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Robert Duvall

Robert Duvall



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Also Known As: Robert Selden Duvall Died:
Born: January 5, 1931 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: San Diego, California, USA Profession: actor, producer, director, screenwriter, songwriter, restaurant owner, postal clerk, dishwasher, truck driver


Widely hailed as one of the greatest actors of his generation, Robert Duvall was something of a late bloomer in Hollywood. Making his acclaimed debut at 31 years old as Arthur "Boo" Radley in "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962), Duvall was a decade older when he played Tom Hagen, valued consigliere and adopted son of Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) in "The Godfather" (1972) and "The Godfather, Part II" (1974). While not exactly matinee idol material, he unquestionably possessed a wide range that allowed him to play bullying corporate executive Frank Hackett in "Network" (1976), self-determined surfing fanatic Col. Kilgore in "Apocalypse Now" (1979), and hard-nosed Marine officer Bull Meechum in "The Great Santini" (1979). In the following decade, he won an Oscar for his performance as a washed-up country singer in "Tender Mercies" (1983), before playing a sportswriter in "The Natural" (1984) and a veteran cop in "Colors" (1988). On television, Duvall earned awards for turns as Gus McRae in "Lonesome Dove" (CBS, 1989) and Joseph Stalin in "Stalin" (HBO, 1992), though he stepped back into supporting roles on film with "Sling Blade" (1996). He earned acclaim for directing "The Apostle" (1997), while turns...

Widely hailed as one of the greatest actors of his generation, Robert Duvall was something of a late bloomer in Hollywood. Making his acclaimed debut at 31 years old as Arthur "Boo" Radley in "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962), Duvall was a decade older when he played Tom Hagen, valued consigliere and adopted son of Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) in "The Godfather" (1972) and "The Godfather, Part II" (1974). While not exactly matinee idol material, he unquestionably possessed a wide range that allowed him to play bullying corporate executive Frank Hackett in "Network" (1976), self-determined surfing fanatic Col. Kilgore in "Apocalypse Now" (1979), and hard-nosed Marine officer Bull Meechum in "The Great Santini" (1979). In the following decade, he won an Oscar for his performance as a washed-up country singer in "Tender Mercies" (1983), before playing a sportswriter in "The Natural" (1984) and a veteran cop in "Colors" (1988). On television, Duvall earned awards for turns as Gus McRae in "Lonesome Dove" (CBS, 1989) and Joseph Stalin in "Stalin" (HBO, 1992), though he stepped back into supporting roles on film with "Sling Blade" (1996). He earned acclaim for directing "The Apostle" (1997), while turns in the Westerns "Open Range" (2003) and "Broken Trail" (AMC, 2006) only bolstered his reputation. Still in great demand well into his seventies, Duvall showed no signs of slowing down well into the new millennium.

Born in San Diego, CA on Jan. 5, 1931, Robert Selden Duvall was raised in Annapolis, MD. The son of a Navy admiral, Duvall served in the U.S. Army and later drew from this background for such performances as Kilgore in "Apocalypse Now" (1979) and career military man Bull Meecham in "The Great Santini" (1979). Duvall would also use his early experiences to inform a wide variety of Southern parts - an affinity perhaps owing to his father's Virginia roots - beginning with Boo Radley. During the mid-1950s, Duvall gravitated to New York City, where he appeared off-Broadway in Horton Foote's one-act play, "The Midnight Caller" (1958) - the first of his many associations with the playwright. Duvall also acted in an acclaimed off-Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's "A View from the Bridge" (1965). Duvall began acting on television in the early 1960s, racking up guest shots on series like "The Outer Limits" (ABC, 1963-65), "The Twilight Zone" (CBS, 1959-1964), "Route 66" (CBS, 1960-64) and "The Defenders" (CBS, 1961-65). Having gained a solid reputation by the late 1960s, Duvall closed out the decade with two notable performances. The first was as the unpredictable Ned Pepper in "True Grit" (1969), regarded by many as the definitive John Wayne Western. That same year, Duvall earned kudos for his performance in Francis Ford Coppola's drama, "The Rain People" (1969), marking the first of five collaborations between the actor and filmmaker.

