Remember Taxi? Take a Ride Behind the Scenes

Many fans remember this old classic, which took the world by the storm and quickly became one of the most-watched shows during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Taxi was an American sitcom that originally aired on ABC until 1982, with the final season being aired on NBC.

Judd Hirsch, Tony Danza and Marilu Henner / The cast of Taxi / The cast of Taxi / Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd
Source: Getty Images

It helped launch and reinforce numerous careers, and the cast received many awards and nominations, including 18 Emmys. Some of them had more success afterward than others, and here is what they are doing now.

Judd Hirsch as Alex Reiger

As the most experienced actor on the set, Judd Hirsch held the entire cast of Taxi together in a unique way. Apart from playing the only taxi driver who wanted his job, Hirsch was also starring in other sitcoms and movies and was a successful theater actor.

Judd Hirsch, as Alex Reiger, sits lost in thought, holding a pencil.
Source: Pinterest

His performance of Alex Reiger gained him two Emmy awards, which only added to his already growing collections of prizes. Around the same time, he also got a prestigious Academy award nomination for Ordinary People, which he was filming alongside Taxi.

His Success Continued With Other Shows

Sixteen years later, and his career is still up and running. After he finished filming Taxi, Hirsch starred in another hit series called Dear John. He appeared in the blockbuster Independence Day and in the movie’s sequel Independence Day: Resurgence, which aired in recent years.

Margret Colin, Jeff Goldblum, and Judd Hirsch in a scene from Independence Day.
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Shortly after this, he finished shooting yet another successful sitcom: Superior Donuts. Recently Hirsch also starred in the highly acclaimed The Meyerowitz Stories. Apart from his career, he lately spends most of his time in the company of his children.

Jeff Conaway as Bobby Wheeler

Jeff Conaway played Bobby, the flamboyant and always optimistic actor who struggled to make a living and used taxiing as a supplemental income. For his perfect portrayal of the naive heartthrob, Conaway gained much acknowledgment.

A portrait of Jeff Conaway as Bobby Wheeler in Taxi.
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Despite this, the producers had to fire him from the show due to his drug use. He also played a prominent supporting role in Grease’s motion picture musical, and he began to struggle with his fame and success. This led to serious substance abuse issues, which interfered with his acting career.

A Sad End to a Great Career

Following his run on Taxi, Conaway had several cameos and guest roles on shows like Barnaby and Jones, George & Leo, and Murder, She Wrote. He even went on to guest star in movies like Do You Wanna Know A Secret? Jawbreaker, Mistress of the Dark, and Elvira.

Jeff Conaway in a still from Grease.
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Although he overcame his substance abuse issues decades earlier, by the mid-2000s, he relapsed. His extended drug use left him with a wide array of health problems, which took his life in 2011.

Danny De Vito as Louie De Palma

Danny DeVito enjoyed playing Louie De Palma, the main antagonist on the show. Fortunately, the role of the unsympathetic dispatcher brought the actor the break he was looking for. While being a relatively unknown actor at a time, after he finished filming Taxi, his career took off with an incredible speed.

A promotional shot of Danny DeVito.
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Not only did he earn a Golden Globe and an Emmy for his acting on the show, but he was also swamped with offers to audition for lots of promising roles. Many of these turned out to be quite successful and lucrative.

The First of Many Great Roles

DeVito managed to build a very successful acting portfolio. During his long years in show business, he showed his diverse acting skills in many different roles. Matilda, Ruthless People, L.A. Confidential, Batman Returns, and Get Shorty are just some of the works that earned him stardom.

Danny DeVito, Mara Wilson, Brian Levinson, and Rhea Perlman in a scene from
Source: Getty Images

He also received many prestigious awards, some of them in recent years. Danny is married to Rhea Perlman, with whom he has three children. While he mostly keeps his family life private, he does speak highly about the value of having a family to share his success with.

Marilu Henner as Elaine Nardo

Marilu Henner played Elaine, the divorced mother who struggled to make ends meet for her two children. Although she didn’t end up receiving the same level of fame as some of the other cast members, her portrayal of the garage sweetheart was the perfect beginning of her career.

A portrait of Marilu Henner as Elaine Nardo.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

Despite her love of acting, Henner did branch out to several creative fields after the show ended. Confronted with the unhealthy lifestyle many actors struggled with on the set of Taxi, she got interested in learning how to make healthier life choices and how to help others do the same.

