Paul Schrader, one-time Hollywood screenwriting wunderkind, is back in the news with his new film “The Canyons” (read our review). Back when Martin Scorsese was a a bright young thing sticking it to the studios—this would be in the late '70s—Schrader was the man feeding him the material, writing “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull,” but with the '80s Schrader turned to directing, with varying success. From “American Gigolo” to “Cat People” to "Hardcore" to "Auto Focus" all the way to “The Canyons”...it's been an interesting journey (check out our full retrospective of his directorial efforts).
In a Reddit AMA yesterday, Schrader began to muse not on past projects but on projects that never were, and specifically various potential new Scorsese collaborations that have periodically surfaced and then vanished again over the years. Schrader revealed that at some point in the past, “I did an HBO pilot for [Scorsese] but HOB [sic] passed. We have no other plans,” though of course Scorsese helped “Boardwalk Empire" happen for HBO, without Schrader. It would be interesting to know if this pilot was before or after that.
Schrader also spills some even more interesting beans, relating to “Taxi Driver”: according to him, back in the late '90s, “[Robert] De Niro suggested [a "Taxi Driver" sequel] to Marty and I about 15 years ago and I told him it was the dumbest idea that I've ever heard. I told him that character had died not more than 6 months after that movie was over. He was on a death trip and was gonna succeed the next time.”
It's hard to argue with Schrader about the characterization, and there was the whole “movie that inspired a Reagan assassination attempt” thing that might have made returning to it a bit awkward. A late '90s “Taxi Driver” sequel does indeed sound like a staggeringly bad idea, and it's a little surprising De Niro thought it might fly. But then so does a career twilight spent fumbling your way through Ben Stiller franchises.