Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Posts tagged “Taxi Driver

R.I.P Alan J. Hirshfield

Hirschfield (Medium)Long-time former studio and media executive Alan J. Hirschfield has died of natural causes at 79 in his Wilson, Wyoming, home, his son confirmed. Hirschfield was perhaps best known for overseeing the creation of Taxi Driver and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but had a long career heading a number of media and entertainment companies before becoming a consultant and board member with many more companies in the industry and beyond.

Hirschfield was born in New York and grew up in Oklahoma. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Oklahoma, and an MBA from Harvard University. 

Hirschfield was CEO of Columbia Pictures from 1973 to 1978 before being ousted because he refused on moral grounds to reinstate David Begelman, who had embezzled tens of thousands of dollars from the studio. Between 1982 and 1986, Hirschfield was chairman of Twentieth Century Fox, then became a consultant for several years, including two as consultant to the chairman of Warner Communications.

From 1990 to 1992, Hirschfield was an investment banker and also co-CEO of Financial News Network. From 1992 to 2000, he was co-CEO of Data Broadcasting Corp., which subsequently merged with Financial Times/Pearson’s Inc. He then returned to consulting in the media and entertainment industry as president of Norman Hirschfield and Company. In the 1960s, he was an investment banker, and director and CFO of Warner/7 Arts.

A busy man, Hirschfield served on the boards of directors of Forbes, Carmike Cinemas, CBS Marketwatch, Billboard Publishing, Motown Records, Chappell Music Publishing, Chyron Corp., Cantel Medical Corp., Peregrine Systems, Interactive Data Corp., Enercrest, Wiltel Corp. and Leucadia National Corp. For decades, Hirschfield collected notable artifacts and art tied to the Old West and Native Americans. He also served with a number of philanthropic and non-profit organizations, including as director of the Lymphoma Research Foundation, as a trustee of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, The George Gustav Haye Center of the National Museum of the American Indian, Grand Teton Music Festival and the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole. He also was a trustee of the American Film Institute and an MPAA director.He is survived by his wife, Berte Hirschfield and three children.


Dick Smith R.I.P.

The-Exorcist_Dick-SmithRenowned Makeup FX Wizard Dick Smith has passed. His contribution to the genre and the world of Makeup FX, so integral to horror and cinema at large, is impossible to overstate.

Born in 1922 in Larchmont, New York, Smith began his career in 1945 as the first staff makeup man at NBC. Until his official debut in feature films in 1962, Smith applied makeup on a host of television series, including two remarkable visages in episodes of the anthology series WAY OUT (“Soft Focus,” “False Face”).

Pioneering the use of foam latex for intricate, richly detailed designs, Smith’s work was perhaps most stunning (and best known) in William Friedkin’s 1973 classic The Exorcist. Smith also considered it his most accomplished work, and in a 2007 Washington Post profile, his former assistant and now FX legend Rick Baker helps illustrate why:

” ‘The Exorcist’ was really a turning point for makeup special effects,” Baker says. “Dick showed that makeup wasn’t just about making people look scary or old, but had many applications. He figured out a way to make the welts swell up on Linda’s stomach, to make her head spin around, and he created the vomit scenes.”

Of course, Smith’s filmography and influence extends farther than just The Exorcist. In 1965, Smith penned the essential DICK SMITH’S DO-IT-YOURSELF MONSTER MAKE-UP HANDBOOK and his entire career is an index of fantastic, otherworldly work including the likes of Dark Shadows, Little Big Man, The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Burnt Offerings, Altered States, The Fury, Ghost Story and Amadeus, for which he won an Oscar in 1984. Smith’s second Oscar came in 2011, when the technician of horror received an Academy Honorary Award for “for his unparalleled mastery of texture, shade, form and illusion.”


Scorsese: An Art Show Tribute

Martin Scorsese_portrait art Spoke Art has taken over New York’s Bold Hype Gallery for Scorsese: An Art Show Tribute, featuring work based on films such as Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, The Departed, Gangs of New York, Casino and many more. Artists such as Scott Campbell, Joshua Budich, Dave Perillo, Fernando Reza, Jayson Weidel, Jessica Deahl, Jon Smith, New Flesh, Paul Shipper, Rhys Cooper, Rich Pellegrino and Sam Smith have all contributed to the show, which is open Friday April 19 through Sunday April 21.