Henner Still Working Hard

Marilu moved on to play many different roles in shows such as Evening Shade, Batman: The Animated Series, and lately in the highly acclaimed Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Nowadays, she is mostly known for her roles in Hallmark TV movies, in which she plays lovable characters.

Jo Lo Truglio and Marilu Henner in a still from Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Photo by FOX Image Collection/Getty Images

She also had an appearance on the sitcom Bob Hearts Abishola in 2020. Marilu Henner is married to Michael Brown, and the pair has two children together, with whom they love spending time.

Tony Danza as Tony Banta

Tony Danza was a professional boxer before being cast as Tony Banta, the aspiring boxer. Because he was a newcomer, the world of show business brought many challenges. The plotline of getting knocked out too often and losing his boxing license away as Banta was only one of the things that didn’t sit well with him.

Tony Danza as Tony Banta.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

Despite this, he became a household name in stride and moved on to star in other great sitcoms. Right after the filming of Taxi ended, he began to work on the hit series Who’s The Boss? – which ran for eight successful seasons.

He Wrote a Cookbook With His Son

Apart from receiving a Golden Globe nomination for his role on Taxi, Danza earned many more acknowledgments and awards during his career. Baby Talk, Family Law, and The Practice were only some of his best works, and from 2004 to 2006, he even had his program, called The Tony Danza Show.

Tony Danza, son Marc & brother Matt during Los Angeles Mission Thanksgiving Meal for the Homeless.
Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage/Getty Images

In 2021, fans can enjoy his performance in a voice role in the animated movie Rumble. Danza has two daughters and a son, with whom he co-authored a cookbook called Don’t Fill Up on the Antipasto: Tony Danza’s Father-Son Cookbook in 2008.

Randall Carver as John Burns

Maybe because he only played John Burns in the first season of the series, or perhaps he found his job too demanding, Randall Carver didn’t successfully break into the acting world. However, his lovable character in Taxi managed to capture many hearts.

Randall Carver as John Burns.
Source: Pinterest

He is still remembered for this iconic role of a man who was trusting enough to marry a woman after the first date. He also had a minor role in the 1980 film Detour to Terror, right after his character was written out of the show.

Unfortunately, His Career Never Took Off

During his later career, Carver only had a couple of other acting roles. Most of these were smaller, antagonistic ones, like the one of Mr. Bankside in There Will be Blood. Before that, he also appeared in the sitcoms The Norm Show and Malcolm in the Middle in the mid-2000s.

Randall Carver arrives at the 5th Annual TV Land Awards.
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Carver is married to fellow actress and writer Shelley Herman, who received many awards and nominations, including her latest one for an Emmy. Despite not securing any major role or acknowledgment for himself, Carver happily supports his wife’s career.

Andy Kaufman as Latka Gravas

Andy Kaufman was an outstanding comedian who managed to portray several different characters on the show. He also had several unusual stipulations in his contract, but to have him on their team, the producers were too happy to adhere to them.

Andy Kaufman as Latka Gravas.
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They certainly didn’t have to regret their decision, at least not when it came to the character of the gibberish-speaking mechanic, Latka. They did have to fire the more extravagant and outlandish Tony Clifton, although he contributed to the show’s success.

A Life Sadly Cut Short

Sadly, Andy Kaufman passed away from lung cancer in 1984, only a year after Taxi ended. He was only 35 at the time of his death. However, by this time, he had already created a memorable legacy. His illustrious career as a performance artist and a comedy actor served as an inspiration for younger generations of comedians.

Andy Kaufman performs onstage.
Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images

For example, as an aspiring comedian, Jim Carrey was fascinated by Kaufman’s unique entertainment style. He even went on to play his idol in Man on the Moon, which was dedicated to honoring Kaufman’s warped sense of humor.

Christopher Lloyd as Reverend Jim Ignatowski

Even though it played a crucial part in launching Christopher Lloyd’s career, many wouldn’t even remember his portrayal of Reverend Jim Ignatowski. Despite the character’s washed-up nature, Lloyd was incredibly motivated to play it truthfully as possible, which eventually paid off.

Christopher Lloyd as Jim Ignatowski in a still from Taxi.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

He won an Emmy award for his performance and soon became a household name. After the show ended, he went on to star in some highly acclaimed productions. His most notable roles from this period are Dr. Emmett Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy and Uncle Fester in The Addams Family.

