One of the more enduring and inscrutable myths floating around Hollywood about Martin Scorsese is that the director, overcome with rage due to the MPAA assigning his seminal hit “Taxi Driver” the dreaded “X” rating and Columbia Pictures demanding it be re-cut to receive an “R” rating, stayed up all night drinking, with a loaded gun in his lap.
The plan for the next day, as Quentin Tarantino recounts in this fascinating video, was that Scorsese intended to go down to the offices of Columbia Pictures and murder the executive who was supposedly intent on “ruining his movie.”
Did such an event ever happen? Perhaps. Scorsese is obsessively dedicated to his films and enough of a madman to possibly consider it. Just the same, would QT let something as silly as “facts” get in the way of a good story? Probably not.
According to Scorsese in a Hollywood Reporter interview, “What had happened was that the film was shown to the MPAA and it was given an X rating. There was no way the studio was going to release an X, understandably … We sat down, took out a pen, and the studio exec turned to us and said, ‘Cut it for an R or we cut it.’ Then we were dismissed.”
He continues, “I was furious. I was complaining about it and telling all my friends and colleagues … And I was obsessed with this idea of desaturation that [cinematographer] Oswald Morris used in John Huston’s Moby Dick and I always wanted to do it. So I asked, ‘What if we drained some of the color out and replicated the process of Moby Dick?’ That was accepted by the studio, and so the entire shootout at the end goes to a grainier look. And I just finally felt good about the picture.”