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'Taxi Driver' screens at Tribeca Film Festival for 40th anniversary: What we learned about the iconic movie

Forty years after first wowing cinema-goers, Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" returned to the big screen Thursday evening for the Tribeca Film Festival's highly anticipated "Taxi Driver" anniversary screening and cast reunion.

"Every day for 40 [expletive] years, at least one of you has come up and said, 'Are you talkin’ to me?'" Robert De Niro cried during his introduction to a packed Beacon Theatre – a crowd of boisterous fans who moments later couldn't contain their cheers during the screening of the anti-hero's iconic line.

An all-star panel discussion followed the film, featuring Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Harvey Keitel, Paul Schrader and Michael Phillips. Here are some of the highlights from the talk, which covered New York City in the '70s, surviving a sticky summer film shoot and child labor laws.

The Board of Education almost didn't let Jodie Foster work the role

Jodie Foster had to fight to work on
Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Kena Betancur

Jodie Foster had to fight to work on the film, in which she played underage prostitute Iris. She only received her work permit after psychological tests. "The Board of Education didn't want to give me a work permit," Foster, who was a young teen at the time, said. "They said no, I couldn't have one, and we hired a lawyer and they decided to determine whether I was psychologically sane enough to play the part - and I guess I passed!" Was there was anything she was embarrassed about in playing the character? "Just the hot pants," she said.

The famous shootout scene was shot in a condemned building on the Upper West Side

While the exterior shots of the building took
Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Neilson Barnard

While the exterior shots of the building took place on 13th Street, Jodie Foster's "boudoir" was shot in a condemned building on 88th Street Columbus Avenue, according to Scorsese. To get the overhead shot surveying the bloody aftermath of the shootout, set designers spent three months carving out the ceiling. "When it came time to shoot it, the child labor law person [showed up] and said we had 20 minutes [to shoot the scene]... It had been a year building up to it," Scorsese recalled. "We got it in two takes."

Jodie Foster wasn't freaked out by all the blood in the shootout scene

Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Neilson Barnard

"Freaked out? It was fantastic!" she said. The actress went on to describe production of the scene, with makeup and special effects artist Dick Smith bringing in "big wonderful gallons of karo syrup.." "All the guys [on set] would teach me what they were doing ... Watching Bob [de Niro] put on his headpiece -- the prosthetic mohawk -- It was fascinating," Foster said. "People always ask how frightening that scene was and how frightening it was to shoot ... but it was kinda fun."

Paul Schrader based character Travis Bickle on a person he was afraid of becoming

Photo Credit: Getty Images/ KENA BETANCUR

"This script began in the best possible way, as self therapy," Schrader said. "There was a person who I was afraid I was becoming. ... I felt if I wrote about him I could distance him from me. And it worked. It really does show that art has therapeutic powers. The beauty of it is as it migrated through director, cast, it still retained its original purpose --that purgative power."

A key character in the film, New York City, was difficult to deal with at times

Shooting took place during a hot and humid
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Neilson Barnard

Shooting took place during a hot and humid summer - and went for longer than expected because it wouldn't stop raining. Scorsese discussed the essential role the city and its mood played in the film, and that leaving street scenes out was not an option. "We were just hanging out on the streets," Scorsese said. "Rainstorms and thunderstorms kept pushing us back in scheduling. ... Being in the city, in the summer - you can feel it in the film, Michael Chapman's photography, you could taste the humidity, you could taste a sense of anger and violence that was emanating from the streets themselves, it was crazy."


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