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Bobby Duvall: One Bitter Old Man

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by Rene Williams, for outsideleft.com
originally published: March, 2005
What's a Yoda?

Sure Bobby Duvall has been in some great movies – no one’s denying that. But this guy’s no spring chicken. He’s kind of like a cranky old geezer—you know the type: no-nonsense, hates interviews, gets in there, gets the job done, and collect his paycheck. Not exactly quote-worthy stuff, especially since he tends to ramble on about off-topic subjects like your withered old grandfather does every Thanksgiving. What I’m trying to say is don’t expect a whole lot of insight from this interview. Still, I needed one question answered: Does he this James Caan’s son (and former co-star, Scott Caan was really as much of a dick in person as he was with me when I interviewed him. This interview is my validation.

What makes you take the roles of the films you choose – especially since you’re usually the experienced elder of every cast you’re a part of?

They’re good jobs. When I read a script and I like it, I call the producer and tell him I want the part. If I have an open slot of time, I usually want to fill it with work. And if the cast is a nice bunch of guys, then it’s even nicer.

Do you feel kind of like the Yoda of the sets on which you’re the oldest person?

Yoda? What’s a Yoda?

Star Wars?

No. I never saw Star Wars.

You’re the only human in the world who hasn’t.

No, no. I know of a few people.

How’d you feel about the process of filming? Does it get a little frustrating when scripts get rewritten on the spot—sometimes minutes before you had to film the scene?

It’s strange. I mean it’s too much, it’s too much. I mean you do a blocking rehearsal and they hand you a rewrite and you have to ask, “Is this a rewrite session or a blocking?” I remember that I got stuck on this line of a film I did not too long ago on the second day all day long. “Listen,” I said. “Let’s either improvise or get the writing done.” Sometimes in a big production, they’re a little precious about things like that. Rewrite, rework it, reshape it—sometimes you can just decide on the spot and say, “You say this and I’ll say that and let’s do it.” It can be difficult for an actor.

You worked with James Caan on The Godfather. What was it like to work with his son Scott?

They do everything. They play baseball, they play basketball, they rope. They’re “all-state-everything” we call them. Like Vinnie Jones once told me, “Scott wakes up every morning and pats himself on the back.”

Jimmy’s great, though. I was just with him the other day for lunch. I love spending time with him—just two hours and just talk and carry on. He’s a great guy. He made The Godfather vibrant with his personality. Brando always talked about the jokes that Jimmy used to tell on the set of Godfather 30 years ago. His son, on the other hand, is one interesting character.

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