that line was a little too expository. Travis also talks about killing people in the script, which he doesn't in the movie.

There's some dialogue in this scene in the movie that refers back to the first scene with Sport. Travis tells Iris how Sport talked about her little pussy and fucking her in the ass. Schrader didn't include this because he didn't have in the first scene.

Schrader went from the Palantine scene to Travis watching the hotel, which Scorsese cut, but he did include a scene of Travis watching the building where Iris works.

Inside, Iris tells Sport that she doesn’t want to do this any more. Sport holds her tight and gives her the speech about wishing every man could have her love how he's so lucky. Schrader made this scene more sexual, but Scorsese kept it pretty innocent, except for the dialogue, which was creepy.

Script-to-Screen - Taxi Driver (Part II)

The next thing in the script is when Travis takes Betsy to the porno movie. This section plays almost unchanged except for a few lines of dialogue. In the script, Betsy says, "But this is a porno movie." In the movie, she says, "But this is a dirty movie." I think this is an important distinction. Betsy is a good girl and she won't even use the word "porno" let alone watch one.

The other dialogue change is when she comes out and wants to leave. She says, "If you just wanted to fuck, why didn't you come right out and say it?" Shepherd's line is, "That was about as exciting as saying, 'let's fuck'." It's neater and cleaner and has a little more subtext. I think she also played Betsy much angrier than Schrader wrote her.

The last change in this scene comes at the end. In the script, she accepts the record, says, "All right, I'll accept the record," and calls for a taxi. In the movie, she calls for a taxi and takes the record from Travis through the window after she gets in, saying, "Great. Now I have two." Again, this is a small, but important change. In the movie she couldn't wait to get away from Travis. In the script, she stays to exchange a few words and tries to explain.

Here's another divergence in the time line. Schrader shows us Travis in his apartment and his diary tells us, "The days move along with regularity…" Scorsese chose to continue with the Betsy story and showed us this scene a little later. But Schrader added all the details right here: the bread and milk with alcohol, the new poster that says, "One of these days I'm gonna get organezizied," and watching Charles Palantine on TV.

Scorsese continued the Betsy story and didn't give Travis a chance to reflect on anything. And when Travis did return to Betsy, Schrader had him wait for her in the street one day. Scorsese went straight to phoning her, the tracking shot of the rotting flowers (Schrader even called for a tracking shot in the script), and the diary entry about the headaches and stomach cancer and only being as healthy as you feel.

At this point Scorsese followed the script and had Travis barge into the campaign headquarters. The difference is that Schrader played the drama out without dialogue. Scorsese stuck in the line where Travis tells Betsy she's going to die in hell. I love it when my ex-boyfriends tell me that.

Schrader wrote that Travis tells his diary, "…how much she is like the others, so cold and distant. Many people are like that. They're like a union." Scorsese substituted "women" for "people." A lot of Travis' problems come from the fact that he can't relate to women at all. He at least manages some sort of human connection with Wizard, Doughboy, and the other cabbies, but women are a mystery to him, and it hurts.

Then we come to the famous scene with the psychotic husband. Schrader stuck in a little bit with some other guy getting in the cab and Travis turning on his "Off Duty" sign, but Scorsese cut that. It confuses the story. Schrader's passenger just tells Travis to pull to the curb, which Travis does. Scorsese embellished the guy with a long tirade to Travis about doing what he's paying for. Schrader describes Travis as watching the woman in the window with, "…the same glazed-over stare we saw in his eyes as he watched the porno movie." I didn't get that at all. To me, Travis looked scared and nervous…

…which is why the next scene leads to Easy Andy and buying the guns. Scorsese stuck in a little bit where Travis meets the other cabbies, to remind us that Doughboy had offered to get Travis a piece before.

Easy Andy emerged pretty much as Schrader wrote him, but part of the dialogue was about Travis being a vet and if there was a firing range around. There was more conversation between the two men in the script, but in the movie Easy Andy just talked non-stop while Travis looked at the guns. Andy's patter is pretty much the same. At the end in the script he says he can get Travis tickets to a Knicks or Mets game. In the movie he says he can get grass, hash, crystal meth, or a brand new Cadillac with the pink slip. Scorsese made him more sinister.

After this, Travis gets in shape and puts his arm through a gas flame. Scorsese filmed it exactly as Schrader wrote it.

In the movie we get to see Travis talk to the Secret Service Agent at the Palantine rally, but Schrader saves that for later. Scorsese also inserted the "you talkin' to me?" scene here, right after the rally. Schrader also saves that for later.

Scorsese also put the killing of the robber in here, before the American Bandstand scene.

The next thing Schrader shows us is Travis watching ROCK TIME with teenagers dancing. Scorsese left this scene until later, after Travis kills the stick-up man, and got a clip from American Bandstand. It's the scene where the cameraman focuses close in on a pair of platform shoes on the dance floor.

