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How we shot Taxi Driver on the streets of New York


Being proud of Taxi Driver
Michael Chapman Film-maker
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There was much more conscious lighting in that than there usually... than there had been in the only two other movies I'd done, so I was watching that a lot, and watching what I did as far as I could, so that... that was the first time I really very consciously lit in a theatrical sense, you know. I hope that the theatricality of the lighting is usually hidden, but it's... it's definitely there; I mean, there is definitely a sense of light guiding you where to look and... and what to think, you know, in most of it – in many of the shots anyway. But I certainly laid out the... the framing and stuff of the shots, and worked with Freddy [Fred Schuler] very, very carefully about what they should look like, and of course Marty [Martin Scorsese] with me before that, or Marty with... with Freddy Schuler, because Marty was... had... Marty has a genuine... visual sense is not the right word, but a sense of the emotional content of... of what you see, you know, and...  and what...  and how to get that, how... how to bring that emotional content to the frame, you know, and he is just very, very good at it. And he... he did it; it's not... I... I'm not... I can't claim that it's me. I mean, a whole bunch of stuff is me, but the basic thing, it... it's Marty's movie, you know, and Paul's [Paul Schrader], the script is in fact...

And somewhere, years later, I... I read or saw an interview with Marty in which he said that... and he's not... he doesn't usually hand out... although he's been very kind to me, I shouldn't say that – he does hand out praise – but he... he was asked about his movies, and I can't remember the circumstances exactly. And the person said, 'What's your favorite movie?' And he said... you know, I thought Raging Bull or whatever it was, and then that person said, 'What about Taxi Driver?' And Marty said, 'No, that's Paul's movie', which is very... which is a) true, and b) very kind of him for saying it is... it's that the... the passion, the insane passion is in the script, you know, and it comes from Paul's background, and nutty religious background of his... of his upbringing – Dutch Reformed, whacko Calvinist Church and everything. I... it's... it's very, very heartfelt movie from Paul; it comes right out of this guy, and we managed to pretty much get it, I think, you know, or Marty did, and Bobby [Robert De Niro] did, and I did what I could, you know. But it's... it's a great movie and... and it's the closest thing to something like art of anything I've ever done, and... and I'm very, very proud of it... very proud of it; I think it... it is... it is... if... if there are movies that can be called art – and not very many can – it seems to me Taxi Driver is one of them. Taxi Driver and Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, Breathless and a few things like that, are... are really art, you know, and... and Taxi Driver is. I wish I could say it that it was all my art; it isn't, but I was there, anyway, and I got my... got my two cents in, and I'm very, very, very proud of it, and remain so as the years go on, and so should Marty be, and so should Paul and so should Bobby: they were never better. And... am I in it? Oh, you can barely see me. I'm... I'm hailing a cab at one point, but the scene in which a passenger pulls Bobby over and says, 'Look up in that window – see over in that window, that's my wife up there', and it's Marty, you know. 'You know what... you know what...' Well the... there's a silhouette going back and forth – well that's my – not then, but now – wife. Oh, interesting. Yes. She was... she was Marty's decision; we needed somebody to walk back and forth and be a silhouette, so she walked back and forth and be a silhouette and smoked a cigarette. 'That's my wife up there...' And Marty's going on and on in the back seat, and that's Amy, up... up in the... against... in the silhouette against the shade.

Michael Chapman (1935-2020), an American cinematographer, had a huge influence on contemporary film-making, working on an impressive array of classic films including 'Taxi Driver', 'Raging Bull', 'The Lost Boys' and 'The Fugitive'.

Listeners: Glen Ade Brown

British Director of Photography and Camera Operator Glen Ade Brown settled in Los Angeles 10 years ago.

He has been working on features, commercials and reality TV. He played an instrumental role in the award-winning ABC Family series "Switched" and is also a recipient of the Telly and the Cine Golden Eagle awards for Best Cinematography. He was recently signed by the Judy Marks Agency and is now listed in her commercial roster.

Tags: Taxi Driver, Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, Breathless, Martin Scorsese, Fred Schuler, Paul Schrader, Robert De Niro

Duration: 3 minutes, 55 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008