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Bev Cohn: Robert Duvall

Robert Duvall
An Actor for All Times
By Beverly Cohn

Robert Duvall
Credit: Courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures

obert Duvall is a national treasure. 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 you’re eyes are glued to the screen.

Robert Duvall with Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart Credit: Courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures

Traveling Boy: 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.

TB: 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.

TB: What did you like about your part in "Crazy Heart"?

Duvall: It was just a part. I jumped in and did it.

TB: Beautifully.

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.)

TB: Did the “doctor” do Argentine Tango?

Duvall: No, but he’s a very good Salsa dancer. (laughter)

TB: 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.

TB: 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.

TB: 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.

TB: Thank you for helping make this fabulous film and best of luck during the upcoming award season.

Duvall: Thanks a lot.

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Let Bev know what you think about her traveling adventure.

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Thanks so much for those lovely tourism photos, especially of Ireland. I certainly enjoyed all the places you suggested, and am working towards my next vacation. Don’t forget Cuba. That’s an exciting place.

Rosalie, Los Angeles

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Enjoyed your article on Mira Sorvino. Such an interesting background – family, education, career and now human rights activist. I'm not a gossip mag fan so getting more meaty news about movie celebrities from you gives me hope that there are some inteligent life forms in Hollywood.

Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA

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Thank you, Bev. This reminded me to go see the movie, "An Education," which I had already almost forgotten about, having seen the preview a few weeks ago. I enjoy this actress quite a bit--she has a uniqueness about her and she pulls me in. I enjoyed this.

Sandeee, Seattle, WA

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Thank you Beverly,I really enjoyed reading about your intimate conversation with Forest, of whom I am a great admirer. I look forward to seeing the film "Our Family Wedding."

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

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Thank you for the sending me the beautiful article you wrote about Ireland. We will use your recomendations for hotels in the Southern part. We plan to also go to Dublin and some other Northern cities so I will get some recommendations for these from others. After reading your article, I am getting more excited about going. I think we will be in Ireland for 8 days altogether.

Leah Mendelsohn, Santa Monica, CA

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Very much enjoyed Ms. Cohn's article about Munich, especially the visuals. Though it has been 25 years since my last visit, the piece brought back countless pleasant memories of the city and the people!! Many thanks.

Lawrence, Los Angeles

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Marianplatz and that general area is truly one of the best Christmas celebrations in the world. Between that and Oktoberfest (which I can only imagine) Munich is one of the greatest cities in the world for major annual events.

Christopher Dale, New York, NY

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Hi Bev, you have done some wonderful pieces on some great celebs...Great work. The travel articles are just wonderful too.

Scott Mueller, Huntington Beach, CA

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Your great Zurich article makes me want to go there for the holidays! I love the photos, too, especially the ones of you in the sleigh, the view over the houses and the zoo!

Anna Marie, Santa Monica, CA

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Lovely article! As a European, and having been to Zurich (albeit in summer) I can vouch for this lovely city. Great pictures, too!

Helene Robins, Santa Monica, CA

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Hi Bev,

Nice review, nice seeing you, nice website interface "...Talk to Bev" - Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Richard D. Kaye, Marina del Rey, CA

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Hi Bev,

Your interview with John Cusack is very interesting. I always wondered why these actors/actresses always get top billing when really, if you think about it, the real work come from the animators, writers and tech whizzes who spend far more hours on the movie than those actors. I know, I know, it's the all about marketing. The names of these actors are what bring in the big bucks. Still, I think these actors are way overpaid for the "little" that they do.

I remember that once upon a time, the early animation classics never mentioned the voices behind the characters. I think it was only later when Walt Disney tapped into the voices of known celebrities like Walter Matthau in the Jungle Book or Zsa Zsa Gabor in The Rescuers that the voices became a marketing magnet.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy your interviews as you peer into the lives of the Hollywood celebrities.

Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA

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