Still Acting Into His 80s

Later on, the prominent roles just kept coming, and Lloyd showcased his talent in many different genres. From Twenty Bucks and Cyberchase to I Am Not a Serial Killer, he was able to play every role with the same dedication.

Christopher Lloyd attends the
Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Despite his advanced age, Christopher Lloyd still has a pretty active acting career. In 2020, he appeared in NCIS and even has a couple of projects in post-production for this year. He lives in California and is an active contributor to The Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Carol Kane as Simka Dahblitz-Gravas

Despite being a newcomer to film, the former stage actress captivated viewers as soon as she joined the cast in the penultimate season. Apart from playing Simka, Latka’s wife, she also became known for her unique voice and hairstyle.

Carole Kane and Andy Kaufman in a scene from Taxi.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

All these traits and excellent acting skills helped her secure many more roles even during her time on Taxi. While she already had a couple of prominent roles – in the 1980s, her career took off. She starred in The Princess Bride and was a regular on the series All Is Forgiven.

She Started Focusing on Stage Work

Even though she had some minor roles in several movies and television series, from the beginning of the 2000s, Kane was focusing more on her career as a stage actor. Up until 2014, she played a prominent role in the Broadway musical Wicked.

Carol Kane attends a talk show.
Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images

Her most recent role was in The Children’s Hour, where she played alongside Ellen Burstyn, Keira Knightley, and Elisabeth Moss. Apart from being a busy character actress, Kane spends her time with her mother and dogs. She speaks French fluently and even learned some Yiddish in the past.

Behind the Scenes and Fun Facts About the Show

Taxi has an interesting background, from the unique way the series started to the unusual circumstances that led to particular roles. Even some of the show’s storyline has resulted from not-so-ideal circumstances the crew were forced to face.

Tony Danza, Judd Hirsch, and Jeff Conaway in a scene from Taxi.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

Contracts ended during its run, yet the show had to go on. And due to some of the cleverest writing techniques that creators employed, it was quite successful. Here are some of the most interesting behind-the-scenes facts about Taxi that very few people are aware of.

A Magazine Article inspired taxi

After reading an article in New York Magazine in 1975 about a Greenwich Village taxi garage, James L. Brooks got the idea to create a show set in a New York cab company. Brooks did this after forming a new production corporation, the John Charles Walters Company, alongside David Davis, Ed. Weinberger, and Stan Daniels.

The Cast of Taxi pose together.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

They were looking for a new ensemble – and since Brooks got inspired by the unique way taxi drivers were presented to the public, they decided to replicate the idea.

Tony Danza Was Discovered During a Boxing Match

He didn’t only play an Italian middleweight boxer in the series – Tony Danza was a boxer before he began acting. Producers Larry Gordon and Joel Silver were watching one of his matches ringside when they discovered him.

Tony Danza and Danny DeVito sit on the hood of a cab in a still from Taxi.
Source: Pinterest

After he knocked out his opponent and won his match, the producers offered Danza the possibility to audition for the role of a boxer in the show. The producers liked Danza`s energy so much that they even changed the name of his character and background to accommodate for his Italian ancestry.

Judd Hirsch Was Hesitant to Accept His Role

Judd Hirsch was primarily a theater actor, and he enjoyed his work on stage as this usually meant commitment for a short period. When he was offered the role of Alex Reiger, he didn’t want to accept it because he saw that it had the potential to run for a couple of seasons.

Danny DeVito, Marilu Henner, Tony Danza, and Judd Hirsch in Taxi.
Source: Pinterest

However, despite making an offer that, according to him, didn’t benefit producers, they accepted it. They also gave him the title of the principal character, which was surprising to the newcomer in the world of sitcoms.

Danny DeVito Had an Interesting Audition

Danny DeVito liked the script of Taxi a lot, not to mention the role he was going to audition for. To secure his part, he decided to get into the skin of his character a little bit during the conference with creators.

Andy Kaufman, Latka Gravis, and Danny DeVito, Louie DePalma, in Taxi.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

Rumor has it, DeVito used foul language when talking with the producers even before reading his script. Fortunately, Brooks, Weinberger, Daniels, and Davis all found his outrageous opening hilarious and happily offered him the role of Louie.