Now Schrader introduces Iris. She jumps in and demands that Travis get her out of there, but Sport leans into the cab and tells her to get out. Schrader's Iris gives up and lets herself be taken away. Scorsese and Foster's Iris puts up more of a fight until Sport says, "Bitch, be cool." That's not in the script. The crumpled $20 bill is, and keeps finding its way out of Travis' pocket until he finally gives it back to the timekeeper (Finger Man).

Travis goes to the movies (more porno, the only kind he watches) and as he's watching in the dark, he starts to think about killing Charles Palantine. In the script his fantasy is much more overt and deliberate. Scorsese cut out all the diary entries that make it obvious and concentrates on Travis' isolation. In the movie Travis seems more impulsive when he first starts stalking Palantine.

Now Schrader shows us the montage of shots where Travis prepares all his weapons. He cuts crosses in the bullets, turns his drawer slide into a sleeve slide for the small gun, and practices getting his knife out quickly. He has also turned one wall of his apartment into a mosaic of Palantine articles and bumper stickers. Travis tells his diary, "Listen you screwheads: here is a man who wouldn't take it any more, a man who stood up against the scum, the cunts, the dogs, the filth."

Scorsese included all of this except the Palantine wall and added the "you talkin' to me?" scene.

Script-to-Screen - Taxi Driver (Part I)

The original screenplay of Taxi Driver by Paul Schrader diverges from the movie in several important ways. In many ways it is the same, but the elements that Scorsese changed have made a world of difference.

Some of the essential dialogue made it to the movie unchanged. Some of it was re-written during rehearsal and production. By essential dialogue I mean the lines you remember. And poor Paul Schrader did not write the, "You talkin' to me?" scene. Scorsese and DeNiro cooked that one up between them.

The movie begins with Travis' eyes as he watches the road and the "scum and filth" of New York. The script begins with a long essay on who and what Travis is. "He has the smell of sex about him," Schrader writes. "As the earth moves toward the sun, Travis Bickle moves toward violence."

The movie opens on Travis' eyes, but from the way the lights move over his face, it seems that he's already in the Taxi. Then we see the taxi. I described it as being "like some modern-day dragon coming out of its lair." In Scorsese's world, the power of the Taxi is as important as whatever power is moving Travis toward his destiny.

Schrader moves from Travis applying for the job to Travis on the job. Scorsese moved from Travis applying for the job to Travis at home, writing in his diary. This is the main difference in the two stories. Shrader described one sequence of events. Scorsese used most of those same events, but switched the order in which he presented them. Shrader didn't show us Travis' apartment until after he'd been on the job a while. Scorsese showed us right away that Travis writes in a diary, otherwise his voice over wouldn't have had a logical source.

Schrader told us that the voice over is a diary. Scorsese was able to use images to show us the diary.

During the set-up section, Schrader included a few scenes about the life of a Taxi Driver that Scorsese cut, probably to get the story going faster. The pills and the booze are the same. Schrader's description of the wardrobe was used, right down to the white shirt with the cut-off sleeve. The scene with the counter-girl in the porno theater was longer in the movie, probably to give Diahnne Abbott more lines.

The first really important change is that Schrader introduces us to Betsy BEFORE Travis sees her. His script constantly tells us that this is what Travis sees and what Travis feels, but for some reason he introduced Betsy as if her own story has a life of its own. Cybill Shepherd gave Betsy a wonderful character and empathy and depth, but Betsy has never had her own story. She is and always has been Travis' dream woman. So Scorsese let Travis see her before he introduced what kind of person she is.

Schrader describes Betsy as a "star-fucker of the highest order." She is looking for "extraordinary qualities" in men. That's probably how men see it, but what's really happening in a woman's mind is that she's looking for somebody who won't treat her badly or take advantage of her. We know what men want, but we don't want to give it up to just anybody.

It's interesting to look at how Betsy and Travis feel about each other from these two points of view, mine and the author's. I said, "I have to give Betsy credit. She has so much self-confidence that she allows him to take the relationship further and agrees to see a movie with him." Schrader describes Betsy as realizing that "Travis' presence has a definite sexual charge. He has those star qualities Betsy looks for."

When he smiles, "…his whole face glows," and, "Betsy is completely disarmed."

Bobby DeNiro did have a charming smile when he was young, and he used it in all the same places that Schrader asked for it, but I'd really like to know if there was any discussion between Shepherd, Schrader, DeNiro, and Scorsese about the disparity between Schrader's vision of Betsy and what Shepherd knew about women because she was one. She plays Betsy as demure, but not exactly shy, and self-confident without being overbearing about it. I did not see any quality in her that I'd call "star-fucker," but maybe that's how the guys saw her.

Schrader did specify that Betsy went into the porno theater and stayed longer than she wanted because she was raised to be a good girl and not to offend her dates. I can totally buy this interpretation.

