Harvey Keitel

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Harvey Keitel Risked His Life To Play The Taxi Driver Pimp In “Taxi Driver”

Harvey Keitel

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This list contains the names of notable performers who have put their ability to perform flawlessly at risk. Yet, Harvey Keitel is rarely mentioned in these conversations.

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Keitel, a frequent collaborator of Martin Scorsese, offers a fascinating story about how he put himself in dangerous situations to better his performance in Taxi Driver (1976). It is also one of the greatest examples of steadfast commitment to work.

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Robert DeNiro, his co-star in the film, made his own potentially catastrophic decisions in order to understand his character. Keitel may have gone too far, however.

Harvey Keitel’s Taxi Driver Preparing

Keitel portrays the pimp Matthew “Sport” Higgins in Taxi Driver. When filming began, the actor understood nothing about pimping or what it entailed. He has always been known for his rigorous preparation and research prior to any assignment.

This portrayal was consistent with his reputation for portraying “tough guy” characters in films. Yet, knowing anything about his personality placed him in a difficult position. Both DeNiro’s Travis Bickle and Keitel’s Higgins required difficult preparation and execution.

As preparation for the film, they both engaged in method acting. Before production began, DeNiro, who plays a night-shift taxi driver, spent two weeks driving a yellow cab through New York’s most dangerous streets.

He desired to experience life behind the wheel of a taxi. Keitel, for his part, dove headfirst into his portrayal as a drug-addled pimp. His strategy for preparation? Get knowledge from a real pimp.

In an effort to meet with their supervisors, Keitel traveled to Times Square and chatted with sex workers. When it failed, he went through a third party to get a real pimp. He worked for two weeks with this individual.

They took turns portraying a prostitute and a pimp, conceiving and rehearsing scenes, and familiarizing themselves with the lifestyle. Something about that manner of life, or at least what that individual told him, fascinated him.

He stated that regardless of their profession, pimps love their female clients and never lie to them. In a December 2015 interview with Collider, Keitel said,

“It took me a while to recognize and comprehend that.” “I’m unsure if I have.”

Harvey Keitel Was Not Originally Cast as a Taxi Driver

The portrayal of Higgins by Keitel has become one of the most notable roles of the New Hollywood era. Yet if the screenplay had not been altered, he might not have won the part, or it might not have existed at all.

Paul Schrader, who wrote the Taxi Driver screenplay, initially envisaged Higgins as a Black character. This is how he wrote the screenplay, and this is how the casting was originally conceived.

However, given the intended conclusion of the picture, the studio intervened and requested that Schrader modify a few aspects of his original screenplay.

Bickle enters the facility where Higgins does the majority of his duties and opens fire, killing Higgins and others. This scene, in which a white man shoots a black man, was expected by Columbia Pictures to trigger riots.

Schrader altered the screenplay in order to make Higgins a white man. After this, Keitel was cast and delivered an outstanding performance opposite DeNiro. The rest, as they say in Hollywood, is history.

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