“It touched a nerve”: Robert De Niro’s Improvised Line From Oscar-Nominated Film Became One of the Most Recognized Quotable Lines Ever

“It touched a nerve”: Robert De Niro’s Improvised Line From Oscar-Nominated Film Became One of the Most Recognized Quotable Lines Ever
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Robert De Niro’s Taxi Driver is helmed as an iconic piece of art. The Martin Scorsese movie has delivered some of the most memorable scenes and quotes to cinema lovers. The Travis Bickle actor has also made a major contribution to the legendary dialogues in the movies. Often we have seen many great actors improvising their dialogues or scenes in movies. De Niro also did something that etched a scene from the 1976 movie into everyone’s mind.

Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver
Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver chronicles the life of a war veteran Travis Bickle, whose life degrades as he explores the city more as a taxi driver. The movie featured one of the most legendary lines in the history of cinema- “You talkin’ to me?”. Both Travis Bickle and his iconic line went on to be major pop culture phenomenons later.

Also Read: Martin Scorsese Was Traumatized on New Year’s Eve After Being Publicly Humiliated For His Robert De Niro Film, Claimed All of Hollywood Turned Against His Movie


Robert De Niro’s iconic line in Taxi Driver was not pre-planned

Taxi Driver
The iconic scene of Taxi Driver in the discussion

One of the most significant portions of the movie is when Travis Bickle looks at a mirror and flaunts a gun while imagining a confrontation. Here, we also witness the iconic dialogue “You talkin’ to me?” for the first time. It is reported that the dialogue didn’t exist initially. It was an addition from Robert De Niro.

According to Today magazine, the director Martin Scorsese admitted that it was the last day of the shooting and there were no dialogues in the scene. However, De Niro wanted to incorporate something and repeated the dialogue that went on to be a major cinema event. Even though the assistant director repeatedly urged them to leave it, the actor-director duo paid no heed to it.

“There was no dialogue, I believe, in the scene, and I remember saying, ‘Can you say something to yourself? In the mirror?’ It was the last week of shooting … it was very difficult, and we said, ‘OK, we’re just going to shoot this scene.’ He kept saying, ‘You talkin’ to me?’. He just kept repeating it, kept repeating it … and the [assistant director] was banging on the door saying, ‘Come on, we got to get out of here.'”

But nobody imagined it to be such a major improvisation in the movie which changed Taxi Driver forever. According to IMDb, Robert De Niro claimed that “For some reason it touched a nerve.” Although the line went on to be remembered for ages, it is still mysterious how the Joker actor came up with that in the first place.


Also Read: “I don’t wanna do that”: Martin Scorsese’s Only Oscar Winning Movie Was Turned Down By Robert De Niro Despite Director’s Request

What is the inspiration behind the iconic line?

Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese
Longtime collaborators Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese

If Martin Scorsese is to be believed, then he was inspired to add such a scene in the movie after watching Marlon Brando in Reflections in a Golden Eye. The Oscar-nominated movie had a similar scene with Brando looking into a mirror. Nobody imagined that another Vito Corleone actor would also try out the same scene in another movie.

But for the important dialogue, it is said that Robert De Niro used the line after hearing it in a concert by Bruce Springsteen. It was corroborated by saxophonist Clarence Clemons in his memoir Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales. Nonetheless, it didn’t match with the statement of screenwriter Paul Schrader who claimed it to be inspired by an underground New York comedian.


Also Read: “But I can do other things”: Even Winning Multiple Oscars Can’t Convince Robert De Niro He Can be as Good as Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy in One Area

Without any concrete proof, we can’t precisely assume the inspiration behind the dialogue but the line turned out to be one of the most memorable events in the entire movie. Even screenwriter Schrader claimed that his favorite portion of the movie is the dialogue that wasn’t written by him.

Taxi Driver can be rented on Apple TV+.


Source: Today / IMDb

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Written by Subham Mandal

Articles Published: 1214

Subham Mandal is currently working as a content writer for FandomWire with an ardent interest in the world of pop culture. He has written more than 1000 articles on different spheres of modern pop culture and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. He’s also an experienced student journalist having demonstrated work experience with the Times of India. He aspires to be a column writer in the future.