So in some ways I think he missed capturing real feminine qualities in Betsy and just described what he knew of women from observation, and in some ways he managed to get inside her head.

Schrader also wrote many of the original lines of dialogue between Travis and Betsy: when she compares him to that song by Kris Kristofferson, when he writes that he forgot to ask her last name. "Damn. I've got to remember stuff like that."

DeNiro, under Scorsese's direction, actually played Travis as far more sinister than Schrader wrote him. DeNiro tells Shepherd that he sees her as being just as isolated as he feels. Schrader wrote a couple of pages of conversation that might have been lifted from any cocktail party and told us about as much. The closest Schrader came to DeNiro's creepy intensity is this: "I watch you sitting here at this big long desk with these telephones, and I say to myself, that's a lonely girl. She needs a friend. And I'm gonna be her friend."

DeNiro and Scorsese followed that up with his creepy declaration at the diner about how he feels a connection between them.

Shrader put the desk and the phones in dialogue. Scorsese removed that dialogue and showed us Travis' hand as he moved it over the phones.

During Travis' courtship of Betsy, Senator Palantine takes a ride in Travis' cab and Travis goes into a rant about the filth in the city and how the stench gives him a headache. This scene went to the movie pretty much unchanged.

In the script we meet the other cabbies before we meet Betsy and we don't meet Iris until after the crazy husband who wants to shoot his wife's pussy with a .44 magnum and the scene where Travis buys the guns. Scorsese moved both the introduction of Betsy and that of Iris up in the timeline of the story, which gave their presence more weight in Travis' life. In fact, in the movie, Travis meets Iris before he takes Betsy to the porn theater. In the script, he doesn't meet her until he's well into his violent fantasies and obsessions.

It is here in the movie that Iris appears, but in the script it doesn't happen until later.

Taxi Driver Documentary - VI & VII

Taxi Driver Documentary - V & VI

Taxi Driver Documentary - III & IV

Taxi Driver Documentary - I & II

Breakdown - Taxi Driver

1. 0:33 – The titles start on black, but the story doesn't start until the taxi appears from the smoke and drives past to reveal the title, so my clock starts when the taxi appears. The rest of the titles are shown over the smoky street with the ominous music of Bernard Hermann (Hitchcock's composer) on the soundtrack. The first shot of the taxi makes it look like some modern-day dragon coming out of its lair. 0:00:33

2. 0:21 – The screen fills with Travis's eyes as he watches the road. The lights of the city play over his face. Titles continue. 0:00:54

3. 0:27 – Fade to the lights of the city through the windshield. They blur, as if the watcher is tired. We hear a little of Betsy's theme, but the music turns ominous again, signaling another fade. 0:01:21

4. 0:18 – People walk back and forth in front of the cab while we learn that Martin Scorsese directed this and we fade to Travis's eyes, watching. 0:01:39

5. 2:33 – Travis applies for the job. He can work "anytime, anywhere." He also says he got an honorable discharge from the Marines. As he leaves, the camera pans away from Travis and around the garage, then comes back to Travis. Michael Chapman, the cinematographer, said that Scorsese asked for shots like this and freaked him out. He was used to following the main character. 0:04:12

6. 0:22 – Travis leaves the garage and walks down the street toward the camera. There's a fade to a shot of Travis still walking, but closer to the camera, as he swigs from a bottle. I wonder if they had the camera rolling the entire time Robert DeNiro walked down the street, or if they stopped it and started it back up at the appropriate time. Film stock is expensive, but Marty might have wanted the coverage just in case he wanted the whole shot later in editing. The really important part of this scene is that he drinks from the bottle in the paper bag, but the image also tells us that he's used to being alone. 0:04:34

7. 0:38 – A slow pan around Travis's apartment shows us how he lives. The paint is cracked and peeling, there is a hot plate instead of a stove, and hooks on the walls instead of closets. Travis writes in his diary (in pencil) that he's working long hours (so he got the job) and he's glad the rain washed all the trash off the sidewalk. 0:05:12

8. 1:34 – Travis's voice over continues as he drives the taxi and we find out that by trash he means people. He says, "Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets." He picks up a man and a whore and alternates his attention between the two of them and the road. The man is hot to fuck the whore and can't wait to get where they're going. Travis watches. 0:06:46

9. 0:54 – Travis returns the cab and pops a pill. So he drinks and takes pills. His voice over (in his diary) explains how every night he has to clean blood and cum off his back seat every night when he's done with his shift. 0:07:40

10. 1:32 – This scene establishes that Travis isn't so good with girls. It starts outside with the famous shot of him walking toward the camera with his head down and continues as he goes into a porno theater. Inside, at the concession stand, he tries to get a date with the clerk (played by his real life wife at the time, Diahnne Abbott), who threatens to call the manager. He buys a bunch of candy and goes inside to watch the movie. This teaches us the lesson never to try to pick up women at a porno theater. 0:09:12

