“That wasn’t in the script”: Robert De Niro’s Most Iconic Taxi Driver Quote Was Improvised After Martin Scorsese Begged Him to Repeat the Scene

The truth behind how Robert De Niro's iconic “You talkin' to me?” line came into existence.

“That wasn’t in the script”: Robert De Niro’s Most Iconic Taxi Driver Quote Was Improvised After Martin Scorsese Begged Him to Repeat the Scene

SUMMARY

  • Martin Scorsese’s 1976 Taxi Driver is undoubtedly a cinema staple starring Robert De Niro, that offered an uncompromising look at how society changes an individual for the worse.
  • In the movie, Robert De Niro’s character Travis Bickle is seen imagining a confrontation in a mirror when he asks, “You talkin’ to me?”, which later became an iconic quote in the film.
  • Appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Martin Scorsese revealed how Robert De Niro improvised the lines after being asked to give his best, repeatedly.
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Acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese’s envious career is often tied to critically appreciated films about the mafia, like Goodfellas and The Irishman. But the filmmaker broke his record with his riveting 1976 neo-noir psychological thriller Taxi Driver. The film later became Robert De Niro’s ticket to fame and further success. 

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robert de niro
Robert De Niro

Undoubtedly, a large part of the film’s success goes to Robert De Niro, who portrayed mentally unstable ex-marine Travis Bickle, who worked as a nighttime taxi driver in New York. But apart from his truly enticing performance, what stood by fans was his iconic “You talkin’ to me?” quote. It might be surprising for many, but according to Scorsese, De Niro improvised that whole thing. 

Also read: Robert De Niro’s Iconic Scene That Included Real Bullets Looks a Lot Scarier After Alec Baldwin’s Fatal Shooting Incident

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Robert De Niro’s Iconic Quote From Taxi Driver 

Martin Scorsese’s 1976 Taxi Driver is undoubtedly a cinema staple that starred Robert De Niro in the lead role and offered an uncompromising look at how society changes an individual for the worse. Narrating the story of De Niro’s character Travis Bickle, who was a former Vietnam veteran turned taxi driver, Scorsese portrayed how Travis tried to take his anger out on society after being mentally affected by the war. 

Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976)
Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976)

Losing his mind in the war, Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle turned into a violent individual with the intention of saving society that he felt had lost its way. And Martin Scorsese quite flawlessly broke unique grounds by capturing the authenticity of Travis’ intentions, with his psychological thriller film. In the movie, De Niro’s character decides to assassinate a politician in an attempt to save the society. 

Also read: “I sent over a…”: Jennifer Lawrence Sent the ‘Ultimate Present’ to Robert De Niro After His 7th Child

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Robert De Niro’s mirror scene that birthed the iconic quote
Robert De Niro’s mirror scene that birthed the iconic quote

Travis Bickle’s preparation scene is thus considered the most iconic moment in the movie. Training his mind and body to become a vigilante, and even practicing his reactions to situations, Robert De Niro birthed the most iconic scene and quote in Taxi Driver. In the movie, De Niro’s Travis Bickle is seen imagining a confrontation in a mirror when he asks, “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin’ to?”. This particular scene and quote later went down in history as the iconic “You talkin’ to me?” line.

Robert De Niro Completely Improvised the Scene  

Following the release of Taxi Driver, Robert De Niro landed the Oscar nod for Best Actor. Further, in 2005, the American Film Institute ranked his “You talkin’ to me?” quote, number ten on their 100 Years…100 Years of Movie Quotes list via The Hollywood Reporter. But while De Niro’s iconic line got appreciated over the years, Martin Scorsese recently revealed a shocking thing about the whole scene. 

Robert De Niro
De Niro’s iconic “You talkin’ to me?” quote went down in the history of cinema

Also read: “Not every film is for every person”: Martin Scorsese Defends His 1 Divisive Feature for Killers of the Flower Moon That Many Viewers Complained About

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Appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Martin Scorsese discussed how he faced intense pressure and rush from the producers when the particular scene was being filmed. Producers wanted to get done with it and rush them out of the room. But watching Robert De Niro perform, Scorsese believed he might be able to give something. That’s when coming under pressure and being repeatedly asked to give another take, De Niro improvised the iconic lines. 

That wasn’t in the script, it came from him. He was improvising it… We were behind schedule. We were in such trouble. [Producers] 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.’

Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese revealed the iconic quote was improvised by Robert De Niro | image: Apple Podcast

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.”

Explaining the whole thing, how he was under pressure from the producers to wrap up, as they were behind schedule, Martin Scorsese revealed how Robert De Niro came up with the lines after being asked to give his best, repeatedly. Scorsese admitted that eventually his hunch was right as he encouraged De Niro’s ad-libbing which birthed the most iconic lines in the history of cinema. 

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Written by Krittika Mukherjee

Articles Published: 1719

Krittika is a News Writer at FandomWire with 2 years of prior experience in lifestyle and web content writing. With her previous works available on HubPages and Medium, she has woven over 1600 stories with us, about fan-favorite actors, movies, and shows. Post-graduate in Journalism and Honors-graduate in English Literature, when this art enthusiast isn't crafting your next favorite article, she finds her escapism in coffee, fiction, and the Wizarding World.