Robert De Niro’s Iconic ‘Taxi Driver’ Line Was Improvised

There are some classic movies that seem never to get old, no matter how much time has passed since its premiere. With an iconic line like ‘You talkin’ to me,’ Robert De Niro’s scene of Taxi Driver is without a doubt among the top few to survive decades. 

What many fans don’t know is that one of Hollywood’s most memorable lines was never actually written into the script but rather improvised by the De Niro. And that’s not the only fun fact you may not of known about the film!

Robert De Niro’s iconic ‘You Talkin’ To Me’ scene

Chances are, you’ve already seen Taxi Driver 100 times and can repeat the whole ‘You Talkin’ To Me‘ scene by heart by now, but for those who need a little refresher…

Taxi Driver follows Travis Bickle, a Vietnam War veteran in New York City, looking for his place in the world. The kicker is he is struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and is obviously losing his sanity by the minute. Following his rejection from Betsy, all hell breaks loose in Travis’ mind, and we see him truly take a turn for the worst.

This leads to our favorite iconic line.

After purchasing a few handguns from the black market, Travis practices encounters in his New York home where he may need his gun. He mumbles to the mirror and practices drawing his weapon several times — favoring one move, in particular, where he quickly draws his handgun from underneath his sleeve. 

He says, “You talkin’ to me? You talkin‘ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin’ to? You talkin’ to me? Well, I’m the only one here. Who the fuck you think you’re talkin’ to? Oh, yeah. Okay.” And then he points his gun to the mirror, shares a smirk, ready to shoot. 

How the scene went from no dialogue to iconic

In an interview with Today, the cast of Taxi Driver got together to talk about the film amid its 40th anniversary. During the interview, fans got a peek into the memorable line that made the movie the success we know it to be today. 

“There was no dialogue, I believe, in the scene,” Martin Scorsese recalled. “And I remember saying, ‘Can you say something to yourself? In the mirror?'” to De Niro

“It was the last week of shooting … it was very difficult, and we said, ‘OK, we’re just going to shoot this scene,'” Scorsese added. “He kept saying, ‘You talkin’ to me?’ [and] kept repeating it.” And although the assistant director wanted to move on, Scorsese recalls how good it was, wanting more time to truly bring it to life. 

As for De Niro, he never expected the line to become what it did, lasting more than 40 years after the film’s premiere. “You never know with any of that stuff,” De Niro said. “You just did it.”

Some other fun facts you may not have known about ‘Taxi Driver’

American actor Robert De Niro as as Travis Bickle in 'Taxi Driver, directed by Martin Scorsese, 1976.
Robert De Niro | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Among the nearly 25 things revealed about Taxi Driver in Moviefone, there are a handful of great fun facts every true Taxi Driver fan (or Robert De Niro fan, for that matter) needs to know. 

First and foremost, to prepare for his role in the film, De Niro drove a cab in Manhattan on weekends between flights to film 1900 in Italy — talk about commitment to a role! Even better, the Oscar-winner (from playing Vito Corleone in The Godfather: Part II) was only recognized by one passenger, and it was another actor who said, “sorry,” thinking De Niro was a cabbie for financial support.

To top it off, Travis’ iconic mohawk was a nod to his Vietnam veteran background. Back then, it was known to “avoid Mohawked soldiers because they were psyching themselves up for the slaughter.” Due to the scenes being shot out of sequence, De Niro had to wear a bald cap with a strip of hair on it for these scenes — pretty realistic, though, right? I never would’ve guessed!

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