Essays · Movies

How a Minor Character from ‘Taxi Driver’ Influenced One of the Most Iconic Scenes in ‘Pulp Fiction’

By  · Published on March 3rd, 2017

A story you simply have to hear.

This is legitimately one of the cooler film stories I’ve heard in a while, and I think you’re going to agree.

There’s no real denying that for all the other great talent in the film – Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel, Cybil Shepherd – Robert DeNiro owns Taxi Driver. He’s the dominant presence in every single scene, except for maybe one. Remember when he’s buying the gun from Easy Andy in the hotel room? Andy’s frenetic egregiousness and slick sales skills dwarf DeNiro by comparison, and though this is the only scene in which the character appears, the mark he leaves on the film and the audience is indelible.

That’s because the actor playing Andy, Steven Prince, wasn’t acting, not really, he actually was that kind of guy, a junkie hustler, a part-time roadie, and a friend of Martin Scorsese’s. In fact, Scorsese was so rapt with the real character of Prince that he made a short documentary in 1978 entitled American Boy about the man and his, shall we say, colorful experiences.

The doc was never officially released but there were some screenings here and there and from those a handful of bootleg VHS copies were made and circulated, but hardly anyone saw them. However, of those that did, one in particular stands out: Quentin Tarantino.

This is where things get really interesting.

In 1985, Tarantino, then a 22-year-old burgeoning filmmaker, took a job at a video store in Manhattan Beach, California. Whether this store had a copy of American Boy or it fell into QT’s hands another way while he was working there isn’t really known, but what’s for sure is that he saw it and one of Prince’s stories in particular stuck with him. Know what that story was about?

Prince all messed up on junk at a dealer’s place when the lady he’s with suddenly overdoses and requires a big-ass adrenaline shot straight to the heart. Yep.

In the following video from Metaflix, you get to hear the story straight from Prince in American Boy as on the other half of the screen the scene from Pulp Fiction plays. And I’m telling you, the two are so in sync it’s like he’s narrating it.

For good measure I’ve also included Scorsese’s original doc – thanks, YouTube! – and the 2009 follow-up American Prince directed by Tommy Pallotta in which a somewhat-reformed Prince recounts his life in the 70s and specifically discusses the Pulp Fiction scene. And what the hell, the Easy Andy scene from Taxi Driver is down there, too, plus a clip of Prince in Richard Linklater’s Waking Life, which also has to do with guns. Go nuts.

Thanks to No Film School for turning me on to this.

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