alskuefhaih
asoiefh

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Robert Duvall: delightful, de-lovely, de-VALL

-
-


Did you hear him say on NPR that he has been approached to play Don Quixote in a film? I did, and I thought: I have to post about him. There is some information on the Net about Terry Gilliam's rekindled film project The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, which will also star Ewan McGregor, apparently, as Sancho Panza. According to that embedded site, Duvall wanted someone like Danny DeVito in that role - hello! But they need big names to sell movies these days. Danny DeVito would get me to watch. Well I would already watch because of Duvall. I like McGregor (OK, love), but Sancho Panza?

I have only seen Robert Duvall in a handful of roles: Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Hagen in Godfather I & II, Major Frank Burns in M*A*S*H, Boss Spearman in Open Range, Pastor Sonny Dewey in The Apostle, and no doubt a few other lesser screen faces. I never saw Lonesome Dove, which he says is his favorite role. Crazy Heart is next on my Netflix queue, and I can't wait. I am no expert on Robert Duvall, but I can claim to have listened to him through a telephone.

I also have cushions dedicated to him in the salon of my heart. The first cushion is sunflower yellow - Duvall as Pastor Sonny Dewey in The Apostle with Farrah Fawcett. He directed the movie too, deftly. There are lovely old hymns I grew up with, such as "Softly and Tenderly" and "I Love to Tell the Story," which is sung by Emmylou Harris and Duvall himself. When Duvall-as-Pastor-Sonny preached, he was my dad (except for the Pentecostal part; my dad was not a "holy roller"). They even look alike with their balding heads and heart-melting smiles. I want to tell him how his acting affected me and rang like the truest church bell. To me, he is like my dad's ideal self, although Pastor Sonny has some serious flaws. Maybe being flawed and forgiving is ideal, somehow. Another strange connection is that his mother's maiden name was Hart, my maiden name, and she was from Virginia, like my dad.

Which leads me to the other (pin-) cushion hidden under the chaise lounge in my heart, the cushion with pokey down feathers sticking out the wrong way. I came this close to humiliating myself forever, with Robert Duvall. Oh the pain! I would have needed to be cleansed of my sin in the river of forgiveness.



One of our film students in the English department knew someone working on the set of Open Range in British Columbia Alberta. This 2003 film is maybe my favorite movie ever. It's a toss-up between it and Lost in Translation. Oh, and Rebecca. Oh, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. OK, I'm juggling now. 


I remember being blown away by the sound of bullets exploding from multiple Dolby speakers surrounding our theater seats the first time we saw Open Range. Never had gunfire been so real and close.  Never had a Western movie set been so authentically muddy, with timbers laid across the dirt road between the General Store and the Tavern while rain just kept sweeping through town. The two main characters, played by Kevin Costner and Duvall have a relationship that inspires me every time I watch. I'm not a huge Costner fan (I don't think I can forgive him for those endless monotone voice-overs in Dances with Wolves), but he really got it right in Open Range - directing, and also playing shy, quiet and driven Charley Waite. Duvall is Duvall at his best as Boss Spearman: cowboy, listener, straight talker, beautiful human being and best friend to Charley. Annette Bening might seem too 20th century woman as Sue Barlow, but she is radiant and leaves no questions about why someone would fall in love with her. Michael Gambon plays the opposite of Dumbledore in bad and powerful Denton Baxter so disgustingly well that you almost believe it is right to destroy evil with a gun.

So our film student arranged a telephone interview with Duvall on the set. There was some great new technology at the time that allowed a satellite call from high up in the Canadian Rockies. I set everything up for the call in the hall outside my office with a landline phone, and chairs for the three students. Andrew dialed the number.

