In a recent appearance on The Tonight Show, iconic actor Robert De Niro confirmed that he “more or less” improvised the “You talkin’ to me?” line from Taxi Driver. For those who haven’t seen the classic 1976 film (and you really should, as soon as humanly possible)–the movie tells the story of Travis Bickle, a taxi driver and veteran whose mental state deteriorates as he works nights in a decaying New York City.
De Niro tells Jimmy Fallon that “more or less” it’s the line people yell out to him most when spotted in public. Added the actor, “[They’ll yell it] from odd places. You know, a bunch of kids pull up next to me… I remember years ago in LA and down in the Valley or somewhere in Culver City, kids pull up next to me in a red light and say ‘you talkin” and I don’t know how they recognize me or whatever.” De Niro said he never responds to fans shouting at him.
The “you talkin’ to me?” line kicks off a speech that has become a pop culture mainstay even today, all these decades later–in 2005 it was ranked tenth on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes, a list of the top quotations in American cinema. In Taxi Driver, De Niro, as Bickle, is staring at himself in a mirror, and imagining a confrontation that would give him the opportunity to draw his gun and use it.
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