The Original Character Ensemble Was Even More Diverse

The character of the aspiring actor Bobby Wheeler was first written for a Black character. The productions team interviewed a Black actor for the role, alongside Jeff Conaway. And despite Conaway considering himself better suited for it, the part almost didn’t go to him.

Tony Danza, Randall Carver, Andy Kaufman, Judd Hirsch, Danny DeVito, Jeff Conaway, and Marilu Henner pose.
Image Photo by Harry Langdon/Getty Images

It wasn’t enough to get him the role despite having already played a minor part of another sitcom directed by the same crew. However, when he did a reading with Judd Hirsch, he convinced the producers that he could make the character come to life.

Andy Kaufman Only Worked Two Days a Week

Before starring on the show, Andy Kaufman was a comedian, famous for his “Foreign Man” character. Since producers wanted this character on the show, they decided to offer some stipulations for Kaufman to get him to accept the contract.

Andy Kaufman in a scene from Taxi.
Source: Twitter

The actor portraying Latka Gravas only worked on the two days of the week his scenes were shot, while a stand-in replaced him at the rehearsals. Interestingly, even with this schedule, Kaufman was still regularly arriving late to the shooting.

Tony Clifton Made an Appearance on the Show

Andy Kaufman’s alter ego, Tony Clifton, was also cast into the storyline – albeit only for a couple of episodes. And the reason for this primarily was that Clifton demanded separate schedules and amenities from Kaufman.

Tony Clifton is being escorted by security off the set.
Source: Pinterest

Plus, he often behaved scandalously on set – and got into verbal and even physical fights with other cast members, including Judd Hirsch. One of these fights ended with Clifton being escorted from the premises and his contract being terminated for good.

Reverend Jim’s Character Was Meant for Tony Banta

Tony Banta was supposed to have quite a different personality. However, producers changed Banta’s character from a dim-witted Irish boxer to a chatty Italian guy. Consequently, his character became too similar to Randall Carver’s character John Burns.

Tony Danza in a scene from Taxi.
Source: Reddit

Rather than reverting Tony to a loopy person, Burns was written out of the series when the first season ended. The second season saw the entrance of Christopher Lloyd – who played Reverend Jim Ignatowski – the eccentric character that was first meant to be Tony Banta.

Christopher Lloyd Provided His Wardrobe

As Reverend Jim, Christopher Lloyd wore old, unwashed jeans and his own and beat-up shoes belonging to his ex-father-in-law. The jacket Lloyd wore from one of his neighbors, who found it discarded in his shrubbery while gardening.

Christopher Lloyd is dancing with Danny DeVito in a still from Taxi.
Source: Paramount Pictures

And since Lloyd arrived at his first audition dressed as his character, he was almost mistaken for a homeless person looking for shelter. He had to convince the attendant that his name was on the list of people expected to audition that day.

The Theme Song Went Through Some Last-Minute Changes

It’s a well-known fact that jazz musician Bob James provided the theme song for the show. However, the producer’s first choice for this tune was “Touchdown,” a song sung by James. After hearing another one of his songs called “Angela,” they decided to go with that one instead.

The cast of Taxi.
Source: Paramount Pictures

This second choice sounded a bit more melancholic, and the production team thought it was more fitting for the lonely lifestyle most taxi drivers were forced to endure during their work at the company.

The Show Brought Success for All Its Cast Members

While the cast and creators of Taxi racked up an impressive number of awards and nominations during the show’s run, some of the crew found success even after its end. Not only that, but several actors from the show already found an even greater outside success during the show’s run.

James L. Brooks, Judd Hirsch, Tony Danza, and Danny DeVito speak on stage.
Photo by Chris Polk/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Some of these include Danny DeVito, who won an Oscar in 1983 for Terms of Endearment. Judd Hirsch had a similar success claiming his own Oscar in 1980 for his role in Ordinary People.

Some Members of the Cast Reunited in Other Projects

While almost everyone from the main cast of Taxi went on to have illustrious entertainment careers, many of them took different paths in the world of show business. However, from time to time, some former Taxi cast members found themselves working together again.

Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd attend a screening.
Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images

The most recent collaboration is between Christopher Lloyd and Danny DeVito. The former guest-starred as Santa on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the TV show DeVito was already starring in.