Duvall continued to challenge himself with unusual roles through much of the 1970s. Having portrayed an astronaut in director Robert Altman's "Countdown" (1968), Duvall reunited with the director for "M*A*S*H" (1970), a cutting anti-war dramedy set in Korea. As super pious surgeon Major Frank Burns, Duvall showed off his formidable comedic chops, invoking flashes of brilliance not seen since his villainous turn in "True Grit." The following year, Duvall gave one of his most unusual performances as the title character in George Lucas' feature directing debut, "THX 1138" (1971). Though the Orwellian sci-fi thriller did poorly in its initial release, the film was later reevaluated in a more positive light. Duvall's next project was the Horton Foote-scripted "Tomorrow" (1972), regarded by many as the best film adaptation of a William Faulkner work. The story of a handyman who falls for an abandoned pregnant woman (Olga Bellin), "Tomorrow" garnered respectful reviews, but little business. Bigger things awaited the actor, however.

In late 1971, director Francis Ford Coppola tapped Duvall for the part of Tom Hagen, the loyal Corleone family consigliere in "The Godfather" (1972). One of Duvall's best-known roles, Tom Hagen was an instrumental part of Mario Puzo's story. Masterfully underplayed, yet powerfully effective, Duvall's character would be fleshed out significantly in "The Godfather: Part II" (1974). Released just two years after, the sequel picked up where the original left off, continuing Puzo's inter-generational family saga. Interestingly, when Paramount greenlit "The Godfather: Part III" (1990) some 16 years later, Duvall was naturally expected to participate. When he and the studio were unable to come to terms over salary, however, the character of Tom Hagen was regrettably dropped from the final script. Although financial issues led Duvall to pass on appearing in the less than operatic "Part III," the actor did join former co-stars Marlon Brando and James Caan in reprising their characters vocally for the 2006 video game "The Godfather: The Game."

Professionally speaking, Duvall truly came into his own as an actor towards the late 1970s and early 1980s. Already considered one of Hollywood's top supporting actors by that point, Duvall left his indelible mark on a number of superior films. In 1979, the actor gave a tour-de-force performance as the sadistic Lt. Col. Bull Meechum in the film adaptation of Pat Conroy's "The Great Santini." Nominated for two Oscars, the film successfully re-energized Duvall's career. Later that same year, Duvall appeared as the gung-ho surfing enthusiast/battlefield warrior Colonel Kilgore in Francis Ford Coppola's epic war drama, "Apocalypse Now" (1979). Though his part was relatively small, Duvall would deliver one of modern cinema's most memorable lines: "I love the smell of napalm in the morning smells like victory." However, it was not until the Oscar-winning "Tender Mercies" (1983) that the actor's talents would formally be recognized. Delivering a career performance as faded country singer Mac Sledge, Duvall perfectly captured the pain, heartache and despair of a once beloved entertainer. One of the best films of the year, "Tender Mercies" deservedly received two Oscars, including one for Duvall for Best Actor.

While the Eighties boasted some of Duvall's finest work, the following decade was somewhat of a mixed bag for the actor, artistically speaking. Settling into an increasingly familiar role as the mentor-cum-wizened father figure, Duvall breezed through a series of high-budget movies playing broad variations of the same character. While none of these films - among them: "Days of Thunder" (1990), "The Paper" (1993), "Falling Down" (1994), "Phenomenon" (1995), "The Gingerbread Man" (1998) and "Deep Impact" (1998) - offered much in the way of challenge, they did, at least, insure the actor lifelong financial security. Par for the course, Duvall's presence actually elevated some of these films to undeserved heights. His performance as a slick corporate legal counsel in the merely adequate "A Civil Action" (1998), for example, earned the film its highest notices. One of the rare exceptions to this rule, though, was "The Apostle" (1997) - a pet project that Duvall had tried to get off the ground for over a decade. Written by, directed by and starring Duvall, "The Apostle" told the tale of a fallen preacher (Duvall) who, through a course of deceptive practices, ultimately finds unexpected redemption. Boasting fine supporting performances from Farrah Fawcett, Miranda Richardson and Billy Bob Thornton, "The Apostle" was a huge critical hit and earned Duvall yet another Best Actor Oscar nomination. As his film career peaked, Duvall returned to television periodically. Among his triumphs was his Emmy-nominated portrayal of retired Texas Ranger Captain Augustus 'Gus' McCrae in the TV miniseries adaptation of Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" (CBS, 1989).

