Duvall | Tango For Two
an emily blunt
Duvall is a legendary actor- he's also one helluva regular Joe
that exudes tough guy with a glance. Unlike his film personas
( that number in the hundreds) the real Robert is far from the
type of guy that hides in the shadows of society; lurking, plotting,
planning. Or the type that would scream from a typed list - double
spaced - two inches from your face detailing your erroneous preparation
of pancakes. Yeah, he has that big blue meany ''look." And
why not? In real life his father was Navy and he himself is an
exsoldier (who funded his dramatic studies with the G.I Bill)
I suppose one could get an uneasy feeling sitting down in front
of him remembering all his infamous deliveries of some of the
biz's sternest or attitude riddled characters hell bent on their
objective being THE objective - but remember that's the
movies. I find most of the greats are polar opposites from the
characters we've grown to love. And it's the actors like Mr. Duvall
that remind you what being a great actor is all about.
real Bobby is a twinkle-eyed chronic smiler that is crazy about
Tango and beams about his beautiful bride Luciana Pedraza, even
after seven years of union, like a kid that got greenlit to the
prom. He can weave among the high rollers or slink into Argentinean
dives others would chill at. He lives life with gusto and passion.
One of the greatest perks of this shindig is meeting the folks
I admire...Kevin Spacey, Willem DaFoe, Catherine Keener and so
on...I was estatic as Mr. Duvall sat down and chatted with me
about his new film Assassination Tango, well more about his love
Your frequent flyer miles are in the millions - thanks to your
love of Argentina. What is it about Argentina in particular that
has grabbed your heart?
The life on the street. The nightlife! It's 300am in the morning
and there's thousands of people in the streets; in the coffee
shops, in the restaurants. It's more of a late night society than
the states. I like that. It has certain feeling. It's great to
walk into a coffee shop any hour and sit and talk. And they have
very good waiters. I mean like the best.
I would love that too. I thought NY was always a treat. So what
came first the idea for Assignation Tango or Argentina?
I guess my little bit of knowledge of Argentina. I originally
went to Argentina for Tango- then I started this project.
How'd you learn about the Tango?
Like a lot of people that saw "Tango Argentina" which
was a commercialized extension of the dance and culture- the clubs
and everything- I saw old guys thin guys young guys fat guys
went to see that as did a lot of people that was good publicity
for the hole dance form. I went to see it a number of times. I
got to know the guys who did the film. I was doing Lonesome Dove
the mini series and they were in town on the same San Antonio
Mexican border. I bumped into them! I followed them around and
they said, "Okay we'll show you a couple of steps."
I'd try a little bit [laughter] they didn't think I was very good.
My ex-wife was a dancer and she'd help and we eventually went
to Argentina. Those "perks" of filming
take you on your way [laughter]. We became like locals. Go to
clubs the concierge doesn't know about. There's a bowery there
were the old-timers and the real Tangos are danced. You know you
have to go back to the basics in these places. They would clear
back the floors and the real old guys
you'd just sit and
watch them walk! Now it's more choreographed. You watch that and
its ethnic beauty to those people. So one thing leads to another
and I went back many many times to Buenos Aires. I like to go.
Even now the movies over I go and get together with the stepfather
of the girl who plays in the film. And this guy may be the one
of the best Tango dancers in the world. We go out. Keep it up
stuff. Luciana [his beautiful wife and co-star] is not into practicing
so much. She's doing two documentary films right now. We are cutting
them at the farm in Virginia. I went to club where they gave this
beautiful exhibition and met a man they called, " Fino"
His people were from Spain way back, and he was bald like me but
he'd wear these terrible hairpieces [laughter]. But that didn't
get in the way of his dancing. When he danced it was like [kisses
he always brought up more
adding. I liked his style. I kept going to see him. I had to learn
from this guy. He may have been the best ever. But he stopped
dancing because of the political situation and after 26 years
only danced at weddings. He tried to get in Tango Argentina, but
because of the big fat guy in it there was too much animosity
and warfare between them and two of them were from the same breed
of Tango I guess the show wouldn't have worked
but man Fino
was great! I heard he danced in front of a bunch of heart specialists
and had a heart attack. He died on the way to the hospital. He
wasn't that old really. He never did any of those fancy "hooks"
never did those all "walks" and "heels" -
but he was so sophisticated and elegant. He was an auto mechanic
by trade. He called it "Tango Luce" the sweet Tango.
He had a rare passion
What makes a great Tango artist?
There's a mathematical thing to it. Maybe that's why the Germans
do it so well. [laughter] They do! It's a continuing thing
infinite thing. Tango is very soothing when you lay in bed at
night. It's a nice hobby- I like it a lot.
Is it a hobby or an addiction? [She asked eyebrow raised
[big grin] Well, a combination.