11. 0:27 – Inside the theater, Travis watches the movie and we learn (through voice over) that he watches porn because he can't sleep. 0:09:39

12. 0:13 – Voice over continues with an overhead shot of Travis lying on his narrow bed with the sagging mattress. He believes a person should become a person like other people. Then we see a clue that he might be heading in the wrong direction. His nightstand is covered with about 50 bottles of pills and vitamins. 0:09:52

13. 0:28 – Hauge's "opportunity" is timed to occur 10% into the script and Blake Snyder's "catalyst" happens on about page 12 of a hundred page script. The appearance of Betsy in this scene exactly fulfills either of these elements and at almost exactly the right time. She appears out of the smoke and filth like an angel: wearing white and in slo-mo. Travis writes about seeing her for the first time. 0:10:20

14. 0:05 – Fade from Betsy to the words on the page of his diary as we hear them. Travis writes and eats chips. 0:10:25

15. 1:46 – Now we get to see Betsy in her surroundings. Her work buddy, Tom (Albert Brooks) argues with the man on the other end of the phone about the new shipment of campaign buttons. This is a funny moment and maybe doesn't add to the story, but I'm glad Marty decided to leave it in. After the phone call Tom tells Betsy their job is to sell Senator Charles Palantine like mouthwash. She tells him there's a taxi driver outside who's been staring at them. 0:12:11

16. 0:36 – On Travis in the taxi as he drinks a coke and stares at Betsy. Back to Betsy and Tom, who volunteers to tell the taxi driver to move. 0:12:47

17. 0:18 – Travis is sitting in traffic, letting it carry his taxi past the campaign office. Tom comes out calling to Travis to move the cab and, before he can finish asking, Travis has taken off. Tom shrinks down in his rear view mirror as he drives away. This further establishes that Travis has trouble relating to women. 0:13:05

18. 1:34 – Now here's a scene I can't figure. It's one of the longer scenes in the movie. Travis picks up a woman and drives her to the Hotel Olcott, then watches the city pass his taxi. The traffic lights all blend together and the fare ticks over. This scene might have been filmed and left in to establish the monotony of driving a taxi, or it might have been to make us wonder what's going to happen with Betsy. I think that we're supposed to be in Travis's mind right now. We're wondering about Betsy, but watching traffic lights. 0:14:39

19. 3:19 – Now we get to meet Travis's work buddies, including the Wizard (the late, great Peter Boyle). We start on them in the all-night coffee shop where they hang out as they debate whether it's called rouge or blush-on. Travis walks in and one guy says to ask Travis, because he's a ladies man. Everybody has a nick-name: Wizard, Doughboy, and Charlie T. They have nick-named Travis "Killer." They talk about the black whores in there with their pimps and call them Mau-Maus. Doughboy tells Travis he shouldn't go all over like he does. It's dangerous and if he's going to do that, he should have a piece (a gun). Travis stares into his Alka Seltzer – a shot that lasts a little too long to be comfortable. Marty spent a lot of time in this film stretching out shots like this to make our minds wander. Travis's mind wanders into his Alka Seltzer, and then comes back to listen to Doughboy show off his piece of Errol Flynn's bathtub. 0:17:58

20. 1:37 – This scene isn't about Travis at all. It starts when Betsy pretends to spill a cup of coffee on Tom, but it's really torn up paper. Then she tells him to pretend he has only two fingers and asks him to light a match. When he can't, she says the guy at the newsstand can do it. Tom asks if the guy is Italian, but he's black. Tom tells her the mob blows off a thief's fingers when he fucks up. This is a wonderful bit of foreshadowing. We think Tom and Betsy are only bantering and it might be the same kind of thing as staring to the Alka Seltzer, but it's about blowing people's fingers off, which will happen later. 0:19:35

21. 3:21 – Just as the appearance of Betsy is a classic example of the life change that occurs mid-First Act, this scene is very clearly the beginning of the Second Act. The turn to the Second Act is supposed to occur on the action of the protagonist. Travis marches into the campaign office and right up to Betsy. He starts out pretending that he wants to volunteer, and then asks her out for pie and coffee. She's intrigued. This is the taxi driver who was watching them – her. She agrees to go out with him to find out what he's all about. 0:22:56

22. 3:53 – Travis writes in his diary the details of his first date with Betsy, including the exact date and time. He tells us he had pie with a slice of melted yellow cheese, which he feels was a good choice. While they eat, he tells Betsy he feels a connection between them, but he feels there is no connection between her and Tom. Even when I was seventeen, the first time I saw this movie, this line creeped me out. Travis was so obviously disconnected and trying so hard to establish an emotional connection that he wasn't paying attention to Betsy the person. He only saw the smooth, perfect surface. And I have to give Betsy credit. She has so much self-confidence that she allows him to take the relationship further and agrees to see a movie with him. She tells Travis that he reminds her of that Kris Kristofferson song. He's a walking contradiction. 0:26:49