Duvall's output remained prolific - if a bit uninspired - as he entered the new millennium. Following a lengthy hiatus, Duvall returned with a splash in "Gone In 60 Seconds" (2000) - a high budget, high-octane spectacle starring Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie. Later that year, Duvall popped up again in another lucrative, but otherwise unchallenging role as a cloning scientist in Arnold Schwarzenegger's "The 6th Day" (2000). He also added his distinctive gravitas to his role as a seasoned police negotiator in the over-earnest populist drama, "John Q" (2000), starring Denzel Washington. Duvall did, however, manage to land one of his more distinguished roles of the era as legendary Confederate general Robert E. Lee in "Gods and Generals" (2003) - the prequel to the acclaimed novel and film "Gettysburg" (1993).

Continuing his efforts behind the camera, Duvall again took center stage as star, writer, producer and director of his next project, the crime drama, "Assassination Tango" (2002). Co-produced by his "Godfather" collaborator, Francis Ford Coppola, the film was notable for its clever incorporation of one of Duvall's passions - Argentinean tango dancing - into the plot. Giving another finely etched performance, Duvall played an aging, paranoid, dance-loving hit man in this offbeat film. More acting jobs followed. In 2004, Duvall teamed with Michael Caine for "Secondhand Lions," a sentimental tale of two eccentric uncles who take in their neglected young nephew (Haley Joel Osment) for a summer. Duvall subsequently called upon his estimable comedic chops to play Will Ferrell's win-at-all-costs father in "Kicking & Screaming" (2005). In "Thank You for Smoking" (2006), Jason Reitman's satirical look at the world of spin doctoring; Duvall played a millionaire owner of a tobacco company dying of lung cancer, who sends his best lobbyist (Aaron Eckhart) to convince Hollywood moguls to put more smoking back into movies.

Later in 2006, Duvall found himself back in familiar territory when he starred the Western "Broken Trail" (AMC, 2005-06), a two-part miniseries about an old cowboy (Duvall) and his nephew (Thomas Haden Church) who come across five Chinese women kidnapped from their home and sold into sexual slavery seeking to find safe haven from their captors. Duvall earned yet another Golden Globe Award nomination, this time for Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie. In 2007, Duvall returned before the cameras for a supporting role in director Curtis Hanson's poker-themed family drama, "Lucky You," giving a powerful performance as L.C. Cheever, the estranged father of Eric Bana's character, hotshot poker player Huck Cheever. When father and son face off against each other in the film's climax, it is as opponents at the world-famous World Series of Poker championship.Meanwhile, the accolades continued for his performance in "Broken Trail." Duvall earned an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, the first-ever win in his long, venerable career. Later in the evening, Duvall took the Emmy stage a second time to accept the award for Outstanding Miniseries on behalf of the producers.

Showing no signs of slowing down - sometimes at the expense of participating in less than stellar projects - Duvall made an appearance as the emotionally distant, excessively macho dad of Vince Vaughn in the miserable holiday comedy "Four Christmases" (2008). He redeemed himself the following year with a small but devastating turn in the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's bleak post-apocalyptic journey, "The Road" (2009). In the story of a father and son (Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee) on a desperate struggle for survival, Duvall's cameo of a 90-year-old dying man who is looking for his own son, was one of the more heart-wrenching moments of an already emotionally brutal film. That same year, Duvall delivered another quietly eloquent performance as a concerned friend trying to steer Jeff Bridges' washed-up country singer toward the path to redemption in the critically lauded "Crazy Heart" (2009). The nearly 80-year-old actor followed with a leading role in the little seen, but highly regarded independent drama, "Get Low" (2010). Alongside Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray, Duvall's portrayal of a curmudgeonly hermit in 1930s Tennessee who decides to throw himself a "funeral party" while he is still alive earned the veteran actor a Screen Actors Guild Award nod. From there, he played Russian General Petrov in "Hemingway & Gellhorn" (HBO, 2012), starring Clive Owen as Ernest Hemingway and Nicole Kidman as his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, and followed that with a supporting turn as a former U.S. Marine who operates a shooting range in the action thriller, "Jack Reacher" (2012), which featured Tom Cruise as the titular former military M.P.-turned-vigilante. Duvall next starred in the drama "A Night in Old Mexico" (2013), followed by a turn opposite Robert Downey Jr. in the title role of the legal drama "The Judge" (2014).


