“The mohawk was something that Marty and I came up with,” Robert De Niro said at the Tribeca Film Festival’s 40th anniversary screening of Taxi Driver at the Beacon Theater Thursday night. The event brought De Niro together with director Martin Scorsese, screenwriter Paul Schrader, co-stars Jodie Foster and Cybill Shepherd, and producer Michael Phillips. “A friend of his, who was in special forces at that time, would do HALO [high altitude] diving into Cambodia, or Laos, or whatever. And he showed us a picture of he and his outfit and a couple guys had mohawks, or at least one or two of them did, as I remember.”
For those still wondering whether the legendary method actor took out the shears, his wicked haircut was, of course, just a wig put together by makeup effects wiz Dick Smith. (De Niro needed a full bob for his next film, The Last Tycoon.) “I remember I was in the other room and I had fallen asleep while he was working on the headpiece or whatever it is — the mohawk,” Scorsese said to De Niro. “And then I felt a tap on my shoulder, and I opened my eyes and you were there with this thing, and it was terrifying!”
Jodie Foster meanwhile had a bit of a fright herself — not because she was tackling the role of a child prostitute, but because she was worried that her friends would make fun of her. Why? “The hot pants and the dumb hat and the sunglasses,” she said. “The first day I cried. Then I was absolutely mortified.”
But Foster is proud of the work she did, telling Vulture earlier on the red carpet that Taxi Driver still resonates with audiences because it speaks to a bygone era in American cinema. “It was the first anti-hero film that really questioned the structure of what films were doing at that time,” she said.