Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
July 22
Paul Schrader July 22, 1946
Paul Schrader born

Writer/director Paul Schrader, born July 22, 1946, famously lived in his car in the months while writing his second screenplay, that iconic parable of urban alienation, 1976's Taxi Driver. Schrader had worked in L.A. as a film critic, wrote a film, The Yakuza, that Sidney Pollack had directed, gotten divorced, and decided to commit to screenwriting full time. Broke, he couch-surfed and drove around the country, living alone and letting whatever inner demons he had transmute into the character of Travis Bickle, a cabbie whose social isolation leads to misguided vigilantism. In an interview, Schrader said that Bickle "jumped out of my head like an animal." Indeed, such was the power of that lunge that Bickle became one of the most resonant and influential of modern screen characters, and it established Schrader as one of our top screenwriters. More tough characters followed, in films like Rolling Thunder, American Gigolo and Raging Bull. Shortly after Taxi Driver, Schrader quickly transitioned into directing, beginning with two films, a tale of working class characters trying to beat the system, Blue Collar, and then, a year later in 1979, Hardcore, the story of a father searching for his daughter in the underground pornography world. In the years that followed, Schrader, who studied theology in school and whose family were practicing Calvinists, has repeatedly explored the tension between man -- and cinema's -- transcendental aspirations and the conflicts, desires, and social circumstances that crash him to earth. And while the days of sleeping in his car are long behind him, he is still capable of connecting with the anti-social urges from which art can be born. In an interview with Filmmaker magazine prior to the release of his film Affliction, Schrader said, "I got into film for the best of all possible reasons -- as a kind of self therapy with Taxi Driver -- and I still see it as self therapy." " So you never rid yourself of the demons?" the interviewer asked. "No -- all you do is learn more about them and pursue them into the next realm," he replied.


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