Robert Duvall is a national treasure and despite his long list of credits and international fame, he strikes one as being the kind of guy with whom you could sit down at a bar and have a couple of beers. A descendant of Robert E. Lee, he can trace his family back to George Washington and owns a large estate in rural Virginia, where some Civil War battles were fought. Duvall did a stint in the U.S. Army, achieving rank of Private First Class and was awarded the National Defense Service Medal. Perhaps the discipline essential to becoming a successful actor came, in part, from his father, who was a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy.
Duvall’s Oscar-winning performance in Tender Mercies is ranked #14 in Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Performances of All Time. Also, Duvall appeared in more American Film Institute Top 100 films than any other actor, including his “breakout performance” as mob lawyer Tom Hagen in The Godfather (I and II.) His performance as Bad Blake’s (Jeff Bridges) friend in Crazy Heart is another riveting performance. What other actor could make sitting in a boat in the middle of lake fishing, a scene where your eyes are glued to the screen.
Mirror: Scott Cooper (director of Crazy Heart) has been described as your protégé.
Duvall: That’s what they say, but I don’t know that I really am. We would discuss things, but he did a great job as a first-time director; for any-time director. He was really loose and made it a lot of fun. I don’t know if he learned anything from me, but his talent is own.
Mirror: How do you compare this experience to Tender Mercies?
Duvall: When I did Tender Mercies it wasn’t much fun. It was a pretty tense set.
Duvall: What did you like about your part in Crazy Heart?
Duvall: It was just a part. I jumped in and did it.
Duvall: I was more the producer and helped a lot with the casting. It was my idea to cast a Latin guy as the doctor (William Marquez.)
Mirror: Did the “doctor” do Argentine Tango?
Duvall: No, but he’s a very good Salsa dancer. (laughter)
Mirror: Was you wife (Luciana Pedraza) a Tango dancer?
Duvall: I introduced her to Tango. I had her study with two of the top teachers in Argentina because that’s where the best Tango salons are. She worked at it for year and became a good dancer. The most important thing in Tango is to master the walk.
Mirror: Did you intend to cast her in Assassination Tango?
Duvall: She thought I was going to cast another girl in the movie and said “no way.” She had never acted before, but I think she was brilliant. She stole the show.
Mirror: With all your experience in the industry, where do you think Hollywood is missing the boat?
Duvall: They do $100 million movies knowing the movie might fail so maybe they should be doing ten one-million dollar movies. People always enjoy a well-made “feel good” movie with a humane message and I think Hollywood should get back to making those kinds of films.
Mirror: Thank you for helping make this fabulous film and best of luck during the upcoming award season.
Duvall: Thanks a lot.