Robert Duvall, This Is Your Year

by James Patrick Herman 4:18 PM PST, January 08, 2015
Photo: Getty Images

It takes more than a village to make an award-worthy performance--it takes a million tiny moments that together create a film or TV show more magical than its parts. This week, ETonline talks with Golden Globe nominees about all the big and small ways stars have to align for a great idea to make it to the screen.

For his most recent role as the stern Joseph Palmer in The Judge, veteran actor Robert Duvall was honored with the Icon Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Backstage, he spoke to ETonline about his Hollywood legacy -- which spans a half century -- and how his new movie compares to Apocalypse Now, for which he won his first Golden Globe.

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ETonline: What appealed to you about this part?

Robert Duvall: Initially, I might have done a dumb thing. I turned it down at first. With all of the negative aspects of an incontinent man who can't control his bowels, who has these hallucinations, who has cancer -- I've read that in other scripts. And it's like old hat.

What made you reconsider?

When I looked at [the script] again, I knew it was going to be difficult to do. It was a very fresh, literary point of view. A very good, smart writer wrote the script. And with those people in the cast, I said: "If I do this, I really have to jump in and do it." So I reconsidered, talked with David Dobkin, the director, and I just did it.

So it was all about the script for you?

No, you always look at the character first mainly. Then the script. Then who is directing, who is surrounding you, who are you surrounding.

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What was the biggest challenge?

The whole thing. A day-by-day work ethic. To be prepared each day. When you go in front of the camera, you don't know what's really going to happen. That's the way, I think, to approach any given scene on any given day's work: To try to keep it [like] the first time it's ever been done each time.

Do you have anything in common with your character?

I'm sure. Yeah, I do. I don't have regular children of my own, but I think any family has difficulties. You can't do away with the family entity. So there are negative things in me that parallel the character of the judge, absolutely.

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How does this role fit into your cinematic legacy?

I usually do smaller films, which I love. This is like a pretty big film. It's almost like I'm back in Apocalypse Now! It fits in beautifully. But, you know, what happens happens. You can plan things specifically and intentionally with great love. Something might come around the corner that usurps that, and you go with whatever comes around the corner first over that.