Martin Scorsese reveals Robert De Niro improvised iconic line ‘You talkin’ to me?’

January 27, 2024
Auteur Martin Scorsese has confirmed that one of Robert De Niro’s most memorable ‘Taxi Driver’ lines was improvised.

Auteur Martin Scorsese has confirmed that one of Robert De Niro’s most memorable ‘Taxi Driver’ lines was improvised. The scene in question features De Niro, as New York City night shift taxi driver Travis Bickle, imagining a confrontation that would invite him to threaten someone with a gun, reports People magazine.

“You talkin’ to me?” he repeats, gazing at himself in the mirror. “You talkin’ to me? Well I’m the only one here.”

“He was improvising it,” Scorsese, 81, told Stephen Colbert on ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’. “We were behind schedule. We were in such trouble.”

As per People, the Oscar winner’s fellow producers were “mad”, urging the director to cut and move on from the scene, he recalled.

Instead, he encouraged De Niro’s ad-libbing. “They were banging on the door and I had to go to the door, open the door and say, ‘This is good. This is good. Give me five — two more minutes. One more take, one more take’.”

He added: “I was at (De Niro’s) feet, because there were no video assistants at the time. And I was saying, ‘Do it again, do it again!’ And he was doing the thing with the moves and the gun.”

‘Taxi Driver’, written by Paul Schrader, became one of the biggest critical and commercial hits of 1976. At the subsequent Academy Awards, it was nominated in four categories: Best Picture, Best Original Score, Best Actor (De Niro) and Best Supporting Actress (Jodie Foster).

“So if you had stayed on schedule, there would be no, ‘You talkin’ to me’?” asked Colbert of one of cinema’s most iconic lines. “That’s right,” said Scorsese. “That wasn’t in the script, it came from him.”

The scene was also shot in a building near Columbus Avenue and 88th street that is now gone, said the ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Oscar contender.

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