23. 0:26 – So he buys the album. 0:27:15

24. 0:25 – Travis tells his diary that he called Betsy twice about the movie, but forgot to ask her last name. He's got to remember stuff like that. He seems to be referring to his diary entry in scene #12. He wants to be normal, but can't remember how. 0:27:40

25. 2:37 – Senator Palantine, who is connected in Travis's mind to Betsy, gets into Travis's taxi. Travis recognizes him and talks to him. Palantine asks Travis what he thinks is the biggest problem and Travis goes into a tirade about how filthy the city is. They should clean it up. It smells so bad it gives him a headache. They should flush it down the fucking toilet, excuse his language. This scene also creeps me out, so good job Bobby DeNiro on getting to that place. 0:30:17

26. 1:05 – While Travis waits at a light, Iris (Jodie Foster) gets into his cab and begs him to take her away. She's panicked, but Travis is so shocked by her appearance that he freezes. Sport (Harvey Keitel) opens the door and drags her out. He tells her, "Bitch, be cool," and snags a crumpled $20 bill out of his pocket that he tosses on the front seat next to the cash box. Travis stares at it. He's still in shock. Sport drags Iris down the street and tries to pretend that they are walking arm in arm. She keeps trying to get away and every time he drags her back. Travis just watches. 0:31:22

27. 0:40 – Travis drives through Harlem and some punks throw eggs and rocks and bottles at the cab. 0:32:02

28. 0:37 – Travis returns the cab and looks at the $20 bill, which is still in the same place on the seat. He stuffs it into his shirt pocket. 0:32:39

29. 0:35 – Travis picks Betsy up for their date and gives her a present that turns out to be the Kris Kristofferson album. 0:33:14

30. 0:50 – They walk past the street drummer with grease in his hair who plays the same riff over and over. Betsy wants Travis to listen to the album, but he says his record player is broken and suggests that he can listen to it on her stereo. 0:34:04

31. 1:17 – Travis takes Betsy to the triple-X theater. She knows it's a "dirty movie," but goes in anyway. Once inside, we watch her finally acknowledge that Travis is not a good relationship opportunity. She runs out. 0:35:21

32. 1:06 – Outside the theater, Betsy tells Travis that was about as exciting as saying, "Let's fuck." Travis says he doesn't know much about movies, but he can take her to another one. She calls a cab and gives him back the record. He presses it on her and we find out what we suspected all along. She already has it. 0:36:27

33. 1:37 – Travis calls Betsy and gets shut down. He thinks she had the flu and it made her act funny, so he sent her flowers. He either doesn't want to admit that she's out of his life, but he doesn't understand how people work. 0:38:04

34. 0:26 – Slow pan of the rotting flowers in his apartment while he writes about them. The smell of them is making him sicker. He thinks he has stomach cancer, but you're only as healthy as you feel. 0:38:30

35. 1:01 – Travis barges into the campaign office to see Betsy and Tom runs him off. As Tom pushes him out the door, Travis tells Betsy she's just like the others and she's going to die in hell. He tells his diary that women are cold and distant. They're like a union. Tom calls to a cop and asks him to follow Travis. 0:39:31

36. 4:02 – Apparently the guy who was supposed to play the psychotic husband didn't show up when he was supposed to, so Marty took the role. I don't think anybody else could have played it with such intensity. He tells Travis to take him to an apartment, but tells him not to turn off the meter. He wants to sit in the cab and watch the apartment. He keeps up a running commentary from the back about how that's his wife up in the apartment, but it's not his apartment. She's up there fucking a nigger and he's going to kill her with a .44 magnum. He asks Travis if he's ever seen what a .44 magnum will do to a woman's face, then asks if he's ever seen what a .44 magnum will do to a woman's pussy. He giggles and asks again. Travis watches in the rear view mirror in horror as the guy sits in the back and talks about shooting his wife with a .44 magnum. 0:43:33

37. 1:59 – Travis meets the guys at the all-night diner and listens to them discuss midgets and fags and how they have to pay each other alimony in California. One guy asks for the $5 that Travis owes him and Travis pulls his money out of his pocket. The crumpled $20 bill that Sport tossed at him comes out and Travis stares at it. The other guy calls Travis "Killer" and makes a finger gun at him. Travis tells Wizard he wants to talk to him. 0:45:32

38. 3:42 – Outside, Travis tells Wizard he really wants to do something. He has some bad ideas in his head. They don't look at each much and Travis doesn't look at Wizard at all. Wizard pulls some words out of his ass and they both pretend they mean something. He says, "We live, we die. We're all fucked. A man takes a job and that becomes who he is. Get laid. Get drunk." Wizard doesn't understand what's wrong with Travis and Travis doesn't really understand either. 0:49:14