Some darkly magical force was in that tele-kinexion from the Canadian Rockies, because from the time his voice came on speaker phone, I got teleported into a Twilight Area Code. (Well, Duvall did play in a Twilight Zone episode in 1963.) I got my Roberts mixed up, and in the foggy zone of my head, Duvall transformed into De Niro. The call had been arranged for a couple of days, and I knew very well who this Robert Du- was. I've always liked him, he's tops, the best! But the entire phone call, through which I was mercifully silent, I was picturing him in Raging Bull, and between student questions and comments, I kept almost blurting something out about his performance. I never got the chance, or courage, thank God. After the call ended, and the students floated in starstruck bliss out of the dark old English department hallway, I began to realize my mistake, with horror. If I had been rational, I could have told him how I felt about Pastor Sonny Dewey, him as my dad! It would have been a seminal moment in his career, right up there with his Oscar and Emmys, to hear from a preacher's kid that he had got Pastor Sonny absolutely right!

But all I could do was thank my cowboy guardian angel for lassoing my mouth shut and not letting these words out of my beak: "You really epitomized method acting when you gained an extra 30 pounds as Jake La Motta . . . "




Autographed photo of Duvall found here
Photo of Duvall as Boo Radley found here. 
Photo of Duvall in the water as The Apostle found here
Image of Duvall and Costner found here.
Photos of Annette Bening as Sue Barlow and Dean McDermott as Doc Barlow, and Costner behind camera found here
Michael Gambon photo found here
Photo of Robert De Niro as Raging Bull found here.
Disney poster found here.


-
-

65 comments:

Griselda Pugh said...

Thank you for this post - I too am a Duvall watcher as I think he is one of the best actors I have ever seen. To add to your list above, he also played Steve McQueen's cab driver in Bullitt, and played a bad guy in True Grit. I haven't seen The Apostle but will add it to my must see list. Part of me is sorry that you didn't mention Raging Bull in that call....confusion at that distance would have given your students something to talk about for a LONG time :)

Gwei Mui said...

Wow Ruth, yes I too am a fan of Duvall but not as ardent as you. Great post

Deslilas said...

Congratulations !
Tell him to be careful, it's a hard task to play Don Quichotte, one of our best actor Jean Rochefort started the movie some years ago with Terry Gillam and felt so sick that they had to stop.
May be American actors are more professional or strong than ours!

Lorenzo said...

I think with this post you have more than atoned for the near gaffe of confusing Boo Radley with Jake LaMotta, but just in case, as holy-rolling penance you must post a photo of you sitting on that "pokey down feathers sticking out the wrong way." Ouch. Skip it, don't post the photo.

Thanks for the recommendation of Open Range. I have never seen it and will have to check it out.

Deslilas said...

the ling to
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x8rmv3_lost-in-la-mancha-bande-annonce-vos_shortfilms

Pauline said...

Loved him in Phenomenon and Falling Down. Hope he reads your post :)

Susan said...

Oh, Ruthie! I had to laugh out loud reading your almost faux pas. You told me that tidbit before, but it's still as funny. I can just imagine the look of horror on your face! tehehe

Open Range is awesome, no doubt, and thank you for finally convincing me to watch it in its entirety. You know David is a huge fan. In fact, he just took it with him to China to watch (for the millionth time) on his laptop. But you have got to watch Lonesome Dove!!! I cannot stress this enough. Boss Spearman originated in Augustus McRae. Gus is the role in which Duvall perfected his cowboyisms. You'll recognize it as soon as you watch it. Trust me. He will blow you away. The relationship Gus has with Woodrow Call (Tommy Lee Jones, who ain't too shabby either) ranks right up there with Butch and Sundance, only better, in my opinion. And that's saying something, because I love Newman and Redford in those roles.

It's been a long time since I watched The Apostle and it was so true-to-life that it almost made me uncomfortable to watch it. That's exactly the kind of church in which I grew up and we sang all those same hymns, too.

I had no idea his mother was a Hart! I'll have to get Jaye to research that. So, if he isn't related to you, he MUST be related to me. Right?

I loved this post!

distracted by shiny objects said...

aaaaahhhhhh, Duvall...you're going to love Crazy Heart. You might as well go on right now and buy the soundtrack. It's that good :>)

Raquel said...