Scorsese: An Art Show Tribute takes place April 19-21 at the Bold Hype Gallery, 547 West 27th Street, 5th floor, New York, NY. The hours are 6 p.m.-close April 19 and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. April 20-21. Check out some of the prints here and on the official facebook page HERE

Martin Scorsese_Taxi Driver_Poster Art


Taxi Driver – Behind the Scenes

Check out these behind the scenes shots from Taxi Driver (1976), continuity shots from the film’s climax, Scorsese and De Niro at the Rally, and Robert De Niro’s Taxi Cab Driver’s License.


Harvey Keitel

Harvey Keitel (born May 13, 1939) is an American actor. Some of his most notable starring roles were in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, Ridley Scott’s The Duellists and Thelma & Louise, Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Jane Campion’s The Piano, Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant, James Mangold’s Cop Land, and Nicolas Roeg’s Bad Timing.

Keitel grew up in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, with his sister, Renee, and brother, Jerry. At the age of sixteen, he decided to join the United States Marine Corps, a decision that took him to Lebanon, during Operation Blue Hat (to bolster the pro-Western Lebanese government of President Camille Chamoun against internal opposition and threats from Syria and Egypt). After his return to the United States, he was a court reporter for several years and was able to support himself before beginning his acting career.

Keitel studied under both Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, eventually landing roles in Off-Broadway productions. During this time, Keitel auditioned for filmmaker Martin Scorsese and gained a part in Scorsese’s student production, Who’s That Knocking at My Door? Since then, Scorsese and Keitel have worked together on several projects. Keitel had the starring role in Scorsese’s Mean Streets, which also proved to be Robert De Niro’s breakthrough film. He later appeared with De Niro in Taxi Driver, playing the role of Jodie Foster’s pimp ‘Sport’.

Originally cast as Captain Willard in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, Keitel was involved with the first week of principal photography in the Philippines. Coppola was not happy with Keitel’s take on Willard, stating that the actor “found it difficult to play him a passive onlooker”. After viewing the first week’s footage, Coppola made the difficult decision to replace Keitel with a casting session favourite, Martin Sheen.

Keitel drifted into obscurity through most of the 1980s, taking mainly supporting roles in some good movies such as Bad Timing (1981) by Nicolas Roeg, The Border (1982) by Tony Richardson and Falling in Love (1984) with Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep. He continued to do work on both stage and screen, but usually in the stereotypical thug roles. In 1987 he again worked with Scorsese as Judas in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). Another supporting role to Jack Nicolson in The Two Jakes (1990) before Ridley Scott cast Keitel as the sympathetic policeman in Thelma & Louise in 1991. That same year, he landed a role in Bugsy, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Keitel’s career revival continued when he starred in Quentin Tarantino’s debut Reservoir Dogs (which he co-produced) in 1992, where his performance as “Mr. White” took his career to a different level. Since then, Keitel has chosen his roles with care, seeking to change his image and show off a broader acting range. One of those roles was the title character in Abel Ferarra’s Bad Lieutenant (1992), about a self-loathing, drug- addicted police lieutenant trying to redeem himself. He also appeared in the movie The Piano in 1993, and played an efficient clean-up expert Winston “The Wolf” Wolfe in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994).

Keitel was back in a big way, he starred in Smoke and Clockers (both 1995), then in 1996 he had a major role in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s film, From Dusk Till Dawn, as the religious father of two, whose camper van is hijacked by Seth (George Clooney) and his twisted brother Richard (Quentin Tarantino). In 1997 he starred in the excellent crime drama Cop Land, which also starred Sylvester Stallone, Ray Liotta, and long-time collaborator Robert De Niro.

He’s been incredibly busy through the last decade, featuring in a lot of movies… can someone please give him another gritty leading role to get his teeth in to..?