39. 1:04 – Travis watches an interview with Palantine on TV while he eats a snack of white break, whiskey, milk, and sugar in a bowl. Palantine is optimistic about his campaign. 0:50:18

40. 0:31 – Travis drives past the campaign headquarters where a sign in the window says, "4 days to Palantine." 0:50:49

41. 1:51 – Travis drops off a fair and nearly hits Iris and her friend (played by a real child prostitute that Marty found on the streets). He follows them down the block and drives off when they approach some men for sex. 0:52:40

42. 0:37 – He writes in his diary that Loneliness follows him. He is God's lonely man. His life has taken a turn again. 0:53:17

43. 0:27 – Travis meets Doughboy, who has Easy Andy in his cab. Easy Andy is a traveling salesman. 0:53:44

44. 3:36 – This is a scary scene and also kind of funny. Easy Andy opens two cases of guns and takes Travis through the various models and their features. Remembering the psychotic husband (who could forget him?), Travis asks about the .44 Magnum. Andy says it's a cannon and shows him a smaller gun, the .38 snubnose with the pearl handle. The magnum goes down on the black velvet display cloth. Travis aims out the window. Down goes the .38 next to the Magnum. Andy asks if Travis wants an automatic and shows him a Colt .25 and a .380 Walther. Travis tries the Walther in his waistband, behind his back. Andy gives him a leather holster he had hand-made in Mexico. Travis buys all the guns. As Andy packs up he tells Travis he can get him anything he wants: grass, hash, coke, crystal meth. Whatever he wants. A brand new Cadillac with the pink slip. Andy is really Easy. 0:57:20

45. 0:32 – Travis writes that he has to get in shape and give up the pills and the junk food. He does push-ups and holds his wrist over a gas flame. 0:57:52

46. 0:15 – Travis practices with his guns at the shooting range. 0:58:07

47. 0:25 – In a porno theater, he aims his finger at the screen. 0:58:32

48. 2:07 – In a montage, Travis practices in front of a mirror with his guns (no, it's not THAT scene), makes a slide out of his kitchen drawer so he can keep his .38 up his sleeve, practices getting his knife out, and cuts a cross on top of a bullet. 1:00:39

49. 4:36 – Travis has cut his hair. He goes to the Palantine political rally and sidles up next to a Secret Service security guard. He makes a big production out of making it look nonchalant, but falls far short of pulling it off. He says he saw some suspicious people, but now he can't find them. So he tells the guy he wants to be in the Secret Service. Then he asks what kinds of guns they carry and the guys pulls out a notepad. Give me your name and address, he says. Travis is no fool. He gives a fake name and address, but accidentally gives a 6-digit zip code. When the guy calls him on it, he says he was thinking of his phone number. As he leaves, the Secret Service guy motions to another guy to take his picture, but the photographer misses. He should have had a digital camera. 1:05:15

50. 1:26 – This is the famous scene. Are you talking to me? Who the fuck do you think you're talking to? In The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, as Fearless Leader, Bobby DeNiro spoofed this scene for a few seconds. It was the only good thing about the movie. I have no other comments. This scene speaks for itself. 1:06:41

51. 0:34 – Fade to 180 degrees from the previous shot and it's a different perspective. This is the scene where he turns toward the camera and thinks (V.O.), "Listen you fuckers, you screw-heads. Here is a man who would not take it anymore." He starts to turn and there's a cut back to the beginning, so he repeats, "Listen you fuckers, you screw-heads," and then continues. This is another trick Marty used to throw off our equilibrium and put us into Travis's world. Then he cuts back to the original FAMOUS shot and Travis tells the mirror, "You're dead." 1:07:15

52. 2:02 – Travis stops at the convenience store to pick up a few things and witnesses a robbery. He hesitates at first, but then pulls out one of his guns and points it at the robber. When the guy spins, Travis shoots him. He tells the proprietor he doesn't have a permit for his gun, so the proprietor takes both and tells Travis he'll square it with the cops. As Travis leaves, the proprietor beats the robber's dead body and curses at him. Can you really blame Travis for going berserk? 1:09:17

53. 1:37 – Travis watches American Bandstand and caresses his .44 Magnum. The song is Late for the Sky by Jackson Browne and the couples seem to melt into each other's arms. One cameraman has decided to focus on a pair of platform sandals somebody left on the floor. Travis frowns at the TV. Is he curious, mystified, angry, or all three? 1:10:54

54. 1:43 – Travis sits in his cab and watches another Palantine rally. In V.O. we hear his card to his parents (so they're alive!). He tells them he knows that July is the month that brings their anniversary, mother's birthday, and Father's day. He's confused about Father's day. Could he also be confused about the other events? He tells them he can't send his address because of his secret work for the government. A cop sends him on his way. 1:12:37

55. 0:23 – Fade to the card as he finishes writing. It says Happy Anniversary to a couple of good scouts. 1:13:00