Filmographyclose complete filmography


  Wild Horses (2015)
  Apostle, The (1997) Director
  We're Not the Jet Set (1975) Director

CAST: (feature film)

 Widows (2018)
 Wild Horses (2015)
 Judge, The (2014)
 Casting By (2013)
 Jack Reacher (2012)

Milestones close milestones

Cast as Eric Bana's father in "Lucky You"
Co-starred with Sean Penn as Los Angeles street cops assigned to gang detail in "Colors"
Earned rave reviews for his portrayal of television executive Frank Hackett in Sidney Lumet's "Network"
Featured as the gung ho Lt. Col. Kilgore in Coppola's Vietnam epic "Apocalypse Now"; earned second Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor
Moved to NYC to study acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse
Played Capt. Paul Cabot Winston in "Captain Newman, M.D."
Portrayed General Robert E. Lee in the Civil War drama "Gods and Generals"
Portrayed Major Frank Burns in Altman's "M*A*S*H"
Received critical acclaim for writing, directing, and starring as a Pentecostal Christian preacher in "The Apostle"; earned an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay, and SAG and Oscar nominations for Best Actor
Returned to Broadway to appear as Walter Cole in David Mamet's "American Buffalo"
Starred in the original Broadway production of "Wait Until Dark"
Wrote, produced, directed, and starred in the drama "Assassination Tango"
Co-starred in "A Civil Action" as the opposing counsel to John Travolta; earned sixth career Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor
Acted in Coppola's "The Conversation"; first film with friend Gene Hackman
Co-starred in Altman's "The Gingerbread Man"
Co-starred with Robert De Niro for "True Confessions"
First film with Marlon Brando, "The Chase"; adapted from Foote's story and play
First teamed with Billy Bob Thornton for "The Stars Fell on Henrietta"
Gained notice for his performance of Eddie in Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge"; Dustin Hoffman was the assistant director
Played supporting role in "Crazy Heart," starring Jeff Bridges in his Oscar-winning role
Made a cameo appearance as Karl Childers' father in "Sling Blade"; starred Billy Bob Thornton, who also wrote and directed
Played an old, dying man in the feature adaptation of Joe Penhall's novel "The Road"
Played the old nemesis of John Wayne's Marshall 'Rooster' Cogburn in "True Grit"
Played Will Ferrell's father in the comedy "Kicking & Screaming"
Portrayed a hard-nosed military man in "The Great Santini"; earned first Best Actor Academy Award nomination
Produced, co-wrote, and co-starred in "A Shot at Glory"
Re-teamed with Hackman for "Geronimo: An American Legend"
Served two years in the United States Army
Co-starred with Kevin Costner in compelling Western "Open Range"
Documentary film directing debut, "We're Not the Jet Set"
First association with playwright Horton Foote, the NY production of "The Midnight Caller"
First movie with director Robert Altman and actor James Caan, "Countdown"
Last film to date with Caan, "The Killer Elite"
Made feature directing and screenwriting debut with "Angelo, My Love"
Made off-Broadway debut in George Bernard Shaw's "Mrs. Warren's Profession"
Played an aging cowboy in AMC miniseries "Broken Trail"; earned Golden Globe and SAG nominations for Best Actor in a Miniseries
Played the title role in George Lucas' feature directing debut "THX 1138"; executive produced by Coppola
Produced and starred opposite James Earl Jones in "A Family Thing"; co-scripted by Billy Bob Thornton
Initial screen collaboration with director Francis Ford Coppola, "The Rain People"
Made his first television appearance on "Armstrong Circle Theatre" (NBC)
Made his screen debut was as Boo Radley in "To Kill a Mockingbird"; screenplay by Foote
Offered critically acclaimed performance as Consigliere Tom Hagen in "The Godfather"; re-teamed with director Francis Ford Coppola and actors Caan and Brando; earned first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor
Played a tobacco tycoon in Jason Reitman's satirical comedy "Thank You for Smoking"
Played cynical sportswriter Max Mercy in "The Natural"
Played Julia Roberts' straying father in "Something to Talk About"
Played the title role in HBO biopic "Stalin"; nominated for an Emmy Award
Portrayed a handyman who falls in love with an abandoned pregnant woman in "Tomorrow"; screenplay written by Horton Foote
Portrayed Adolph Eichmann in the TNT movie, "The Man Who Captured Eichmann"
Portrayed country Western singer Mac Sledge in Horton Foote's Oscar-winning script "Tender Mercies"; first producing credit and first credit as a song performer
Reprised the role of Tom Hagen for "The Godfather, Part II"
Starred as Gus McRae in CBS miniseries "Lonesome Dove"; earned an Emmy nomination
Supported Clint Eastwood in John Sturges' "Joe Kidd"
Portrayed a backwoods hermit who stages his own premature funeral in "Get Low"
Received star on Hollywood Walk of Fame
Played a Russian general in HBO romantic drama "Hemingway & Gellhorn"
Cast opposite Tom Cruise in action drama "Jack Reacher"