Martin Scorsese – Part 2 (Mid 70’s – Early 80’s)

Scorsese made the iconic ‘Taxi Driver’ in 1976 – his dark, urban nightmare of one lonely man’s slow, deliberate descent into insanity. The film established Scorsese as an accomplished filmmaker operating on a highly skilled level, and also brought attention to cinematographer Michael Chapman, whose style tends towards high contrasts, strong colors and complex camera movements. The groundbreaking performance of Robert De Niro as the troubled and psychotic Travis Bickle was highly regarded. The film co-starred Jodie Foster in a highly controversial role as an underage prostitute, and Harvey Keitel as her pimp, Matthew, called “Sport.”

Taxi Driver also marked the start of a series of collaborations between Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader, whose influences included the diary of would-be assassin Arthur Bremmer and ‘Pickpocket’, a film by the French director Robert Bresson. Already controversial upon its release, Taxi Driver hit the headlines again five years later, when John Hinckley Jr. made an assassination attempt on then-President Ronald Reagan. He subsequently blamed his act on his obsession with Jodie Foster’s Taxi Driver character (in the film, De Niro’s character, Travis Bickle, plans an assassination attempt on a senator).

Taxi Driver won the Palme d’Or at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival, also receiving four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, although all were unsuccessful. The critical success of Taxi Driver encouraged Scorsese to move ahead with his first big-budget project: the highly stylized musical New York, New York.

New York, New York was the director’s third collaboration with Robert De Niro, co-starring with Liza Minnelli (a tribute and allusion to her father, legendary musical director Vincente Minnelli). The film is best remembered today for the title theme song, which was popularized by Frank Sinatra. Although possessing Scorsese’s usual visual panache and stylistic bravura, many critics felt its enclosed studio-bound atmosphere left it leaden in comparison to his earlier work. This tribute to Scorsese’s home town and the classic Hollywood musical was a box-office failure.

The disappointing reception that New York, New York received drove Scorsese into depression. By this stage the director had also developed a serious cocaine addiction. However, he did find the creative drive to make the highly regarded ‘The Last Waltz’, documenting the final concert by The Band in 1976. The concert was held at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, and featured one of the most extensive lineups of prominent guest performers at a single concert, including Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Ringo Starr, Muddy Waters, Joni Mitchell, Ronnie Wood and Van Morrison. However, Scorsese’s commitments to other projects delayed the release of the film until 1978.

Another Scorsese-directed documentary entitled ‘American Boy’ also appeared in 1978, focusing on Steven Prince, the cocky gun salesman who appeared in Taxi Driver. A period of wild partying followed, damaging the director’s already fragile health.

By several accounts (Scorsese’s included), Robert De Niro practically saved Scorsese’s life when he persuaded Scorsese to kick his cocaine addiction to make his highly regarded film, Raging Bull. Convinced that he would never make another movie, he poured his energies into making this violent biopic of middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta, calling it a Kamikaze method of film-making. The film is widely viewed as a masterpiece and was voted the greatest film of the 1980s by Britain’s Sight & Sound magazine. It received eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor Robert De Niro, and Scorsese’s first for Best Director. De Niro won, as did Thgelma Schoonmaker for editing, but Best Director went to Robert Redford for ‘Ordinary People’.

Raging Bull, filmed in high contrast black and white, is where Scorsese’s style reached its zenith: Taxi Driver and New York, New York had used elements of expressionism to replicate psychological points of view, but here the style was taken to new extremes, employing extensive slow-motion, complex tracking shots, and extravagant distortion of perspective (for example, the size of boxing rings would change from fight to fight).
Thematically too, the concerns carried on from Mean Streets and Taxi Driver: insecure males, violence, guilt, and redemption.

Although the screenplay for Raging Bull was credited to Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin (who earlier co-wrote Mean Streets), the finished script differed extensively from Schrader’s original draft. It was re-written several times by various writers including Jay Cocks (who went on to co-script later Scorsese films ‘The Age of Innocence’ and ‘Gangs of New York’). The final draft was largely written by Scorsese and Robert De Niro.

The American Film Institute chose Raging Bull as the #1 American sports film on their list of the top 10 sports films.