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Robert De Niro Improvised “Taxi Driver”'s Iconic ‘You Talkin’ to Me?’ Line, Says Martin Scorsese

‘Taxi Driver’ director Martin Scorsese told Stephen Colbert that one of Robert De Niro’s most iconic lines was ad-libbed

<p>Columbia Pictures</p> Robert De Niro in "Taxi Driver"

Columbia Pictures

Robert De Niro in "Taxi Driver"

Martin Scorsese is confirming 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. “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 Thursday. “We were behind schedule. We were in such trouble.”

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.’”

<p>The Late Show with Stephen Colbert/Youtube</p> (Left to right:) Martin Scorsese and Stephen Colbert on "The Late Show"

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert/Youtube

(Left to right:) Martin Scorsese and Stephen Colbert on "The Late Show"

Related: Watching Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone Left Killers of the Flower Moon Author 'Rattled and Shaking' (Exclusive)

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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<p>Columbia Pictures/Getty</p> (Left to right:) Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese filming "Taxi Driver"

Columbia Pictures/Getty

(Left to right:) Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese filming "Taxi Driver"

With Tuesday’s announcement of the 2024 Academy Award nominations — which saw Killers nominated in 10 categories including Best Picture — Scorsese became the most-nominated living director in Oscar history. (The late William Wyler holds the record with 12 nods, per the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.)

De Niro, 80, has made 10 feature films with Scorsese at the helm. Alongside leading actress Lily Gladstone, he is also Oscar-nominated for supporting actor for his work in Killers.

Related: Granddaughter Recalls Killers of the Flower Moon Villain Played by Leonardo DiCaprio: 'Took Away My Family'

In his Late Show interview, Scorsese also shouted out his daughter Francesca and her directing him in several viral TikTok videos. 

“The hardest one,” he remembered with a laugh, was when “she wanted to ask me these questions. And it was feminine hygiene stuff. And I didn’t know the answers.”

Among Scorsese’s upcoming projects in development is The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny, and Murder, which will reunite him with Killers star and frequent collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio.

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