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Robert Duvall | In The Saddle.... Again
an emily blunt interview




Robert Duvall is high on my top actors/addictions list — He's in the dvd desert island collection deal. You know if you were stuck on a desert isle…Depp, Lemmon, Cagney, Duvall, Deniro, Spacey, Hepburn, Cusack, Hanks and Hoffman. Or you may as well feed me to the fishes, see. So when I had the chance to interview him again (we met for his Assassination Tango too)
I said, " Duh.Yeah!"

Mr. Talent has been in like 150 films each time he brings a delightful realness to his characters. In Kevin Costner's beautiful film, Open Range Bobby (after talking with him once it's now "Bobby") plays Boss, a gritty cowboy with a moral code as deep as the Baikal.

Boss is the usual Duvall character; richly drawn, a river of emotion beneath the façade and un- categorizable. Open Range is an old fashioned cowboy movie, and in the hands of a lesser talent, could have been an old fashioned cookie-cutter cowboy movie. But Duvall exudes some kind of American aura - and the purrfect cowboy. He along with the whole impeccable cast of talents, created one helluva film.

This time he talked about the Open Range, his favorite Westerns, Apocalyse Now, the differences of acting style between him and Marlon "boom-boom" Brando, and his matador clad wife…what fun.

Emily: Hi Mr. Duvall.

Bobby: Bobby.

Emily: Bobby. Love the film. With Boss from script to screen what did you add to the character and did Kevin give you anything to add?

Bobby: Yeah, I had a few things and he would add things but it was a very well written script.

Emily: Kevin described Boss as a "hard man," is that how you see him?

Bobby: That's a word you use in Scotland - he's a hard man. Yeah, he's a hard man but he has other sides to him. As we did it, I saw imperceptivity; a lightness coming into him so without going for it in an obvious way. There was humor that came into the guy. These guys do have humor although these Western, cowboy types are hard types. I was around some of them this past weekend in Texas going through there and it's part of the American culture I think, those guys. Their humor is different and I tried to find that humor just to offset the hardness because you can't be all one thing.
[Aha! The secret to acting there kids! Anger does not equal yelling and love does not equal cooing…of course I am paraphrasing]

Emily: The men in this film displayed a strong loyalty to each other. How do you display loyalty to the people in your personal life?

Bobby: I think we're loyal but we criticize each other a lot. I always say even my mother talked behind my back to a degree. There are degrees of gossip. There are also fights within families, fights amongst countries - it's human nature, I think. But there's also loyalty there - a fierce loyalty is when an outsider comes in and tries to invade that private circle. There's a guy I always wanted to meet and I did when I was in Texas the other day - Buster Welch. He was the foremost cutting horse rider in the world. He's about my age. He said his ranch backs up to this guy's Sammy Wall - he used to be a quarterback for the Washington Redskins who I actually went to see years ago to get some stuff when I played in Lonesome Dove. He lived in the middle of nowhere in godforsaken country! [laughter] He said about 25 years ago, that Sammy wrote an IOU to him for $51,000 for cattle and shook hands on it. When time came to pay, bam, he got the $51,000. So that's the way it was 100 years ago, I think, a handshake. That's the kind of people they were. I mean you don't do that in the oil business in Texas (laugh), I don't think. But there are still some people left like that - not many.

Emily: That's so true. Shame. Do you think the straw that broke Boss' calm back was after the bad guys killed Moze, Boss says `you killed my dog too? Saying these men are just without respect for innocent life?

Bobby: It was interesting because when we filmed that, I had a bit of an emotional moment when I said `they shot our dog too'. I didn't say it when they shot him, but when they shot the dog. So I guess that was the thing that broke the camel's back. They went after everybody including our dog so that's our whole family and that's when vengeance set in. I think it shows the different types of evil too.

Emily: If someone would stoop that low, now we can go with you so that we're with you and want you to kill them.

Bobby: Exactly! Plus he killed the big guy. It's the white guys against the white guys with the freegrazing thing. Boss had to go for broke and make things right figuring he doesn't have that much longer to live.

Emily: The gunfight was very intense. What were the challenges in shooting that?

Bobby: Kevin had choreographed it so it's just working it out. It was a minimum of 2 weeks shooting it and I think it's about 10-15 minutes on screen. It was a patient thing - by the numbers and stunts; to keep it fresh and alive over and over again. It's a Western so you have to have a shoot-em-up! [laughter]

Emily: Do you have a special love of Westerns?

Bobby: I like them but I like other things too. It's something that I feel whatever wisdom that I have, I can put into that going back to the days when I was 13 or 14 years old, my uncle's ranch in Northern Montana. I went there for the summers and worked the cattle. There's always those things that go into the ingredient and it's been in my past. English have Shakespeare, the French have Alexander Dumas, the Russians have Chekov, but the Westerns are ours. That's our thing that we own and we're really the best at it. I guess I'm a part of that because in my own way, I'm a patriotic guy and proud of my country. And that's part of our culture.

Emily: Can you talk about the dealing with vengeance that Boss has and since he's very determined to take revenge, but at the same time, he's continually cautioning Charlie not to kill….

Bobby: Well, random killing, that anarchy thing? There's no justification just going around shooting but if there's a specific reason, it's more a legitimate eye for an eye - I don't know if that's the right thing to say.

Emily: Was that something that was explicit in the script?

Bobby: I think it was in the script. We just went with it. But violence goes all over the world - then, now and always will be.