56. 1:17 – Travis kills his TV. This is also a famous scene. He's playing with his .44 Magnum again and watching a horrible soap opera, but instead of changing channels, he kills the TV. He pushes it back with his foot, pulls it forward, pushes it back, and loses control. Down it goes. He has a quiet moment about it. He puts his head in his hands and says, "Damn." Fade to close on his head in his hands. "Goddamn." 1:14:17

57. 3:56 – Travis goes to see Iris and has to pay for her time. Sport asks him at least three times if he's a cop and says it's because he looks like a cowboy. He seems friendly, but makes fun of Travis, who doesn't play back. After they make the deal, Sport pretends to shoot Travis with his finger. Then he checks for guns and says he doesn't look hip. 1:18:13

58. 0:37 – Finger-man (in the credits he's listed as Iris's timekeeper, but I call him Finger-man) tells Travis the room is $10. Travis pays and follows Iris. 1:18:50

59. 4:50 – I had a hard time doing this scene, because the DVD had a bad spot in the middle. Iris walks through the beads in the doorway, then turns to motion Travis inside. He's unsure of how to proceed until she tells him they're going to "make it." Then reminds her of the night she got into his cab. It was shot very carefully. She starts to take off her halter top, but stops with it just off her shoulders. When she unzips his jeans, it's off-camera and all we hear is the sound effect. He throws her back onto her love seat and scares her for a minute. Then she gets her confidence back and says she must have been high that night. Finally they arrange to meet the next day for breakfast. 1:23:40

60. 0:33 – As Travis leaves, Finger-man comes out of the shadows and holds out his hand for money. Travis gives him the crumpled $20 bill that Sport gave him the night Iris tried to escape. 1:24:13

61. 4:38 – Travis and Iris have breakfast. She says he's square and he gets on her case, telling her she's square for selling her little pussy to junkies and killers. She defends Sport and says he doesn't mean any of it. She asks Travis his sign and tells him she and Sport are meant for each other because their zodiac signs are compatible. She changes her sunglasses for another pair and tells him about her parents. She doesn't want to go back there, so he says he'll give her money to go to a commune in Vermont. 1:28:51

62. 0:19 – Travis sits in his cab and watches the building where Iris works. 1:29:10

63. 2:27 – Something Travis said must have got to Iris. She wants to quit. Sport puts on some romantic music and dances with her, stroking her hair and telling what a wonderful woman she is. He says, "I wish every man could know what it's like to be loved by you." He tells her she keeps him together. This is a really creepy scene. On one hand Sport has an extra long pinky nail, painted red. I always heard that coke addicts kept a long pinky nail to use as a spoon, but I never knew anybody who actually had one. 1:31:37

64. 1:35 – Montage of Travis practicing at the shooting range, burning the flowers, polishing his boots (he lights the dark polish on fire), and getting ready to kick ass. He cuts one sleeve off his shirt, tapes his knife to his boot, and writes a letter to Iris. He encloses the money he promised her and tells her, "By the time you get this, I will be dead." He tells his diary, "My whole life has been pointed in one direction." 1:33:12

65. 3:17 – His voice over continues at a Palantine political rally. "There never has been any choice for me." Travis gets out of the cab, but we only see his army jacket, not his face. We see the rest of the rally, then back to Travis as he removes a pill bottle from his jacket and brings the pill to his mouth. Now we see that he's got a Mohawk haircut. He watches Betsy, who is sitting with Tom on the podium. He moves through the crowd and reaches into his jacket, but the Secret Service men have had their eye on him and he doesn't get the chance to use whatever he was reaching for. It could have been his wallet. 1:36:29

66. 0:19 – Back at home, Travis takes off his shirt, pops a pill, and washes it down with beer. He's agitated, shaking his head. He looks really crazy. On the soundtrack, Bernard Hermann tells us we're right to be scared. 1:36:48

67. 0:28 – The man with the bad suit gets money from Sport. It must be for a fix, because Sport is wiping his mouth. And why else would a pimp pay a john? He shows off his gun to Sport, and asks if Iris is up in her room. What choice does Sport have? He's a junkie. He sends bad-suit-man to Iris. 1:37:16

68. 0:13 – Travis drives through the night, ignoring fares and dodging traffic. He's intent, staring. 1:37:29

69. 1:34 – Travis greets Sport and asks about Iris. Sport doesn't remember him and flicks his cigarette off Travis's chest. He tells him, "Get the fuck outta here." Travis says, "Suck on this," and shoots Sport in the stomach. He leaves Sport crying in the doorway and goes to sit on the stoop of Iris's building, but nobody does anything. 1:39:03

