Robert Duvall

  1. Dustin Hoffman, The Graduate, 1967.  

  2. Hugh Milais, Images, 1971.   “These guys hate it when you turn them, down. I read the script and it wasn’t right.” Robert Altman said: “Maybe you don’t get it,” auteur Robert Altman told his Frank Burns from M*A*S*H. “Maybe your need your wife to explain it.” “Bullshit,” Duvall retorted. “I did not need my wife to explain it. I got it. I just didn’t like it.”
  3. Henry Gibson, Nashville, 1974.   “Something didn’t click with me.” Haven Hamilton was written for him, and he was writing his own songs for it when… “I guess we broke over money,” suggested Robert Altman. No, said Duvall, it was because Altman wouldn’t let him write his own songs – rather odd as Keith Carradine wrote his own song, “I’m Easy,” the sole winner of the film’s five Oscar nominations. (And Gary Busey, who never made the film, also wrote a song for it). Just as Altman’s film grew out of another Nashville project he refused to make, Duvall won his Oscar for singing his own compositions as C&W singer Mac Sledge in Tender Mercies, 1983.
  4. Roy Sheider, Jaws, 1974.        “Charlie Hero” – as Roddy McDowell called Charlton Heston – backed off from another Universal action hero for a return to the (LA) stage.  (Macbeth, no less) .  Steven Spielberg always said that Duvall encouraged him to make the movie that made him.  Exactly why the young director offered him Police Chief  Brody.  Duvall demurred. “No thanks – it might make  me too famous!”   (Anyway, he preferred Robert Shaw’s role).  Sheider agreed  Winning the best line: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat!” 
  5. Harrison Ford, Blade Runner, 1981.    UK wiz Ridley Scott spent a long time sniffing out the perfect Deckard.  From top notchers Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman (the first choice was keen… on making it a totally different character, of course), Robert Mitchum, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino…  to such excellent journeymen as William Devane, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, Frederic Forrest, Scott Glenn, Tommy Lee Jones, Raul Julia, Nick Nolte, Christopher Walken.  Martin Sheen was too exhausted after Apocalypse Now. In sheer desperation, choices lowered to Cliff Gorman, Judd Hirsch. Even the Virginian Morgan Paull stood a chance, having played Deckard in Scott’s tests of potential Rachaels. (He was given Holden for his pains). Plus Arnold Schwarzenegger, not yet seen as Conan, much less Terminator.  And for probably the last time in such an illustrious list, the fading star of Burt Reynolds.
  6. Brian Dennehy, First Blood (Rambo), 1981.
  7. Jurgen Prochnow,  Dune, 1984.
  8. Jon Voight, The Runaway Train, 1984.       Due in 1970 as Akira Kurosawa’s first US film, the project was cancelled due to heavy snowstorms (and budget hassles) in the upstate New York. Cannon’s much ridiculed Go-Go Boys, Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, wisely invited Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky aboard – and really shook  up the 1986 Cannes festival. Kurosawa had wanted Peter Falk  as the escaped convict aboard a fast moving train without a driver. Duvall chased that role but proved too pricey for Cannnon’s pocket.
  9. