Veteran actor and director Robert Duvall was born on January 5, 1931, in San Diego, CA, the son of a career military officer who later became an admiral. Duvall majored in drama at Principia College (Elsah, IL), then served a two-year hitch in the army after graduating in 1953. He began attending The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre In New York City on the G.I. Bill in 1955, studying under Sanford Meisner along with Dustin Hoffman, with whom Duvall shared an apartment. Both were close to another struggling young actor named Gene Hackman. Meisner cast Duvall in the play "The Midnight Caller" by Horton Foote, a link that would prove critical to his career, as it was Foote who recommended Duvall to play the mentally disabled "Boo Radley" in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). This was his first "major" role since his 1956 motion picture debut as an MP was in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), starring Paul Newman.
Duvall began making a name for himself as a stage actor in New York, winning an Obie Award in 1965 playing incest-minded longshoreman "Eddie Carbone" in the off-Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's "A View from the Bridge", a production for which his old roommate Hoffman was assistant director. He found steady work in episodic TV and appeared as a modestly billed character actor in films, such as Arthur Penn's The Chase (1966) with Marlon Brando and in Robert Altman's Countdown (1967) and Francis Ford Coppola's The Rain People (1969), in both of which he co-starred with James Caan.
He was also memorable as the heavy who is shot by John Wayne at the climax of True Grit (1969) and was the first "Maj. Frank Burns", creating the character in Altman's Korean War comedy MASH (1970). He also appeared as the eponymous lead in George Lucas' directorial debut, THX 1138 (1971). It was Francis Ford Coppola, casting The Godfather (1972), who reunited Duvall with Brando and Caan and provided him with his career breakthrough as mob lawyer "Tom Hagen". He received the first of his six Academy Award nominations for the role.
Thereafter, Duvall had steady work in featured roles in such films as The Godfather: Part II (1974), The Killer Elite (1975), Network (1976), The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976) and The Eagle Has Landed (1976). Occasionally this actor's actor got the chance to assay a lead role, most notably in Tomorrow (1972), in which he was brilliant as William Faulkner's inarticulate backwoods farmer. He was less impressive as the lead in Badge 373 (1973), in which he played a character based on real-life NYPD detective Eddie Egan, the same man his old friend Gene Hackman had won an Oscar for playing, in fictionalized form as "Popeye Doyle" in The French Connection (1971).
It was his appearance as "Lt. Col. Kilgore" in another Coppola picture, Apocalypse Now (1979), that solidified Duvall's reputation as a great actor. He got his second Academy Award nomination for the role, and was named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most versatile actor in the world. Duvall created one of the most memorable characters ever assayed on film, and gave the world the memorable phrase, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning!".
Subsequently, Duvall proved one of the few established character actors to move from supporting to leading roles, with his Oscar-nominated turns in The Great Santini (1979) and Tender Mercies (1983), the latter of which won him the Academy Award for Best Actor. Now at the summit of his career, Duvall seemed to be afflicted with the fabled "Oscar curse" that had overwhelmed the careers of fellow Academy Award winners Luise Rainer, Rod Steiger and Cliff Robertson. He could not find work equal to his talents, either due to his post-Oscar salary demands or a lack of perception in the industry that he truly was leading man material. He did not appear in The Godfather: Part III (1990), as the studio would not give in to his demands for a salary commensurate with that of Al Pacino, who was receiving $5 million to reprise Michael Corleone.
His greatest achievement in his immediate post-Oscar period was his triumphant characterization of grizzled Texas Ranger Gus McCrae in the TV mini-series "Lonesome Dove" (1989), for which he received an Emmy nomination. He received a second Emmy nomination and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in Stalin (1992) (TV), and a third Emmy nomination playing Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in The Man Who Captured Eichmann (1996) (TV).
The shakeout of his career doldrums was that Duvall eventually settled back into his status as one of the premier character actors in the industry, rivaled only by his old friend Gene Hackman. Duvall, unlike Hackman, also has directed pictures, including the documentary We're Not the Jet Set (1977), Angelo My Love (1983) and Assassination Tango (2002). As a writer-director, Duvall gave himself one of his most memorable roles, that of the preacher on the run from the law in The Apostle (1997), a brilliant performance for which he received his third Best Actor nomination and fifth Oscar nomination overall. The film brought Duvall back to the front ranks of great actors, and was followed by a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nod for A Civil Action (1998).
