Light Sleeper  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Light Sleeper is a 1992 film written and directed by Paul Schrader. It stars Willem Dafoe, Susan Sarandon, David Clennon and Dana Delany. Schrader's wife Mary Beth Hurt appears as a fortune teller.

Dafoe plays John LeTour, a 40-year-old drug dealer whose drifting existence is thrown into crisis by his boss Ann (Sarandon)'s decision to retire and his own encounter with his ex-lover (Delany), which leads to his involvement in a murder case concerning a girl who is found dead and in possession of cocaine, indirectly linked to LeTour.

Schrader has described the film as a "man and his room" story like American Gigolo and his most famous screenplay, Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, and in this case his character dealing with anxiety over his progressing life and the external forces that could threaten it. The insomniac LeTour spends his nights writing a journal, but whenever he comes to the end of a volume he simply throws the notebook away.

Light Sleeper also shares with American Gigolo and Schrader's Patty Hearst an ending patterned after that of Robert Bresson's Pickpocket in which the imprisoned hero/heroine is shown beginning to contemplate a new and hopefully wider existence.

Schrader has considered this to be the third installment of his unofficial trilogy (preceded by Taxi Driver and American Gigolo) and is to be continued by The Walker, with the character in his 50s, to which Schrader states that he will "retire him."


  • Schrader considers this to be his best non-Scorsese script.
  • David Spade is featured in this film, one of his earliest roles, and is credited as "Theological Cokehead" (as seen trying to explain the ontological argument over the existence of God to LeTour). Spade also shares the same day of birth as both Paul Schrader and Willem Dafoe.
  • Schrader experienced a unique problem while filming was underway in New York City. The film is set during a sanitation worker strike which called for large amounts of uncollected trash to be prominently featured in exterior scenes. But since the real New York City sanitation department was very much on the job they would inadvertently collect trash that was meant to be a part of the film's production design.
  • The aforementioned ending is stated by Schrader to be perfectly fit in this film and he states that he incorrectly placed it in its predecessor.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Light Sleeper" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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