I heard the NPR interview too. There's something about Duvall and the roles he plays--something about him that screams "real actor here, outta my way!" But he doesn't take himself too seriously, even as his acting is so serious. I just saw Crazy Heart--what a great movie--and Duvall was wonderful too, but understated, not a lot of screen time. He played the best friend, lifesaver. I haven't seen all his films, but think my favorite is "The Apostle". He's also quite wonderful in "Secondhand Lions."

rauf said...

He was a disaster for me in the beginning Ruth. Two major disasters. Duvall completely skipped my attention. It took me years to realise what a fine actor he is. As i was reading Godfather i visualised Clint Eastwood for the non Italian American's role of educated Tom Hagen, a man of few words. i didn't like Duvall in both 1 and 2. Then came Apocalypse Now. I was angry that there was no sign of Brando till three fourth of the film. We were all waiting for Brando who appears towards the end. In high expectations i completely missed the stunning performances of Martin Sheen and Robert Duvall.

ellen abbott said...

I agree, he's an amazing actor. Lonesome Dove is very good if you ever get around to it.

California Girl said...

A quintessential Duvall movie: Tender Mercies for which, I believe, he won Best Actor Oscar. This is my fave.

My husband considers him our best actor, every bit as good De Niro, Nicholson, Penn & Pacino who receive waayy more recognition & accolades.

I agree.

Margaret Bednar said...

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books and movies (how often do those go hand in hand - Hollywood seems to mess great novels up more often than not). Anyway, I never could place who BOO was (Maybe I was too start struck with Gregory Peck - have been infatuated with Peck since I was 6 years old.) Thanks for clearing up that mystery! Duvall is the definition of a quality actor!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

He is an absolute genius. One of the best.
I'd recommend you watch Tender Mercies before Crazy Heart, though.
One of the most genuine performances on film
Nothing but truth there.

Pat said...

Duvall won my heart a long time ago as Boo Radley in one of my favorite films.

Thank God you keep your mouth shut during that telephone interview! LOL! You would have NEVER lived that faux pas down!

Lisa A said...

I agree with California Girl, Duvall IS our best actor, bar none. And I mean none.
Do watch Tender Mercies first. It's amazing.

Oliag said...

I tend to mix these two names up all the time too...it must be the Robert D thing along with being of a similar age...I bet it happens frequently to them...

Both actors I adore...and The Apostle with Duvall was one of my favorite movies, though it has been so long since I've seen it I should see it again. I agree with others that you need to Netflix Lonesome Dove...what a wonderful mini-series...and I loved the books too...How often does that happen? Now off I go to add Open Range to my already very extensive Netflix list:)

The Bug said...

Dr. M & I have watched Open Range a number of times - & I never get tired of it. I don't know why, but it meets most of my movie needs - action, romance, a little comedy - and a pace slow enough to GET everything.

Eliane said...

I saw Tender Mercies when a teenager once. Never forgotten. Robert Duvall is one of those actors who when he appears on screen you know that how ever long he's there you're in safe hands no matter how lousy the rest of the film is (Deep Impact anyone?). I agree - he's the best, you don't get histrionics or "look at me, aren't I great?" acting - but he steals everything he's in.

Loring Wirbel said...

And what about his surprise (?) appearance in "Crazy Heart"?

ds said...

Robert Duvall played Frank Burns?!!!! That sound you heard was my head exploding. No idea. He was good, though. D--d good, just as in Mockingbird where he spoke not a word. He'd make an awesome Quixote, and I'm with you on Danny DeVito. Perfect fit for Sancho Panza (but they didn't ask us). Thanks for this profile of one of our most interesting actors; I'm glad you had a cowboy guardian angel watching out for you. How cool to hear the man himself over the telephone!

C.M. Jackson said...

