Taxi Driver became the foundation for several successful careers, showcasing the urgent talent of De Niro, Scorsese, Schrader and young Jodie Foster in particular. De Niro’s famously improvised mirror taunt – “You talkin’ to me?” – is one of the most quoted lines in cinema.
But other aspects of the film’s influence were less welcome. Having initially drawn on the actions of gunman Arthur Bremer, the film would go on to inspire further real-life violence. In March 1981, John Hinckley Jr., who had developed an obsession with the film and Foster in particular, attempted to assassinate president Ronald Reagan in a bid to impress the actress.
Schrader guessed the connection straight away. “I was scouting locations in New Orleans. It came over the radio that a white kid from Colorado had made the assassination attempt. I said to the driver, 'It was one of those Taxi Driver kids.'”
It transpired later than Hinckley Jr. had been in touch with Schrader’s office before the shooting, asking for a way to contact Foster. Schrader denied this to the FBI at the time. “I would be fucked, my secretary would be fucked,” he explains. “We'd have to be endlessly answering questions about a letter we've thrown out and don't remember. So I just said, 'No.’”