Robert Duvall Biography

Robert Duvall Biography on Monsters and Critics


"Robert Selden Duvall" (born January 5, 1931) is an American actor and director. He has won an Academy Award, two Emmy Awards, and four Golden Globe Awards.

He began his career appearing in theatre during the late 1950s, moving into small to supporting television and film roles during the early 1960s in such works as "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962) and "Captain Newman, M.D." (1963). He started to land much larger roles during the early 1970s with movies like "MASH" (1970) and "THX 1138" (1971). This was followed by a series of critical successes: "The Godfather" (1972), "The Godfather Part II" (1974), "Network" (1976), "The Great Santini" (1979), "Apocalypse Now" (1979), and "True Confessions" (1981).

Since then Duvall has remained an important presence in both film and television with such productions as "Tender Mercies" (1983), "The Natural" (1984), ""Colors"" (1988), "Lonesome Dove" (1989), "Stalin" (1992), "The Man Who Captured Eichmann" (1996), "The Apostle" (1997), "A Civil Action" (1998), "Open Range" (2003) and "Broken Trail" (2006).

Early life

Duvall was born in San Diego, California, the son of Mildred Virginia (née Hart), an amateur actress and relative of American Civil War General Robert E. Lee, and William Howard Duvall, a Virginia-born U.S. Navy admiral. Duvall's father was a Methodist and his mother was a Christian Scientist, and Duvall was reared in the Christian Science religion. Duvall grew up in a military family, living for a time in Annapolis, Maryland, near the United States Naval Academy. He attended Severn School in Severna Park, Maryland and The Principia in St. Louis, Missouri and graduated, in 1953, Principia College in Elsah, Illinois. He served in the United States Army (service number 52 346 646) from 19 August 1953 to 20 August 1954, leaving as Private First Class. While stationed at Camp Gordon (now known as Fort Gordon) in Georgia, Duvall acted in an amateur production of the comedy 'Room Service' in nearby Augusta.

After leaving the Army, Duvall studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre in New York under Sanford Meisner. While working to become an actor, he worked as a Manhattan post office clerk. Duvall is friends with actors Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman whom he knew during their years as struggling actors. At one point, Duvall roomed with Hoffman while they were looking for work.

Early career: 1958-1969

Duvall began his career in the theatre, making his professional debut Off-Broadway at the Gate Theatre as Frank Gardner in George Bernard Shaw's "Mrs. Warren's Profession" on June 25, 1958. Other notable early theatre credits include the role of Doug in the premiere of Michael Shurtleff's "Call Me By My Rightful Name" in 1961 and the role of Bob Smith in the premiere of William Snyder's "The Days and Nights of BeeBee Fenstermaker" in 1962, both at Off-Broadway theatres. He won an Obie Award in 1965 for his performance of Eddie in Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge" at the Sheridan Square Playhouse; a production directed by Ulu Grosbard and Dustin Hoffman. The following year he made his Broadway debut as Harry Roat, Jr in Frederick Knott's "Wait Until Dark".

In 1959, Duvall made his first television appearance on "Armstrong Circle Theatre" in the episode "The Jailbreak". He appeared regularly on television as a guest actor during the 1960s, often in action, suspense, detective, or crime dramas. His appearances during this time include performances on "Alfred Hitchcock Presents", "Naked City", "The Untouchables", "Route 66", "The Twilight Zone", "The Outer Limits", "The Fugitive", "T.H.E. Cat", and "The Mod Squad" to name just a few.

Duvall's screen debut was as Boo Radley in the critically acclaimed "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962). He was cast in the film on the recommendation of screenwriter Horton Foote, who met Duvall at Neighborhood Playhouse during a 1957 production of Foote's play, "The Midnight Caller". Foote, who would collaborate with Duvall many more times over the course of their careers, said he believed Duvall had a particular love of common people and ability to infuse fascinating revelations into his roles. Foote has described Duvall as 'our number one actor.'

After "To Kill a Mockingbird", Duvall appeared in a number of films during the 1960s, mostly in mid sized parts but also in a few larger supporting roles. Some of his more notable appearances include the role of Capt. Paul Cabot Winston in "Captain Newman, M.D." (1963), Chiz in "Countdown" (1968), Gordon in "The Rain People" (1969), and the notorious malefactor 'Lucky' Ned Pepper in "True Grit" (1969), in which he engaged in a climactic shootout with John Wayne's Rooster Cogburn on horseback.

Mid career: 1970-1989

Duvall became an important presence in American films beginning in the 1970s. He drew a considerable amount of attention in 1970 for his portrayal of Major Frank Burns in the film "MASH" and for his portrayal of the title role in the cult classic "THX 1138" in 1971. His first major critical success were came portraying consigliere (family counsel) Tom Hagen in "The Godfather" (1972) and "The Godfather Part II" (1974). The former film earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

He received another Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor and won both a BAFTA Award and Golden Globe Award for his role as Lt. Colonel Kilgore in "Apocalypse Now" (1979). His line 'I love the smell of napalm in the morning' from "Apocalypse Now" is now regarded as iconic in cinema history. The full text is as follows:

Duvall received a BAFTA Award nomination for his portrayal of television executive Frank Hackett in the critically acclaimed film "Network" (1976) and garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role in "The Great Santini" (1979) as the hard-boiled Marine and overbearing parent Lt. Col. 'Bull' Meechum. The latter role was loosely based on a world-famous Marine aviator, Colonel Donald Conroy. He also portrayed United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower is the television miniseries "Ike" (1979).