I wish you could have told him, but who knows maybe out there in the blogosphere Mr Duvall will hear that he got the pastor just right. He is amazing--even in a movie like Something to talk about, a chick flick with Gena Rowlands, Julia Roberts, Kyra Sedgwick and Dennis Quaid, Duvall stands out as the curmudgeon..I am going to look for the NPR piece..great post!

Peter said...

I’m sure Duvall will be perfect for Don Quixote (Quijote). I understand Johnny Depp refused the role of Sancho, which he would have interpreted in the previous try to make this film. Let’ see if Terry Gilliam has more chance this time! Did you watch “Lost in la Mancha”, the film which was made about the first attempt by Gilliam?

Ginnie said...

Don't we just love our favorite movies, Ruth! Can you believe that To Kill a Mockingbird was the first movie I ever saw in a theater when I was a freshman in college. What a movie to start with, right? I totally agree about Robert Duvall. He is a man for all seasons. I hope he gives us several more years because I will watch everything he makes.

Ruth said...

Griselda, I don't think I've had a visitor from Belfast before. Welcome! Thank you. I've been to Ireland, but not to Northern Ireland.

We just watched a good movie last night called "Then She Found Me" with Helen Hunt and Bette Midler, it's wonderful. There were some references to Bullitt, mostly about Steve McQueen though. I didn't realize Duvall was in that, or True Grit!

Ruth said...

Thanks, Gwei Mui. As a result of comments here, I'll become more ardent yet.

Ruth said...

Daniel, I saw some of the clips from the first attempt, with your French actor. This Gilliam sounds impossible.

Of his movies I've only seen "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." Not even "Life of Brian." Oh, he also directed "Fisher King" - that's a wonderful film.

I wonder how this will truly end up, and who will be in it.

Ruth said...

Lorenzo, thank you for withdrawing your request about the pincushion.

One thing I dislike about recommending movies so highly is that everyone has different expectations, and often the result is disappointment. But I do hope you'll enjoy Open Range.

Ruth said...

Pauline, oh! I didn't remember that he was in Falling Down. Or Phenomenon either. His film resume is extensive!

Bella Rum said...

I luv, luv, luv Robert Duvall. He may be my favorite actor evah. He always reminds me of my brother - big personality with a zest for life and there's a physical similarity, too.

I did see Lonesome Dove and he was great in it. He's wonderful in everything he does; even when the rest of the project isn't swell, he still shines.

Anonymous said...

Duvall is incredible! I was always curious about that phone conversation you had with my favorite actor. Thanks for sharing. He has a great, albeit short, role in The Road. Also, Assassination Tango and Second Hand Lions have great moments.

Brian W

Ruth said...

Susie! Lonesome Dove is on my queue, and I forgot Tommy Lee Jones is in it. I just love him to death too. I am gonna have me a good ole time watching that, and Tender Mercies, and Crazy Heart. It will be a Duvall-aganza.

I know what you mean about being uncomfortable looking at The Apostle, because of how much time we spent in church. In fact, I have no idea why it didn't make me feel that way.

Please please do have Jaye investigate the Hart connection. If one of us is related to Robert, I say we take a road trip and meet him. Then I'll tell him how much I appreciate him as Pastor Sonny. K?

Ruth said...

Distracted, my poetry-loving-posting friend, I have Crazy Heart queued up, and I am just now listening to the first track of the soundtrack, which I downloaded from iTunes, thanks to you. I already love it. "This ain't no place for the weary king . . . "

Ruth said...

Raquel, I just listened to Duvall sing Live Forever on the Crazy Heart soundtrack.

You're right. On screen he seems so comfortable with himself that he creates some energy, a magnetism that is irresistible.

I think I only saw part of Secondhand Lions. Michael Caine is a treasure too.

Ruth said...

rauf, who can forget the line "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" - even if I didn't see Apocalypse Now. I can't watch movies about Vietnam.

I never read The Godfather books. I think it is very difficult to visualize a book and then be disappointed in the movie. When we read and love a book, we feel we have a right to cast the characters. Tom Hagen was a very low key figure, I didn't pay much attention to Duvall as him either.