70. 2:52 – Travis goes inside and shoots the fingers off of Finger-man with his Magnum. The shot echoes through the building and Iris, who is "making it" with bad-suit-man, spins around in slo-mo. Sport has made it into the building and shoots Travis in the neck. Travis drops his Magnum and goes back to shoot Sport. He shoots him a bunch. He shoots Finger-man, but doesn't kill him. Finger-man follows him upstairs, howling. He distracts Travis, so that he doesn't see bad-suit-man come out. Bad-suit-man shoots Travis. Travis drops his second gun, but still has his last one up his sleeve. He shoots bad-suit-man in the face until his clip runs out and then dry-fires a few times. Finger-man grabs Travis with his good hand. Travis grabs his knife and impales Finger-man's good hand. Iris is terrified. She screams, "Don't shoot him." Travis shoots Finger-man in the head with his own gun. Travis then tries to shoot himself under the chin, but he's out of bullets. He tries another gun, but all the bullets are gone. So he sits down to rest. He's had a hard day. 1:41:55

71. 0:49 – The police edge in guns first. Travis raises his bloody hand and finger-shoots himself in the head, with sound effects. Blood drips off his finger. 1:42:44

72. 2:38 – This is the overhead tracking shot back out of the room, over the cops, and down the hall. Fade to a pan down the stairs. Fade to one gun, then fade to the other, where Travis dropped them. Fade to Sport dead in the doorway. Fade to crane shot of the street filled with onlookers, police, pimps, whores, and paramedics. 1:45:22

73. 1:39 – Slow pan of newspaper articles pinned to the wall of Travis's apartment. Voice over of the letter from Iris's father thanking Travis for returning Iris to them. The articles paint Travis as a hero who broke up an underage prostitution and drug ring. Iris's father apologizes for not seeing Travis, but he was in a coma and they couldn't afford to stay in New York. They are taking steps to see that Iris never has cause to run away again. This line opens a world of possibilities and sounds ominous. She didn't want to go back there. Why? 1:47:01

74. 0:35 – Travis gossips with his boys. His hair is back to normal. Doughboy comes up and greets them all. Travis's nickname is still "Killer," but he seems more at ease with it now. Doughboy says that Travis has a fare. He gets into the cab. 1:47:36

75. 1:39 – Travis glances into the rear view mirror at the fare, but we can't figure out the importance of this scene until Betsy says hello from the back seat. Then we get the gorgeous shot of Cybill Shepherd in the rear view with its edges in soft focus because the focus is on her. Her hair floats on the breeze. It must be October because she mentions that it's seventeen days to the election. She asks about what happened to him. She read the paper. He says it was nothing. "I got over that." In the final shot of the scene, he looks directly into the camera from the rear view mirror. 1:49:15

76. 1:04 – Betsy asks about the fare, but Travis gives her the ride for free. He drives off, through the lights of the city. He looks in the rear view mirror. The last shot of him is something I've never figured out. He does a double take and gets intense, as if he spotted something: maybe more scum. It's a hint that getting shot up and being in a coma might not have "gotten him over it" after all. 1:50:19

There are 76 scenes that average one minute and 27 seconds in length. Thirty-six, or nearly half, are less than a minute long. Only 11 are three or more minutes long.

We argue a lot about voice-over. Voice-over can be intrusive and even annoying when used badly. The technique of voice over in this film is almost textbook perfect. Trottier advises that it should "add something that the visual does not already tell us." Scorsese uses Travis's diary to tell us how the things in Travis's life affect him. We see the scene, we hear him speak, and his words always illuminate something different from what we're seeing. In the café with Betsy, on the first date, his words make us focus on their food. Later we realize he said some pretty disturbing things to her, but Travis thinks the food is important, so that is where our attention goes.

Sometimes we see the final words of the voice-over diary entry as he writes them down. Showing part of the diary is important, because Travis prints in pencil, and seems to have trouble forming his letters. It is another example of how he's cut off from normal life.

Travis has trouble connecting: connecting to other people and connecting to himself. Once he gets the guns, he comforts himself by playing with them while he watches T.V. He especially likes the Magnum, and runs his fingers along the barrel: back and forth. I couldn't help but wonder if Scorsese was trying to tell us that Travis is so disconnected that, for him, this takes the place of masturbation.

Part of the extras on the DVD was a series of interviews with most of the cast: DeNiro, Keitel, Foster, Scorsese, Boyle, and even Cybill Shepherd and Albert Brooks. Jodie Foster said that Bobby DeNiro used to take her out to eat during the preliminary rehearsals. He would pick her up and drive around with her for hours, then go to some restaurant. She said he hardly ever talked, so she just started talking about this and that, or even talking to strangers. She said it gave her such a familiarity with him that when they did their scenes together she was perfectly at ease.

Marty Scorsese is very much an instinctual film-maker. He will talk for hours about the logistics of getting a particular shot or what the weather was like during a certain scene, but he never articulates why he made the choices that he did, or what his film meant. To him the film means what it is. He always has very firm and detailed ideas about what he wants, but doesn't feel it necessary to explain why. As long as things turn out the way he wanted, that's all the explanation you'll ever need.