Audi Dublin International Film Festival preview: In the Hollywood of the 1970s, young directors were kings and the names that reigned then read like a who’s who of what has come to be widely regarded as a golden age of American cinema: Coppola, De Palma, Friedkin, Polanski, Scorsese and Spielberg.
Directors who became superstars and produced films like Five Easy Pieces, The French Connection, The Godfather, Chinatown, Taxi Driver, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars. The writer-director Paul Schrader, slightly less well-known than the above-mentioned men is nevertheless inextricably linked with the American New Wave. Schrader wrote Taxi Driver, Blue Collar (which he also directed) and Raging Bull.
Ahead of a public interview with the writer-director later this month, Seán Rocks spoke to Paul Whittington on RTÉ Arena about his life and career. Schrader was raised in a very strict religious household and was not allowed to go to the cinema or watch television:
"You think of Scorsese and Spielberg, who grew up watching the telly and they were totally absorbed in it from an early age and they were sneaking into cinemas. None of that for him."
When he went to Hollywood, Schrader had to choose what films to watch in order to educate himself. His first film as a writer, The Yakuza, directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Mitchum was a box-office failure when it was released in 1974, but Schrader was undeterred. When he was introduced to the director Martin Scorsese and the intense young actor Robert De Niro, it seemed that they were made for each other:
"This was three people – De Niro, Scorsese and Schrader – who were all kind of in this crazy place."
The film that resulted from their collaboration was Taxi Driver, still, over 40 years later, a shocking and visceral psychological thriller. According to Paul, Schrader went all-in on the film:
"He wrote it in two weeks and he was in a bad place. Like Scorsese, he had a bit of a cocaine habit. He’d just split up from his wife and his girlfriend…"
The three men re-teamed five years later for Raging Bull, for which De Niro won an Oscar and Schrader has written a host of acclaimed films, including American Gigolo, The Mosquito Coast and Bringing Out The Dead.
Paul Schrader will be interviewed by Seán Rocks in the O’Reilly Theatre, Dublin, as part of the 2018 Dublin International Film Festival on Friday 23 February - more details here.
You can hear the full discussion with Paul Whittington, and listen back to the rest of Arena here.