Now here I am, full of admiration for the actor, and I haven't seen a tenth of even his major roles. I am grateful to the recommendations after the post. Now I see he was in Thank you for Smoking. I saw it, and I don't remember him at all. I think I'll be paying closer attention.

Oh rauf, you need to get this Crazy Heart soundtrack, you would love it. Listening to Waylon Jennings now sing Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way?

Ruth said...

Ellen, I've got Lonesome Dove in the queue.

Ruth said...

California Girl, Tender Mercies is next. Thanks to you.

Ruth said...

Margaret, well Boo had hair, that's one. And yes Peck, that's another distraction. One didn't speak, and the other had a voice you could drink and not sate your thirst.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Pamela, I've queued Tender Mercies first, thanks to you and others. I think I have Tender Mercies, then Lonesome Dove, then Crazy Heart.

Ruth said...

Pat, imagine, wasting his time and the students' time with such a stupid mistake. Do you know how glad I am that I don't have to live with that reality? Only the almost reality, and that's bad enough.

I would have given my university a bad name too. What a bunch of yahoos, he might have thought. What kind of film program is that! Yikes. :|

Arti said...

This is De-vouringly De-licious!! So glad to learn about your Duvall story... and you were soo close to stardom! Excited to see your detailed account of Open Range, one of my all time faves. I've the DVD and have watched many times the special features in which Kevin Costner (one of my all time faves, despite the monotone) describes how he shot the movie. Annette Bening is just marvelous. Of course, the veteran cowboy Robert Duvall, so in character, so experienced, so fatherly genuine.

But one thing I do need to correct, Ruth: The filming location is ALBERTA, not B.C. Alberta is my home province here, it is also where you see all the open range, the rolling hills and mighty Rockies, where they have wild horses, which they mystically encountered when they were location scouting. This is also where they shot Unforgiven, Legends of the Fall, and more recently Brokeback Mountain. This is the ideal location for the Westerns.
Check this out:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0316356/locations

Yes, Calgary, my City, is one of the locations. Too bad I wasn't aware when they were on location here... or else...

You're one movie buff, Ruth! Can't wait to hear more stories of your brush with fame.
I can understand how it must have been a relief big time for you not to have mentioned Raging Bull! Also: I can imagine your Dad preaching, no, not the hollering type, but the gentle, intellectual type. (Again, you must read Gilead!)

dutchbaby said...

I am heartened to learn that Lonesome Dove is Duvall's favorite. I loved the book and looked forward to the mini-series. I was bowled over by the brilliant casting, including Danny Glover, Diane Lane and Anjelica Huston, and the fantastic performances. I was pleased that the mini-series format allowed the luxury of staying true to the story. I remember urging my best friend to read the book before watching movie. She chose to alternate between reading a chapter and watching the movie. She was entertained for weeks.

Rebecca is another favorite book/movie of all time. I read the book multiple times as a teenager and finally saw the movie decades later. Hitchcock, Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine. Perfection!

As for your almost-gaffe, that is the difference between you and me. For me, it would not have been an almost.

Ruth said...

Hi, Lisa, it's on its way!

Ruth said...

Oliag, I think reading the book while watching the series would be a great idea. I never knew, until now, that Larry McMurtry's novel won the Pulitzer!

Ruth said...

Dana, I agree, it has all those elements. I am not a huge Western fan, so it's kind of odd that my favorite movie is a Western.

Ruth said...

Eliane, you're right, I feel comfortable with him, I've never felt uneasy. And he's never bad, even if the film isn't great.

It's nice to meet you. I hope you'll feel at home in the U.S.

Ruth said...

Oh yes, Loring, Crazy Heart is on the queue, can't wait to see him. I just downloaded the soundtrack.

Ruth said...

