There is no denying Cybill Shepherd’s attractiveness. She is an absolutely beautiful blonde with a smoldering intelligence that makes her gaze unavoidable, especially to men.
When she came onto the Hollywood scene in the early 1970’s that was basically all it took to at least get a shot in Hollywood. And Cybill took it.
Different generations will remember Cybill for different indelible roles she embodied.
Her first big blush with fame was as Jacy Farrow in Peter Bogdanovich’s LAST PICTURE SHOW (1971).
Jacy is a femme fatale of the highest order and Cybill portrayed her like an irresistible wrecking ball, both onscreen and on the set.
The comely actress not only had affairs with the director as well as her young co-star, Jeff Bridges – but almost everyone else associated with this classic movie.
She was accused of wrecking the director’s marriage. Her and Peter would go on to make two more movies together – both critical box office failures.
And it isn’t hard to believe why every man that came in her path would end up seduced by her.
Next up for Cybill was THE HEARTBREAK KID (1972) with Charles Grodin and directed by Elaine May.
The film was another critical hit and Cybill was on her way to becoming Hollywood’s next big “it” girl.
Of course, I’m part of the generation that remembers Cybill most for her role as Betsy opposite Robert DeNiro in Martin Scorsese’s TAXI DRIVER (1976).
I was too young to see the movie in theaters but over a decade later after it’s release I caught it on cable (as did an entire generation) and Cybill certainly made an impression as Travis Bickle’s obsession.
Cybill is amazing in this role and a critical part of the storyline. Travis’s obsession with her is what drives him to do more and more desperate acts to gain her favor.
Instead, it turns him into more of a psychopath – and this is what sets up one of the most amazing endings in modern film history.
Legend has it that Scorsese asked his casting agent for a “Cybill Shepherd” type. The young director had no idea that he would be able to get the real thing.
I’m a believer that if this role wasn’t as compelling as Cybill was able to make it, then the cognitive leap for DeNiro’s character to go full-on psycho at the end would not have been as believable.
But it was believable and TAXI DRIVER became a highly influential film for many screenwriters and filmmakers. Now, you would think that Cybill would have Hollywood by the tail after this movie and her previous hits but you would be wrong.
While a critical hit, Taxi Driver made relatively little money on its initial theatrical release. And two short years later in 1978, Cybill would leave Hollywood, returning to her hometown of Memphis, TN to do regional theater.
Cybill would return to Hollywood in 1983 just in time to land MOONLIGHTING after a couple successful turns in smaller films. This was back in the days when a film star who turned to TV was still a risky endeavor.
But the producers wanted Cybill so much that they allowed her final say on her male co-star. She ultimately decided on Bruce Willis because of their on-screen chemistry.
The chemistry was so good, in fact, that Cybill and Bruce almost ended up in bed together off the set. But instead, they refrained from their baser instincts in favor of keeping it smoldering on the small screen and the show was a huge, Emmy-winning hit for several years.
Cybill went on to have her own TV show as well as write a best-selling autobiography in which she spilled the beans on all the famous men she slept with on the way up, down, and back up the Hollywood ladder.
It’s refreshing to know such a successful actress can tell it like it is when such candid confessions could end a career. But then, Cybill was never one to go along with the pack.
I’ll always love Cybill Shepherd for her beauty and intelligence and the way she was able to live her life on her own terms in an industry that usually only affords such privilege on men.
Cybill beat the boys at their own game, however, and took her lumps to boot. It’s a great career and one that any actress working today should aspire to. With or without the Taxi Driver credentials, Cybill will always be one of my absolute biggest Hollywood crushes.