Jodie Foster on ‘Taxi Driver’ and Why Robert De Niro Insisted on Running Lines “Over and Over”

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“I later understood that by running the lines over and over and over again… it gave him the ability to know his text well enough so that he could improvise” – Jodie Foster

Few actors have roles as teenagers as significant as Jodie Foster‘s role in Taxi Driver, and the production of the film also played a substantial role in her development as an actress. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Foster went into detail about her extensive rehearsals with the film’s star, Robert De Niro, and how what she thought was “boring” rehearsal ended up being important to the portrayal of their characters.

Foster remembers, “He picked me up from my hotel — I was staying at the Essex House in New York City. We were gonna go to a coffee shop because he wanted to do rehearsals. But Robert De Niro was super method-y then, and he was very in-character, he was very Travis Bickle, so he didn’t say anything. He just looked awkward.”

However, Foster went to rehearse with him a few more times, but it didn’t seem to be getting anymore eventful. She recalls, “He took me to a diner, one of those deli-diners, and we were there for a really long time — it seemed like hours to me. And all we did was the lines. He couldn’t talk to me, or have any kind of a conversation. And then he came back, and he did this another three times, where he took me out. By the third time, I was like, ‘This is so boring,’ and I started talking to all the waiters and stuff because he was not much of a talker then.”

But what Foster didn’t realize until later is that De Niro’s rehearsals with her were meant to prepare her for when he improvised during filming. She continues, “I later understood that by running the lines over and over and over again — it wasn’t like I didn’t know my lines already, and this guy was making me run them over and over again — it gave him the ability to know his text well enough so that he could improvise, and we could always get back to it. I didn’t really understand that until we started shooting, and he started doing the improvisations that I was meant to respond to, and then we’d get back to the text.”

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