DS, I looked at the video clips Daniel (Delilas) posted the link to, and it looks bizarre, at least the first go 'round a decade ago, that didn't make it. I mean, Gilliam is Monty Python! And I hear he's a trip to work with. I hope our dear Mr. Duvall isn't driven to madness in the movie making process.

I wish I had the telephone call back, just to savor his voice as him. I like him a lot more than DeNiro.

Ruth said...

C.M.! I completely forgot about Something to Talk About. I love that movie. You are right, even as an ornery cuss, I love him. It's like he can do wrong and wrong and wrong, but when he flashes that smile and talks with that lisp and Southern lilt, all is forgiven.

Ruth said...

Peter, I saw some of the clips, it looks like they had one disaster after another!

Ruth said...

Boots, I'm with you, eventually I'll see all of them. A goal anyway. So To Kill a Mockingbird was your first theater movie? Mine was Around the World in 80 Days, with David Niven.

Ruth said...

Bella, so cool. Maybe it's the way he seems like he could be your brother or my dad, so approachable, that makes him appealing, besides his ease of acting.

Ruth said...

Hi, Brian! How cool of you to stop by. I didn't know about him in The Road, or Assassination Tango. I wonder if we'd just had this telephone call before coming over to Harper's one night?

And tomorrow we'll hear you at Enso! I look forward to it.

Ruth said...

Arti, thank you for your geographical correction! I have changed it in the post. Yay! I envy you that country up there. I would love to go camping there. I love to see when you post photos.

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, I forgot all those people were in Lonesome Dove! I think your idea to read it together with watching would be fun, knowing that the series lives up to the book.

Have you read other Du Maurier? Like Jamaica Inn? Ooohhhh, shivers. My mom told me about Rebecca long before I saw it, and I couldn't wait. Even though she had told me some things, when they happened, I was just as transported as if I wasn't prepared. And I keep feeling that way with every reading or viewing. I love that you love it too! You know one touch I love in the movie? How high the door handles are for Joan Fontaine, like she's a little girl. So many brilliant touches.

dutchbaby said...

Yes, I read "Jamaica Inn" and loved it.

No, I never noticed the high door handles. My husband and I, and few other couples from my book club, will start a five-week Hitchcock class in the Film Dept. of Stanford Univ. next week. I'm going to check the syllabus and see if we are scheduled to watch "Rebecca". If so, I will pay close attention to that detail. Thanks!

Susan said...

Hey Ruthie and dutchbaby! I loved Lonesome Dove the book, too, and read it before the mini-series. There was one little thing they left out of the movie that bothered me...the English gentleman who Gus and Woodrow ran into who explained what the Latin phrase meant that Gus had put on the wagon when they left Lonesome Dove. I'm a little picky. hehe

Larry McMurtry has written some awesome books in his career, including The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment, and with his partner Diana Ossana, and the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain (from Annie Proulx' short story) among many others. He's one of my favorite authors.

Susan said...

Well, obviously I added an "and" that didn't need to be there. He wrote the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain with his partner Diana Ossana. Sheesh.

Jeanie said...

Oh, Ruth -- do you feel better for coming clean? I'm so very glad you didn't DeNiro him! But these are such wonderful stories, and if I had his email address, I'd send him your post -- it's something he should read. We never know how we affect those we never see -- he should know this! I feel warm and toasty inside. Thanks.

Ruth said...

Cool, Dutchbaby! The film class sounds great. I'd love to hear what you will watch. We recently rewatched Strangers on a Train.

Ruth said...

Wow, Susie, you know a lot about Larry McCurtry. And I did not know about the Brokeback Mountain screenplay or Proulx's short story. :|

Ruth said...

Jeanie, thank you! I wished I could email him too.

J.G. said...

Duvall is also great in A Civil Action and The Natural. He's one of those actors who improves every scene he's in.

Ruth said...

Oh, J.G., I didn't remember that he is in those two movies!

Dream World said...

Beautiful Blog
Visit My Blog::
Indian Temples Photos
http://indiantemplesphotos.blogspot.com/