Emily: Good point. So, what are some of your favorite Westerns?

Bobby: Lonesome Dove - I loved that. I saw five minutes of The Searchers and thought it was pretty corny and people said that was a great Western. John Ford was a wonderful director but back then, they used Italians and Armenians to play Indians. Now with Dances of Wolves, they use native Indians who are good actors. To show the difference between the old Hollywood concept to now, wow! People disagree, but I thought what Billy Bob did in All The Pretty Horses, was fantastic. It didn't go anywhere. Kevin said to me he liked part of it and asked what I liked and I said I liked all of it. Probably the 3-hour version would have been better than how it was cut. I don't know the novel; I only read part of it. I liked Red River. And The Shootist and John Wayne - oh god, was he terrific! All that stuff he did before, he really connected on this. I think he was dying of cancer at that point. And The Grey Fox - Farnsworth was brilliant.

Emily: Can you understand the rancher's point of view about freegrazers? They just wanted to "protect their own"?

Bobby: Well, there was no fencing. I don't think they owned it. It was kind of like government land but some guy would say OK, this is mine. On my uncle's ranch, they said they would up to the hills of Montana near the Canadian border - and a guy would go up at the turn of the century and said OK, all the land from there as far as you can see to there, is mine. He'd lay down an informal fence and that's where they'd graze their cattle. But there could be obstructions - Indians, other white guys… Pre fencing days and barbed wire, I think, is like public land. Some people would lay claim to it and when these smaller guys come in, they get rid of it. But in a way, the smaller guy has just as a right to it too because it's not deeded land. The corruption being like it is all over the world today and always was, that this town is owned by this guy and everyone is on the payroll.

Emily: I loved the wild flooding scene -Can you tell me a little behind the scenes?

Bobby: When we first saw this town which was built, they had this long narrow gulley built the whole length of the town and had put in pipes for the water. When we did the scene at night, which is hard to work at night w/the water, they had 3 dogs who looked alike and they were all trained to go down and he'd grab them. He'd say Action! And the dog would go one way. And he'd say Cut! The next dog would go this way [laughter] and finally one dog went the right way so he could grab it as if it was being drawn to his destruction. We worked at night with the wind machines, rain machines and that water they'd turn on. Did it look pretty good?

Emily: Oh yeah. Completely real.

Bobby: Those special effects guys are amazing.

Emily: If you lived back in those days would you have preferred being a saloonkeeper or freegrazer?

Bobby: Wow, neither. Probably a freegrazer more. But I liked when they ended up in a small house at the end of town still had horses and some cattle and didn't have to sleep on the ground for 10 months of the year. They said on those cattle drives, which only lasted 20 years of our history, the biggest thing was lack of sleep. They couldn't get a good night's sleep. [laughter]

Emily: What's been your most challenging film to date?

Bobby: Playing Joseph Stalin. Being there with the changeover and the residue of what was left of the political party. It was tough. It was interesting. The first 2 weeks in Budapest, Hungary was very nice. The other 7 weeks in Moscow were pretty dark.

Emily: What were your thoughts of the Apocalypse Now redo that came out?

Bobby: Well I liked it because it made my part a little better. But I was showing my tango film at a festival about 2 months ago in Sicily and that's where they showed it at an old Greek theater 100s years old with 4,000 people under the stars and when they showed it, they said that when all that napalm went off behind my character, Mt. Aetna erupted simultaneously.

Emily: Is there another movie or project coming up that you'd like to do?

Bobby: Not right now. I don't have anything right now I'd like to do but I'd like to find some. I'm working on a few documentaries. Luciana's [his wife] doing one on Billie Jo Shaver, the country singer and one on this great speech therapist, Bob Easton. After Sicily and Italy, we went to Spain and you know how you just take photographs and videos, so I decided let's make a documentary. There's only about 25 guys in the world who fight and kill the bull from a horse - it's unbelievable. So Luciana and I made this little documentary. Luciana dressed up as a matador and she rode out with these 2 bullfighters and they dropped this key from way up in their hat and she brings it back and it's the key that opens the door for the first bull. So we did a documentary just to do it. Well, of course, Jimmy Caan left me a message saying he had already done that in Mexico - he's always ahead of you (laugh). I call him Allstate Everything. He's a funny guy - he'll try anything. Do you know that country singer?

Emily: Yes.

Bobby: What an interesting guy. Willie Nelson calls him the best songwriter alive. He's a crazy, wild guy. He married the same woman 3 times and then she died, his mother died and his son died all in one year. Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash - they've recorded his songs. Documentaries are great. I learn about acting from them all the time - behavior.

Emily: I love documentaries.

Bobby: I like to watch them for my acting. I think Brando used to watch Candid Camera (laugh) to see real behavior. When I did The Chase with him and he's like Action, [takes on a Brando accent and does a Brando mumble] Cut! It's all the same. There's no beginning, it's all one thing. So I tried to learn that from him way back when I was younger.

Emily: What was it like working with him on The Godfather?

Bobby: We had some fun. [laughter] I haven't talked to him in awhile maybe 3 years, but he's still trying to remember a joke that Jimmy Caan told 25 years ago. [laughter].

Not as much fun as me sipping tea with an acting legend I'll bet… Man, I could sit all day with this guy. He reminds me of a family member- so comfortable - I'm sure most people feel that way with Mr. Duvall he's just a warm open likable guy - with extreme talent of course.


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