In 1977 Duvall returned to Broadway to appear as Walter Cole in David Mamet's "American Buffalo". For his performance he received a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Play. To date, Duvall has not returned to the New York stage.

Duvall continued to appear in important films during the 1980s, including the roles of cynical sportswriter Max Mercy in "The Natural" (1984) and Los Angeles police officer Bob Hodges in "Colors" (1988). He won an Oscar for Best Actor as country western singer Mac Sledge in "Tender Mercies" (1983). Foote was rumored to have written the part for Duvall, who had always wanted to play a country singer and contributed ideas for the character. Foote denied this, claiming he found it too constraining to write roles for specific actors, but he did hope Duvall would be cast. Duvall was said to have written the music, but the actor said he wrote only a few 'background, secondary songs.' Duvall did do his own singing, insisting it be added to his contract that he sing the songs himself; Duvall said, 'What's the point if you're not going to do your own (singing)? They're just going to dub somebody else? I mean, there's no point to that.'

Actress Tess Harper, who co-starred, said Duvall inhabited the character so fully that she only got to know Mac Sledge and not Duvall himself. Director Bruce Beresford, too, said the transformation was so believable to him that he could feel his skin crawling up the back of his neck the first day of filming with Duvall. Beresford said of the actor, 'Duvall has the ability to completely inhabit the person he's acting. He totally and utterly becomes that person to a degree which is uncanny.' Nevertheless, Duvall and Beresford did not get along well during the production and often clashed during filming, including one day in which Beresford walked off the set in frustration.

In 1989, Duvall appeared in the landmark mini-series "Lonesome Dove" in the role of Augustus 'Gus' McCrae. He has stated in several forums, including "CBS Sunday Morning", that this particular role was his personal favorite. He won a Golden Globe Award and earned an Emmy Award nomination. For his role as a former Texas Ranger peace officer, Duvall was trained in the use of Walker revolvers by the Texas marksman Joe Bowman.

Later career: 1990-present

Duvall has maintained a busy film career, sometimes appearing in as many as four in one year. He received Oscar nominations for his portrayals of evangelical preacher Euliss 'Sonny' Dewey in "The Apostle" (1997) -- a film he also wrote and directed -- and lawyer Jerome Facher in "A Civil Action" (1998).

He directed "Assassination Tango" (2002), a thriller about one of his favorite hobbies, tango. He portrayed General Robert E. Lee in "Gods and Generals" in 2003 and is actually a relative of the Confederate general.

Other roles during this period that displayed the actor's wide range included that of a retiring cop in "Falling Down" (1992), a Hispanic barber in "Wrestling Ernest Hemingway" (1993), a New York tabloid editor in "The Paper" (1994), a rural doctor in "Phenomenon" (1996), an astronaut in "Deep Impact" (1998), a trail boss in "Open Range" (2003), a soccer coach in the comedy "Kicking & Screaming" (2005), a Las Vegas poker champion in "Lucky You" and a New York police captain in "We Own the Night" (both 2007).

He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on September 18, 2003.

Duvall has periodically worked in television during the last two decades. He won a Golden Globe and garnered an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in the 1992 television movie "Stalin". He was nominated for an Emmy again in 1997 for portraying Adolf Eichmann in "The Man Who Captured Eichmann". In 2006, he won an Emmy for the role of Prentice 'Print' Ritter in the revisionist Western miniseries "Broken Trail".

In 2005, Duvall was awarded a National Medal of Arts by President George W. Bush at the White House.

Personal life

Duvall at the 2007 .

Duvall has been married four times, first to Barbara Benjamin from 1964 until 1975. He then married Gail Youngs (1982-1986) and Sharon Brophy (1991-1996).

In 2005, Duvall wed Luciana Pedraza, granddaughter of famous Argentine aviator Susana Ferrari Billinghurst. He met Pedraza on a street in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They were both born on January 5, but Duvall is 41 years older. They have been together since 1997. Duvall and Luciana have been active supporters of Pro Mujer, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Latin America's poorest women help themselves through micro-credit, business training and health care linkages.

Duvall's political views are variously described as libertarian or conservative. He was personally invited to Republican President George W. Bush's inauguration in 2001. In September 2007, he announced his support for Republican Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. Duvall worked the floor at the GOP's 2008 national convention and, according to a 29 August 2008 MSNBC article, Duvall narrated most of the videos for the convention. In September 2008, he appeared on stage at a John McCain-Sarah Palin rally in New Mexico, and he told an October 2008 GOP fundraiser that 'As far as I'm concerned, we've got to keep this guy Barack Obama out of the White House.'

Duvall is related to Barack Obama through a common ancestor, Mareen Duvall, who immigrated to what is now Maryland from France. Duvall is also related to former President Harry S. Truman, former Vice-President Dick Cheney and Wallis, Duchess of Windsor through the same common ancestor.

External links

(Political contributions of Robert Duvall)

("Napalm' speech tops movie poll" The BBC)

(Artículo Star Pulse 19/6/2006- 'Hollywood legend Robert Duvall discovers he married into a family of great Argentinean aviators'.)

(Robert Duvall photos at


This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article about Robert Duvall.