A Minute With: Robert Duvall on Westerns and avoiding stereotypes

Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:26pm EDT
 
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - With a career spanning seven decades, actor Robert Duvall has played roles ranging from Joseph Stalin to Dwight D. Eisenhower, and he still looks for ways to diversify his choices.

Duvall, 82, will next be seen as a stoic war veteran patriarch in "Jayne Mansfield's Car," written and directed by and starring Billy Bob Thornton, which will be released in U.S. theaters on Friday.

The film, a drama set in 1960s Alabama, explores the cultural impact of a British family in a small Southern town.

Duvall spoke to Reuters about his love of working in Westerns, how Hollywood has evolved and his dream role.

Q: What drew you to work with Billy Bob Thornton on "Jayne Mansfield's Car"?

A: Billy Bob, I call him the hillbilly Orson Welles! Seriously though, in some cases he puts Tennessee Williams in the back seat. The guy understands the Southern idiom. He understands where he comes from. He's a brilliant guy, not just as an actor, but he's a triple threat guy - a writer, director and actor. The material was so unique to what he knows and what he grew up with that it attracted me very much, because his family was like that. His own father used to take the boys to car wrecks, to examine it and wonder why it happened, so he came from this world that he writes about. He understands the world he writes about.

Q: Do you find that the South can be misconstrued in film?

A: Absolutely. If (Thornton) goes broad or into another realm that seems not real, it is real because he comes from that. His mother was a clairvoyant, she took his readings. It's his own niche in the southern culture. Very definitely Hollywood, they miss it because they put quotations around it and they condescend to it. But he speaks from within out, because he understands it. So whatever he portrays is accurate to what he comes from, which may be different from other parts of the South. But he doesn't misconstrue it, he understands it where most Hollywood movies do not.   Continued...

 
Actor Robert Duvall arrives for the gala presentation of "Jayne Mansfield's Car" at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival, September 13, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Blinch