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The strange connection between 'Star Wars' and 'Taxi Driver'

Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) and George Lucas’ Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) were two of the ’70s’ highest acclaimed blockbusters. The influential films have very little in common. One is the emphatic opening (or fourth) episode of the most popular sci-fi franchises of all time, while the other is a gritty drama set in the sin-stricken streets of New York City. 

Taxi Driver launched the rising star of The Godfather Part II, Robert De Niro, to even dizzier heights, as well as bringing the 13-year-old Jodie Foster under the public eye. Star Wars, meanwhile, saw Harrison Ford in his most prominent role to date and brought the 21-year-old Carrie Fisher her first major role. 

Despite the obvious thematic differences between the films, they have a connection through their young female stars. When Scorsese was holding auditions for Iris, Foster’s child prostitute character in Taxi Driver, Carrie Fisher was among those who turned up for a chance to impress. Other big names auditioning for the role included Bo Derek, Mariel Hemingway, Kim Cattrall, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Rosanna Arquette.

While Fisher lost out to Foster on her chance to portray Iris in Taxi Driver, she had her day a couple of years later. As it transpires, Foster was originally considered for the role of Princess Leia alongside Amy Irving and Teri Nunn. This time, Fisher beat Foster and the others to the mark. 

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After being cast in Star Wars, Fisher was surprised not to have lost out to her contenders. “I never thought I would get [the job] because there were all these other beautiful girls who were up for the part,” she wrote in her 2008 book Wishful Drinking

It seems all was well between the two actresses after the Star Wars casting; Foster later revealed she wasn’t caught up in losing out. “I don’t think I’m going to be on my deathbed going, like, ‘Damn! I didn’t do Star Wars,’” she told Empire.

If you thought the comparisons between the two films stop here, you’d be much mistaken. When shooting began for the first instalment of Star Wars, Lucas noticed that Fisher lacked some important gun-wielding skills and the loud noises made her jump. 

In Wishful Drinking, Fisher recalled: “George also made me take shooting lessons because, in the first film, I would grimace horribly at the deafening sound of the blanks from the blasters and the squibs that the special effects team would place all over the set and on the stormtroopers,” she wrote. “So George wanted to make me look like I’d been shooting them for my entire Alderaan existence.”

So, what’s the connection with Taxi Driver here? Glad you asked. Continuing, Fisher revealed: “[George] sent me to the same man who’d taught Robert De Niro to shoot weapons in Taxi Driver.” 

The shooting range was located “in this little cellar in midtown Manhattan, populated with policemen and all manner of firearm aficionados. … After a series of weapon instruction from a very pleasant ex-cop, I became quite proficient with an assortment of guns, including a double-barreled shotgun,” Fisher added. “Obviously my family was so proud.”