Writing Off Bobby Wheeler Happened Unexpectedly

Unfortunately, Jeff Conaway was a known drug addict who was often too high to rehearse, let alone film his scenes. Due to this, he was fired in 1981, and his lines were written into the lines of other characters.

Christopher Lloyd and Jeff Conaway in a scene from Taxi.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd did such a good job at delivering these lines that there was practically no reduction in audience laughter. This made the producers realize that Bobby Wheeler was expendable. Therefore, there was no need for him to come back later in the series.

The Opening Credit Features Tony Danza

Fans of the show probably remember that a Checker cab travels across New York’s Queensboro Bridge in the opening credits. The opening segment loops several times while the credits appear onscreen, and the one driving this car is none other than Tony Danza.

The taxicab from the opening credits driving over a bridge.
Source: YouTube

The opening credit gives the appearance of a taxi getting nowhere while traveling on an endless bridge. The lives of Tony Banta and most of the other characters in the show follow a similar pattern as they seem to be stuck in the one place they don’t want to be in.

Taxi Was Canceled More Than Once

Taxis’s original owner, ABC, canceled the show after its fourth season. While the cut was abrupt, most of the cast members said their goodbyes to it and were on their way to beginning new projects when they were called back to the set.

The cast of Taxi.
Source: Paramount Pictures

Producing one more season meant that the show would run for more than 100 episodes. This also brought additional benefits for the show’s new owner – which turned out to be NBC, who ran it for the fifth and final season before canceling it again.

The Lead Role Almost Went to Someone Else

As Judd Hirsch was indecisive about joining the cast, producers also auditioned other actors for the role of Alex Reiger. Besides Hirsch, one of the main contenders was Mandy Patinkin, who was an already well-known name in the filming industry.

Mandy Patinkin and Judd Hirsch in a scene from Taxi.
Source: Pinterest

Some of the other cast members even had a reading with Patinkin while auditioning. Patinkin was only a few steps away from signing the contract when Hirsch sent his offer, which was eventually accepted. Even though he didn’t get the lead role, Patinkin would later appear as a guest in one of the episodes.

Danny DeVito Fell Victim to Tabloid Rumors

In the first season, Danny DeVito’s character Louie had a scene when he played the violin, and an out-of-context photograph of this scene was published in one of the tabloids. The photo was accompanied by the rumor that DeVito was leaving the show to pursue a career as a violinist.

Danny DeVito and Judd Hirsch in a scene from Taxi.
Source: Pinterest

Although it wasn’t true, the news caused such turmoil that even DeVito’s relatives were confused by it. The actor was surprised when his family called him to ask whether the story was true or not.

Carol Kane and Andy Kaufman Had Difficulties Rehearsing

Due to his background in the comedy industry, Andy Kaufman had a different approach than most of the cast on set. And if someone found it challenging to work with him, it was Carol Kane.

Carol Kane and Andy Kaufman in Taxi.
Source: Twitter

The actress playing Kaufman’s wife on the show previously worked in the theater – where she learned to appreciate the value of rehearsal. Kaufman, however, hated doing rehearsals and preferred to improvise, which made it hard for the two of them to work together.

Several Cast Members Caused Difficulties on Set

Carol Kane wasn’t the only one who had trouble adjusting to working with Andy Kaufman. Due to his laid-back attitude and unusual approach, the actor portraying Latka often caused tension. The same was true for Jeff Conway, who also caused conflict with other cast members with his unprofessional behavior.

The cast of Taxi on set.
Source: Tumblr

Besides his role on the show, Judd Hirsch also had other venues to look after, and because of that, he often created disarray himself. Even when he arrived on time, he often had a last-minute business call to attend to, which delayed the filming.

Jim Carrey Helped Reunite Taxi’s Cast Members

Although some cast members have had a chance to meet up over the years while working on other projects, others haven’t seen each other a long time after 1983. When Jim Carrey played Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon, a feature about Kaufman’s life in 1999, former cast members of Taxi were invited to appear on it.

James L. Brooks, Danny DeVito, Judd Hirsch, Carol Kane, Tony Danza, Marilu Henner, James Burrows, Christopher Lloyd, and Rhea Perlman pose together.
Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage/Getty Images

Despite not having the best opinion of Kaufman when they had to work with him, Carol Kane, Jeff Conaway, and Christopher Lloyd all happily accepted the invitation. They made a cameo in the film as themselves alongside Carrey’s Kaufman.

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