Taxi Driver

6 Movie Ad Libs that Became Classics — And What You Can Learn From Them

Some of the most well known lines from movies, and even scenes, are actually ad libbed, or improvised. Improvisation actually has many benefits for actors.

Below are six famous movie scenes that you may have not known were improvised.

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

“Casablanca,” 1942

Most people are familiar with Humphrey Bogart’s line from the 1942 movie, “Casablanca.” Bogart was teaching actress Ingrid Bergman how to play poker between takes when Bogart first said the famous line. Once they were back on camera, the line came out spontaneously during one of the flashback scenes in Paris.

“Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”

“The Godfather,” 1972

Everybody loves cannoli! Francis Ford Coppola, the director of “The Godfather,” added the line, “don’t forget the cannoli,” last minute to the script. But Richard Castellano decided to take Coppola’s line and make it his own.

“Are you talkin’ to me?”

“Taxi Driver,” 1976

One sentence in the screenplay, which reads, “Travis looks in the mirror,” led to Robert De Niro improvising the entire scene in the movie.

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

“Jaws,” 1975

After Roy Schneider encounters the Great White shark, the scene was supposed to close. Instead, Schneider made up this line to help bring closure to the encounter.

“Son of a b****, he stole my line.”

“Good Will Hunting,” 1997

When Robin Williams goes to the mailbox to read a note, Williams said a different line for each take of the final scene in the movie because nothing was scripted. Co-star Matt Damon, who co-wrote the script, told Boston Magazine in 2015 that after Williams said the well-known line, “It was like a bolt, it was just one of those holy s*** moments, where, like, that’s it.”

Heeeeere’s Johnny!”

“The Shining,” 1980

Nothing is scarier than Jack Nicholson, who portrays Jack Torrance, busting a door down with an ax. During that scene, Nicholson’s character sticks his head through a hole in the door, and says, Heeeeere’s Johnny!” Nicholson’ joke, which referenced Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show,” was almost cut because director Stanley Kubrick, who is from England, didn’t know the reference.

What are some of your favorite movie ad libs? Let us know below! Want to learn more about acting techniques? Study acting at the New York Film Academy.

Top 5 Films Every Actor Should See

The Godfather logo

Let’s be honest. All movies are not created equally. Some films stick with you long after you are finished watching them. A good film can touch your soul, evoke emotions, and teach you lessons about life. From an actor’s perspective, films can also teach the art of film acting, just as they can teach a director how to position a camera. When a person completely disappears into a character, something astonishing happens. They cease performing and simply become a living and breathing person. Here are five examples of films that capture beautiful acting that every aspiring actor should watch and learn from.

1. The Godfather

Regarded as one of the best films ever made, The Godfather provides a master class in film acting. The names on the cast list are almost ridiculous: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, and James Caan to name a few. Anyone of those actors can carry a film on their own, but together the sparks on screen are something to behold. Brando gives an especially moving performance, for which he won the 1972 Academy Award for Acting. Watch the scene that introduces the character Don Vito Corleone and be swept away.

2. Forrest Gump

A near perfect film all around, the epic journey of Forrest Gump provides plenty of substance for actors to sink their teeth into. Tom Hanks gives one of the most specific and nuanced performances of all time as the titular character, and he is surrounded by a cast that includes Gary Sinise, Robin Wright and Sally Field. Each of the characters is unique and damaged, and watching the actors navigate the challenges of their characters lives is something to behold.

3. Taxi Driver

Scorsese and De Niro. De Niro and Scorsese. No matter the order, you can’t go wrong with that pair of film legends. Taxi Driver is a tour de force of filmmaking and acting brilliance. Robert De Niro plays an insomniac with serious delusions and watching him descend into the darkness of his obsessions is truly disturbing. This is the film that gave the world the line, “You talkin’ to me?” and earned a 12 year old Jody Foster an Oscar nod.

4. The Dark Knight

The story of Heath Ledger is tragic, but his acting performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight was transcendent. He took an archetypical character, a character that had already been played, and made it his own. His tortured and brilliant take on the Joker is the highlight of an excellent film and will live forever as one of the best supporting performances in the history of cinema

5. Borat

Comedy is considered even more difficult to act than drama yet comedic acting is often dismissed a lesser art. Sacha Baron Cohen specializes in comedy and in Borat he gives his best performance. A mockumentary, in the film, Cohen is filmed in real life situations, duping people into believing his charade. It’s a side splitting comedy, so funny that the acting almost goes unnoticed but Mr. Cohen delivers a near perfect comedic character.