The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre: New York, New York -
The Principia School: St. Louis, Missouri -
Principia College: Elsah, Illinois - 1953


Duvall claims to be related to Robert E. Lee (way back) on his mother's side. His paternal grandfather's name was Abraham Lincoln Duvall.

"Stripping away artifice--it's the constant standard I aim for in acting, to approximate life. People talk about being bigger than life--but there's nothing bigger than life." --Duvall in Los Angeles Times, December 21, 1993

"Mr. Duvall is a very special actor in that he doesn't have to be noisily [or even quietly] busy to assert his control over character and the audience's attention. The camera sees everything he does, which, when one tries to describe it, seems to be nothing at at all. The behavior becomes somehow riveting." --Vincent Canby in his The New York Times review of "Convicts", December 6, 1991

"You're always looking for a way into the part. I've always remembered something Sanford Meisner, my acting teacher, told us. When you create a character, it's like making a chair, except instead of making someting out of wood, you make it out of yourself. That's the actor's craft--using yourself to create a character." --Robert Duvall to Los Angeles Times, March 18, 1998

On his auteur turn with "The Apostle": "It's been accepted by the secular hip community--the film people--and by the religious people as well [Billy Graham called it 'a compass pointing toward the 21st century'], and they're the toughest. I feel I'm a better person for making the movie; there's a certain sense of accomplishment that maybe I've made something that matters." --Robert Duvall to the London Times, June 3, 1998

"You smell that? Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning. D'you know, one time we had a hail bomb, for 12 hours. When it was all over I walked up ... we didn't find one of 'em, not one stinking dead body. The smell. You know that, that gasoline smell? The whole hill. Smells like ... victory." --Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore [Duvall] from "Apocalypse Now"

About the experience: " ... 'Apocalypse Now' took so long to come out, it was almost anticlimactic when it did. [Coppola] left a scene out, which I felt made it more complete: I save a baby's life. I've killed the parents, and I send it back in my helicopter to be dealt with at the hospital. Then for some reason they cut it out. Maybe in a longer version it'll be back in again." --Duvall to Empire. July 1998

Companions close complete companion listing

Barbara Benjamin. Designer. Married in 1964; divorced.
Lindsay Crouse. Actor. Involved in the 1970s.
Gail Youngs. Actor. Married in 1982; divorced in 1986; sister of actor John Savage; associate producer and 2nd unit director for Duvall's "Angelo, My Love".
Sharon Brophy. Dance instructor. Married on May 1, 1991; separated in 1995.
Luciana Pedraza. Equestrian, events planner. Together as of late 1996; Argentine; manages the restaurant he bought near his estate in Virginia; born c. 1972, she shares the same birthday as Duvall.

Family close complete family listing

William Howard Duvall. Military officer. Former US Navy admiral.
Nancy Horne.

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