Robert Duvall will long be remembered as one of the great naturalistic American screen actors in the mode of Spencer Tracy and his frequent co-star Marlon Brando. His performances as "Boo Radley" in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), "Jackson Fentry" in Tomorrow (1972), "Tom Hagen" in the first two "Godfather" movies, "Frank Hackett" in Network (1976), "Lt. Col. Kilgore" in Apocalypse Now (1979), "Bull Meechum" in The Great Santini (1979), "Mac Sledge" in Tender Mercies (1983), "Gus McCrae" in "Lonesome Dove" (1989) and "Sonny Dewey" in The Apostle (1997) rank as some of the finest acting ever put on film. It's a body of work that few actors can equal, let alone surpass.
|Luciana Pedraza||(6 October 2004 - present)|
|Sharon Brophy||(1 May 1991 - 1996) (divorced)|
|Gail Youngs||(22 August 1982 - 1986) (divorced)|
|Barbara Benjamin||(31 December 1964 - 1975) (divorced)|
Very mannered style of delivery
Often plays characters who have suffered some trauma in their life
Often plays tough, macho characters.
Quiet but expressive voice, though often having one or two bombastic scenes.
Lived with Luciana Pedraza for seven years before marrying her in 2004. She is 41 years younger than him.
Studied acting with Sanford Meisner at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York.
Fractured several ribs in April 2002 after falling off a horse while rehearsing for role in Open Range (2003).
Served in the U.S. Army (serial #52 346 646) from 19 August 1953 to 20 August 1954, achieving rank of Private First Class and awarded the National Defense Service Medal.
Received star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. [18 September 2003]
Was roommates and good friends with Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman while all were struggling stage actors in New York before any of them struck it big. Among the three, Hoffman and Duvall were known for their ways with the women, and Duvall and Hackman were known for their short fuses, which led to numerous bar fights. The three often bonded over elaborate practical jokes.
Can speak Spanish fluently.
Owns a large estate in rural Virginia, where some skirmishes of the Civil War were fought (he has found shells and other artifacts on the property). Some scenes in Gods and Generals (2003) were filmed on his land.
His favorite city is Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is an avid Tango dancer.
His father was a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy.
Was director Robert Altman's first choice for country singer in Nashville (1975), but he used Henry Gibson instead when Duvall couldn't do it because of the scheduling. (source: Nashville commentary track).
While a struggling actor, he worked at a post office as a clerk but quit after six months. He says he didn't want to be there 20 years later, still working in a post office.
In Gods and Generals (2003), played ancestor Robert E. Lee. The role was originally played by Martin Sheen in Gettysburg (1993). Duvall and Sheen starred together in the popular Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now (1979).
His father was of French Hugenot descent (with the family having immigrated to the U.S. in the 1700s), while his mother was of Anglo-Saxon descent, and is a direct descendant of General Robert E. Lee.
Has been had a role in more American Film Institute Top 100 films (six), than any other actor. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Apocalypse Now (1979), The Godfather (1972), The Godfather: Part II (1974), MASH (1970) and Network (1976). Robert De Niro and James Stewart were each in five.
His performance as "Mac Sledge" in Tender Mercies (1983) is ranked #14 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
He publicly criticized director Steven Spielberg for flying to Cuba in October 2002, and vowed never to work for Dreamworks studio again.
He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2005.
His performance as "Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore" in Apocalypse Now (1979) is ranked #59 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
A staunch, lifelong supporter of the Republican party, Duvall was personally invited to George W. Bush's inauguration as President in 2001. Duvall attended the ceremony.
Is response to Duvall's criticism of his trip to Cuba, Steven Spielberg defended himself by explaining that he actually went with permission from the American government as a cultural ambassador.
Was considered for the role of "Brody" in the original Jaws (1975) film.
Being a soccer fan, he supports the Argentinian national side.
Born to William Howard Duvall, an U.S. Navy admiral, and his wife Mildred Virginia Hart, an amateur actress.
Received an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, Virginia in 1998.
Put up $5 million of his own money to finance The Apostle after it was rejected by numerous studios.
Travels to Argentina at least five times a year and has a home there.
He says the work he is most proud of by far is his role as the former Texas Ranger "Augustus McCrae" in the 1990 TV miniseries "Lonesome Dove" (1989).
Has a family connection to two 2008 Presidential hopefuls. One of his ancestors, Mareen Duvall, is also an ancestor of Barack Obama. John McCain's family has been involved in the military for several generations, including an ancestor who worked with George Washington, to whom Duvall is related (by adoption).