Watch them, enjoy them, and learn from them. The above films are incredible feats of art with acting performances that can teach actors a lot about their craft. Honorable Mentions: Anything with Meryl Streep or Daniel Day-Lewis.

Robert De Niro’s Top Five Acting Roles

Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro, considered one of Hollywood’s greatest performers—living or dead—is something of an acting paradox. While some of the best actors completely disappear into their roles to the point where they are unrecognizable, and others take over their characters with their real-life movie-star charisma, De Niro somehow inhabits both those traits, simultaneously and contradictorily. His roles range from Italian mobsters to disapproving Dads to Frankenstein’s monster to militaristic authority figures, each character both totally unique and completely and utterly De Niro.

With a legendary career spanning decades, it’s hard to say what his best and what his worst roles are, though it’s not hard to miss his fruitful collaboration with director Martin Scorsese. The two, with similar backgrounds and upbringings, worked closely together in the 70s and 80s and brought about some of De Niro’s finest work.

De Niro is currently working on Dirty Grandpa, a road trip comedy starring Zac Efron as the frustrated grandson forced to drive De Niro’s perverted old man to Spring Break. As filming gets underway, the movie’s cast has been growing with a generation of Hollywood’s most popular actors, all of whom learned their craft in De Niro’s legendary shadow

With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at some of DeNiro’s greatest moments as an actor. It’s no coincidence that four of them were directed by Scorsese.

1. Mean Streets

Robert De Niro was thin, hungry and an undiscovered force when Scorsese had the foresight to cast him as Johnny Boy in Mean Streets, a film heavily influenced by Scorsese’s New York, Catholic upbringing. Johnny Boy was a livewire—dangerous, charming, unpredictable, funny and frightening. De Niro made the larger-than-life character gritty and grounded, delivering a performance that didn’t just ignite his career but an entire movement of method, raw, urban style of acting.

Harvey Keaitel With Robert De-Niro From Mean Streets

2. Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver was the complex story of a man whose sanity and motivations were constantly called into question, an apt metaphor for post-Vietnam America. De Niro, who drove cabs for weeks in preparation for the role, gave an honest pathos to a character most people would cross the street to avoid in real life. His performance has reverberated past the scope of the movie and into cultural legacy, be it with his famous mohawk, his “You talkin’ to me?” soliloquy, or, even darker, his influence on attempted Ronald Reagan assassin John Hinckley, Jr.

Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver

3. Raging Bull

De Niro dramatically gained weight to put on the muscle (and post-career flab) of real-life boxer Jake LaMotta in biopic Raging Bull. A physical product of his devotion to acting and inhabiting his roles, in some ways it changed his look permanently—De Niro never quite had the lean look that defined his more deranged 70s characters again. However, it only added to his performance of Jake LaMotta as a brute of raw power with heart and unyielding passion, a charismatic beast who was most dangerous when he was vulnerable.

Robert De-Niro Raging Bull

4. The Godfather Part II

In some ways, playing the part of a younger Vito Corleone was a passing of the torch to De Niro from the similarly styled acting legend Marlon Brando, who won an Oscar portraying Vito in the original Godfather. De Niro learned a Sicilian dialect of Italian and spoke it fluently throughout the film, a testament to his method approach. While just as menacing as Johnny Boy and LaMotta, De Niro played it quiet, showing a restraint that contrasted Mean Streets but belayed his power as a cinematic performer. He not only accepted the torch from Brando but carried it forward, earning an Oscar (Vito Corleone is still the only character to give two separate performers an Academy Award) and coming into his own as the definitive actor of his generation.

The Godfather III DeNiro

5. Goodfellas

By 1990’s Goodfellas, DeNiro had become firmly settled into his role as one of Hollywood’s elder statesman. Moving from the young hothead leads of the 70s and early 80s, De Niro portrayed mobster mentor Jimmy Conway with a weary mellowness. However, a master of subtlety and layers, De Niro showed the dangerous, violent criminal lurking just beneath the skin, erupting brutally yet fluidly to the surface amidst a laid-back, humorous performance. De Niro mastered the tempered-yet-flustered attitude of Conway so well that it’s since defined his public persona and many of the roles he still knocks out of the park to this day.

DeNiro in Goodfellas

So, those are our picks of De Niro’s best acting performances here at the New York Film Academy. Which movies do you think he excelled in? Please let us know in the comments section below.