Paul Schrader Poster

Quotes (47)

  • What fascinates me are people who want to be one thing but who behave in a way contradictory to that. Who might say, "I want to be happy, but I keep doing things that make me unhappy".
  • We believed in a very real hell and very real evil. My mother took my hand once and stabbed me with a needle. She said, "You know how that felt, when the needle hit your thumb? Well, hell is like that... all the time!".
  • If you have made a film that has been shelved or discarded, nobody - not your wife or best friend - will ever believe it is any good, because they [Hollywood studios] don't discard $35 mill. investments.
  • Every time you think the studios have fucked you every way they can, they come up with a new way.
  • I killed more screen characters in the first four films I wrote than I have since. I realized I had to stop writing violence.
  • At the time I wrote it [Taxi Driver (1976)], I was in a rather low and bad place. I had broken with Pauline [film critic Pauline Kael], I had broken with my wife, I had broken with the woman I left my wife for, I had broken with the American Film Institute and I was in debt.
  • [on the character of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (1976)] When I set out to write the script I thought it was about loneliness. As I wrote it I realized it was about something a little different and more interesting: self-imposed loneliness, a syndrome of behavior that reinforces itself. And the touchstones of that kind of behavior are all kinds of contradictory impulses. Puristanism and pornography at the same time... "I've got to get healthy" while popping pills at the same time... That dreadful diet... It's full of these things that he does to make sure he'll never get to where he's going... so he can reinforce his own doomed condition.
  • [how he and his brother Leonard Schrader used storytelling as one of the few amusements allowed in their strict Calvinist home] We came from a background of storytellers and we were very good at that.
  • Other college kids had to vandalize government buildings. All we had to do to rebel was go to movies.
  • If you write interesting roles, you get interesting people to play them. If you write roles that are full of nuance and contradiction and have interesting dialog, actors are drawn to that... You have to have a role where an actor says, "Okay, I'm not going to get as much money as I want, I'm going to have to work on a shorter shooting schedule than I'd like, but the role's really interesting, so let's do it.".
  • When screenwriting, be prepared to drop your pants and show your dirty laundry. If you can't do that, better find yourself something more polite.
  • As screenwriters, we struggle with our own success. We have wallpapered our world and now we can't get anyone to notice the picture we just hung.
  • I wrote Taxi Driver (1976) as personal therapy, not as a commercial project.
  • [on the technical advances in cinema] We are now in a crisis of technology - we don't know quite what a movie is. We are re-wiring our brains so we can live with the machines we've made.
  • [on Blue Collar (1978)] People who act against their own best interests are interesting characters.
  • [on Stanley Kubrick] Every time out of the box he had a different dance.
  • I was raised as a Calvinist, which is doctrine-driven. And though there are many things wrong with Calvinism, you are at least encouraged to argue about things. But once you get into a faith-driven belief system there's not much you can do. They can say to you, for instance, that women have three breasts. And even when you line up 100 women and show them that they only have two breasts, they still say that women have three breasts because they were told it in a dream. And there's nothing you can do about that.
  • [on Robert De Niro's Oscar for Raging Bull (1980)] Dieting is not acting, but DeNiro was the first one to do that kind of thing. It would have been a gimmick if he wasn't so good. But I think it's the gimmick that won him the award.
  • In this business, you've got to have a selective memory. Otherwise, it's too painful.
  • Everything we've learned in the last 100 years in filmmaking is useless. We don't know what we do, what a movie is, where we see it... The notion of the writer is up for grabs. They created this art form. Now there are no rules... There's one left: Storytelling works. [2016]
  • [on casting himself in Dog Eat Dog (2016)] I had no intention of playing The Greek. Over pre-production, I approached Michael Douglas, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Nick Nolte, Chris Walken, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Wincott and Rupert Everett to play the Greek as a transgender Cleveland gangster. For one reason or another, none of them worked. I was the only actor we could afford. 'I may not be good,' I thought, 'but at least I'll be interesting.' [2016]
  • [on Dog Eat Dog (2016)] The task then was to make Bunker's story feel contemporary. Edward Bunker 's sensibility was forged in the '70s, Dog was set in the '90s - so what to do? Matt Wilder's beautifully manic script showed the way. I assembled a young creative team cut to bring energy to Ed Bunker's dark story. It was the first solo credit for each department head: cinematography, production design, wardrobe, editorial, associate producer, composer. These were members of what I called the postrules generation. They didn't want to break rules. They didn't even know there were rules. I instructed them: "We don't have the money to make this film in a studio fashion. That's the bad news. The good news is we can make any damn film we want. Surprise me. The only thing forbidden is to be boring." [2016]
  • If you could photograph the unwanted urine which dribbles from an old man's penis you would have a film titled Song to Song (2017). [May 2017]
  • It doesn't really matter what I do, the first line of my obituary will be 'the writer of Taxi Driver (1976)'. [Nov.2016]
  • The good thing about working with Nic [Nicolas Cage] is that he gets your film financed. The bad thing is that he eats your budget alive. [Nov.2016]
  • One of the problems we have now because of social media and the internet is that everybody is a critic, everybody is a film reviewer. And the other half of it is that none of them can make any money. [Nov.2016]
  • I've been fortunate over my career to be involved in some important and prestigious films. Dog Eat Dog (2016) is not one of them. [Nov.2016]
  • [on The Canyons (2013) and crowdfunding] The film made money and we made money, but I'd never do it again. It's much more work than normal financing. [Nov.2016]
  • [meeting film critic Pauline Kael during summer school at Columbia University in 1966] The first time I met her, referring to some movie, a comedy, she said: 'The laughs are as sparse as pubic hair on an old lady's c*nt.' I was shocked. I didn't know women talked like that. [Nov.2017]
  • [on shooting Cat People (1982)] One day, I had been doing some coke in my trailer, I didn't want to come out. My AD [assistant director] came in to get me. He started doing drugs. The second AD came in to try and get us both out. Then the three of us were there doing coke... Somebody said, 'How are we gonna get anybody to direct this movie?' [Schrader to Peter Biskind in "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls", 1998]
  • The critic at heart is like a medical examiner. He or she simply wants to get that cadaver on the table and figure out how it lived. A filmmaker is like a pregnant woman. All the filmmaker wants is to give birth to a living thing. So if you allow the medical examiner into the birthing room he will kill that baby. [Nov.2017]
  • I always felt there was something between me and that world. It was like looking through a pane of glass and I couldn't quite touch it, even though I was in it. And that dislocation first showed up in Taxi Driver (1976), where there literally was a pane of glass between the character and the world. I've always circled around that same feeling. [Nov.2017]
  • [recalling Los Angeles in the late 60s] There was a big change in Hollywood because of two films. One was Paint Your Wagon (1969) and the other was Hello, Dolly! (1969). They were both mega-budget films in the old way and they tanked and sent their companies to the edge of bankruptcy. There was a real panic about what the young people wanted. And there was a period when the financiers were actually asking the artists what the young people wanted to see. [Nov.2017]
  • [on First Reformed (2017)] It's a kind of reworking of [Ingmar Bergman's] Nattvardsgästerna (1963), a little bit of [Robert Bresson's] Journal d'un curé de campagne (1951). And a little bit of Tarkovsky [Andrei Tarkovsky]. [Nov.2017]
  • [on his decision to leave Los Angeles in the 80s] There was an incident and my psychiatrist came over in the middle of the night. There was a gun involved. The next day I called up my office and said, 'I'm going to New York. Sell it all. Sell the house, sell the furniture, sell it all.' Because I knew that I wasn't going to last much longer in the way that I was living. (...) So I got to New York and lo and behold I made new drug friends. I thought all my drug friends were in Los Angeles. But they had drug friends there, too! And so that's when I went to Japan. Japan at that time was a drug-free country. But it took a while. Took about eight or nine years [to get off drugs]. [Nov.2017]
  • I've started going back to church. I find it's a comfort. I'm not a big believer but I like the... idea of a Sunday morning ritual. [Nov.2017]
  • [on his early days in Los Angeles] I look back on the late 60s and I missed a lot of sex and a lot of drugs and a lot of good times because all I cared about was going to the movies and catching up. [Nov.2016]
  • Of course, I knew Harvey Weinstein was a sexual gangster. So did most people who crossed his path. It was an odor that preceded him. (...) That's not what offended me most about the man. It was the fact that he purchased films by both Bernardo Bertolucci [his feature Little Buddha (1993)] and Kar-Wai Wong [his feature My Blueberry Nights (2007)] and then re-cut them. The Weinstein Company offered to purchase Bret Easton Ellis and my The Canyons (2013) on the proviso that Harvey could recut it. Why would Bret and I - I screamed into the phone - undergo the sacrifice of self-financing a movie only to let an asshole like Harvey recut it? (...) Harvey had a reputation. It wasn't just in this area [of sexual predatory behavior], but in all areas - assaulting journalists, degrading filmmakers. The sexual stuff is part of a whole sociopathic pattern. I'm glad I never did business with him. [Hollywood Reporter, Oct. 2017]
  • Because we've democratized filmmaking, the good news is almost anybody can make a film; the bad news is nobody can make any money. Movies were born of capitalism: You pay for it, we'll make it for you. There was no tradition of the courts and the church and all that. Therefore, it had a special relationship to capitalism that really protected it. Now that's broken, and so it's like every other art form: It's like poetry, or novels, or painting. [2018]
  • [on shooting First Reformed (2017) with digital cameras] A few years ago you saw the economics change and the cost of filmmaking dropping enormously. (...) You get more raw footage in 20 days than you used to get in 50. You never stop shooting. [2018]
  • Everything inside cinema rebels against spirituality. Cinema is based on action and based on empathy. These are not elements in the transcendental toolkit. In many ways, people who try to do spiritual or contemplative films are working against the grain of the medium itself.
  • [on Taxi Driver (1976)] It was written as self-therapy. I was in a particularly dark phase of my life and I was sort of this character - living in my car, drinking. I got a bleeding ulcer and I went to the hospital. I realized I hadn't spoken to anyone in weeks. When I was in the hospital this metaphor occurred to me of this boy caught in this yellow metal coffin, floating through the city, trapped, surrounded by people but alone. I said: 'I've got to write down this kid because I'm becoming this kid'.
  • The additive process is much more creative than the subtractive one. If you can have a first draft that works at 70 pages, you know you're going to have a draft that works at 90 pages, and it's just going to get better. And the same thing with the editing process. At some point you say to the editor, "Let's make a cut of the film with just the stuff that's good."
  • [on his budgets] [links=tt6053438] was 20 days, $3.5M. If it didn't make money it wasn't going to lose much. The Card Counter (2021) was also 20 days, probably another half million. When I began, my movies were usually about 45 days. It's not because you're working faster, it's because everything is faster. You don't shoot anything that's not in the film, there's nothing on the cutting room floor. You have to be really brutal with yourself. You don't cover things as much, not like I used to. [2021]
  • [on writing Taxi Driver (1976)] I'd hit a dark spot in my life and I had to write about this kid, this Travis Bickle kid. If I didn't write about him, I would become him. He is from Dostoevsky, Sarte, Musil. Self-absorbed and not very reliable, a guy in a box, sealed up, cruising through the sewers. Since then, I've looked at different professions, thinking about what's underneath. Same thing with poker players. These are films about solitary men, sitting in a room and waiting. Wearing a mask, which is their occupation. [2021]
  • [on his budgets] First Reformed (2017) was 20 days, $3.5M. If it didn't make money it wasn't going to lose much. The Card Counter (2021) was also 20 days, probably another half million. When I began, my movies were usually about 45 days. It's not because you're working faster, it's because everything is faster. You don't shoot anything that's not in the film, there's nothing on the cutting room floor. You have to be really brutal with yourself. You don't cover things as much, not like I used to. [2021]
  • I was raised Dutch Calvinist, which means you are born into a sea of guilt and then you get guiltier.