Narrated a video supporting John McCain for the Republican National Convention in 2008.
Named My Life as a Dog (1985) as one of his favorite movies.
Being descended from Robert E. Lee, he can actually trace his family back to President George Washington. Washington himself had no biological children, but his wife, Martha Custis, did, and he adopted them after the death of Martha's first husband. Her son, John Custis, had a son of his own, Washington Custis, whose daughter, Mary Custis, was Robert E. Lee's wife. Interestingly, Duvall played Lee in Gods and Generals (2003), opposite Jeff Daniels, who had played Washington in The Crossing (1990). Duvall starred in the adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).
[on the reason he didn't appear in The Godfather: Part III (1990):] If they paid Pacino twice what they paid me, that's fine, but not three or four times, which is what they did. (Francis Ford Coppola) came to my farm, parked his car ... went in the kitchen. (I) said: 'I know you always wanted the crab cake recipe, let me cook it for you.' Oh, he loves to eat, so I cooked the crab cake... and he wrote it down ... and he forgot it, so he called twice. He was ... more concerned that he forgot the crab cake recipe than would I be in Godfather III. [January 8, 2004]
They should keep their mouths shut. - on Hollywood political activists.
Being a star is an agent's dream, not an actors.
I don't think he was that great. He was good, but there was Brando, and there was founding member Steven Hill in the Actor's Studio, those were the two guys. James Dean came in third. Dean was talented, obviously. But he died at a good time. [on James Dean]
One guy asked me, 'How can you be an actor and be a Republican?'. I can vote either way. But how can you boil it down to political affiliation? All the atrocities against blacks in the South were committed by Democratic sheriffs.
Everybody likes to win. One of the biggest disappointments was when I didn't get an Emmy for Lonesome Dove. It's political. It can be a popularity contest.
I think I nailed a very specific individual guy who represents something important in our history of the western movement. After that, I felt I could retire, that'd I'd done something. (On "Lonesome Dove" (1989)).
There's a place called La Biela, it's my favorite corner in the world. It's a coffee shop near the Recoleta where Evita's buried. You can go there and sit in the evening, at 3 in the morning there are hundreds of people in the streets. And you can get up at 8 and go back and have your espresso. Going to Argentina, going to Buenos Aires, I like it more there than anyplace else. (On Buenos Aires)
I always considered myself as a character actor. I always try to be versatile to show different sides of human experience.
About a year ago I first saw this wonderful woman speak. I didn't know who it was. And I said who is this woman? And a year later, I said to myself about three or four weeks ago, why isn't she up for the vice presidency? - On Governor Sarah Palin.
Well, our hero, coming up, was Brando. He kinda squandered it. But he was so revolutionary in so many ways.
The way Hollywood speaks out is absolutely beyond me. Some people are so ill-informed. I mean, why be so outspoken about it anyway? Does it help Sean Penn's career to go over to Iraq? Did it help Jane Fonda to go over to Vietnam years ago? I don't know. But sometimes when these guys speak out ... I get embarrassed.
Marlon Brando had an innate shrewdness, finding ways to do things better than everyone else. One of the great tragedies is that Brando never developed his tremendous potential. He really was the godfather to young actors coming up in the seventies and even today. He was the guy, really, more than [Laurence Olivier], or anybody.
(on Jeff Bridges) There's the Actors Studio in New York, everybody sitting around talking about Stanislavski, but that's not Jeff. This is a guy off the beaches of L.A. He learned from his father (Lloyd Bridges), that was his mentor, and he always seems so loose and relaxed -- but he's always prepared, and he brings so many surprises, like good actors do.
Because my parents were so religious, I attended church regularly. I've always been a believer.
When I knew nothing, I thought I could do anything.
A friend is someone who many years ago offered you his last $300 when you broke your pelvis. A friend is Gene Hackman.
Making the first Godfather was more laughs than making Godfather II. That's because Jimmy Caan was in the first Godfather.
A young actor once asked me, What do you do between jobs? I said, Hobbies, hobbies, and more hobbies. It keeps you off dope.
Sometimes, when you look back on it, the $10-million-and-under movies are some of your favorites.
I feel like our country is just a big giant kid with tremendous talent - like an athlete. A big giant kid that's made mistakes, but there's a lot of potential.
You never know how reality is going to coincide with your dreams. You're optimistic, and you go from there.
Virginia's the last station before heaven.
Getting together with friends and holding court over a meal is one of the great things in life.
|The Godfather (1972)||$36,000|
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