Was/is Luciana a professional Tango dancer?
No. But she sure could be! She learned because of me
her to Pablo Verone for lessons, who danced at the end of the
movie. And I sent her to Orlando Pago, in Buenos Aires who is
like a teacher from Second City would be to you. He's the guy
with the white hair in the movie?
Yeah. One of the most elegant dancers in the world though he's
not known in Buenos Aires. His style is very different
was also an auto mechanic - get this- in the San Fernando Valley!
[laughter] I don't know what he was doing here
they wouldn't put him in Tango Argentina because he didn't have
an Argentinean partner. I don't know
those are two of my
favorites and I sent Luciana to them. She dances beautiful, especially
with Pablo. If she wanted to she could become a Tango dancer.
In Argentina she won the beauty contest in her region. In Buenos
Aires she won the area for Miss Elegance! They have a big thing
about elegance in Argentina. They wear sweaters over the shoulder
[laughter] we did that what thirty years ago? I got of the plane
once and her father said to her sister, "He got on the same
jacket he had on a year ago!" [laughter] Everything is appearance!
The only thing that is still going up in this economic crunch
is cosmetics. The look. Have you been to Buenos Aires?
No Spain - Costa Del Sol
I have not been there
but Buenos Aires is beautiful filled
with a very bright people. The nightlife. The people are warm
and great cooks. The festivity! The foremost heart specialist
was from Argentina but he shot himself because he couldn't get
funded! A passionate people.
Francis Ford Coppola produced Assassination Tango. How'd that
We would dance socially together - fool around ya know? He always
thought I should do something to do with Tango
and the first
time I saw Tango Argentina there was Francis sitting right over
here [points a couple seats over]. So when I showed him my script
years later it was like full circle. He liked it and had a company
that could do it low budget. He always liked to put Tango in his
movies- a different kind of Tango.
Were you always a dancer at heart?
No [laughter] I'm just a social dancer! [laughter] I mean
mother had a catillion when I was kid. I drove her crazy! We had
to go and bow and ask a girl to dance. I liked it enough. Always
liked Mambo and Swing. And Tango especially is a social dance-
other than what you see on stage. We have a ballroom at my house.
We have barbeques we have country western bands or play salsa
records. We love to do that.
How did Luciana end up as your costar?
We were together and.
well in Buenos Aires they have what
I call a middle class street smarts. [laughter] And she told me
a great story about the cops
a cop stopped her and her sister
at a light. She said you always just agree with them- whatever
they accuse. She knew it was a yellow light- she knew it was lie
that she'd run it
but she said, "Always say yes."
Better to lie. She made up a story on the spot- it's a very corrupt
country- she told him she was on her way to the hospital she had
cancer and was distracted etc etc. She was a natural actor! That
street thing. You're probably great at it! [laughter] being a
city gal. So, she conned her way out of that ticket! And we would
improvise when we first met. She'd say lets practice acting before
dinner. I'd say lets eat! She'd say, "Come on five minutes!
Just five minutes." We'd play house, and do little parts.
Kind of play the acting "game" She was so good at it.
We decided instead of Maria Davis the one who plays the aunt in
the movie and is a top Tango dancer; we'd cast another as my interest.
All the real Tango people know to sit at a table and they are
naturals. And then we called all these Tango dancers for the role
and they were so rude they didn't even return the phone calls!
No! Rude huh? So, they couldn't speak English I didn't know which
way to go
Luciana thought I was thinking of this once actress
that speaks English and who actually did call
she said if
you're thinking of her I'll play the part. [laughter] And it was
decided She worked hard two-three hours a day! She designed her
own costumes. Picked wardrobe at times. I believe in giving freedom.
Since this all one of the top directors called and offered her
a role- she refused she doesn't want to be an actor.
Argentina is still corrupt?
Oh yeah. It's so corrupt there. So much. So many things. The evolution
one general coming in firing all and imprisoning many then the
other coming in and pardoning everyone like a month later. That's
where I got the idea for the general in the film. It's a tough
situation down there. Economically they can only take out a few
dollars a week- and during that whole period the only business
that didn't suffer was cosmetics. They're very much into physical
thing. It's tough down there. It's tough all over the world -
lots of corruption.
Do you Tango when you're here in Los Angeles?
I use to. I use to go to Nora's in the valley. I don't know the
Well, thank you and good luck with your film- it's obviously very
Yeah Tango is almost meditative. It's sweet. The film, I hope,
were pretty much out of time. I could have listened to him for
hours. His passion for his dance and his bride is refreshing.
Duvall's one helluva a guy. He wrote Assassination Tango and of
course directed it and starred in it. I wasn't crazy about the
ending but the film is beautiful. And Luciana sure can dance-
I thought she was an old professional hoofer.