ROBERT DUVALL


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Robert Duvall was born in San Diego, California in 1931, and I don't think I know of another actor who took such a long slow road to becoming a leading actor and star, and in Duvall's case it certainly wasn't caused by lack of talent or lack of trying! He served in the Army after graduating college, and after that he went to The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City and as luck would have it, his roommate was unknown actor Dustin Hoffman, and the two of them hung out with fellow unknown actor Gene Hackman! Three of the finest American actors ever just happened to be brought together by chance. Duvall got a part in a play by Horton Foote, and when Foote wrote the screenplay for the movie of To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962, he remembered Duvall and helped get him cast in the role of Boo Radley, which was essentially Duvall's debut in movies. But like Hoffman and Hackman, Duvall could not get many film roles as none of the three fit the mold of conventional leading men (a stereotype that would not break down until the late 1960s)., and he spent most of the 1960s doing mainly television, Duvall did far more TV than Hackman or Hoffman, and he made over 50 TV appearances in the 1960s, showing up on just about every drama of that time (he was especially memorable in the episode of The Twilight Zone as the man obsessed with the doll house). By the late 1960s he was starting to get decent supporting roles in movies (John Wayne kills him at the end of True Grit), and in 1969 director Francis Ford Coppola cast him in an important role in The Rain People, opposite Jame Caan and Shirley Knight. The following year Duvall had a major role in a commercial success, as Major Frank Burns in Robert Altman's MASH, and the year after that he played the lead in George Lucas' first movie, THX 1138. His most memorable role came the following year when Francis Ford Coppola cast him as Tom Hagan in The Godfather (nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for this film). Duvall was now 41 years old, and he was clearly one of the premier character actors. He spent the rest of the 1970s turning in great supporting performances in movies like The Godfather Part II and Network, and he had his greatest supporting role as crazy Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore in Apocalypse Now (nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for this film), surely one of the most memorable performances ever (and how he did not win the Oscar for that performance still astounds me!). But few casting directors would have then considered Duvall for leading man roles, except in the quirkiest "oddball" movies, and yet in the same year he appeared in Apocalypse Now! He also starred as Lt. Col. 'Bull' Meechum in The Great Santini (nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for this film), and gave a sensational lead performance. He followed two years later as washed up alcoholic country western singer Mac Sledge in Tender Mercies, and he FINALLY won an Oscar for that role. He continued to make great movie appearances throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and was especially memorable in the Lonesome Dove TV mini-series. He still remains active in movies, and adds much to whatever he appears in. Some of his other movies include: A Civil Action (nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for this film), The Apostle (nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for this film), and The Judge (nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for this film). The greatest directors of the 1960s recognized his amazing talents long before the rest of the world did, but today just about everyone sees Robert Duvall as one of the finest movie actors ever. As of 2020, he is still alive at the age of 89!
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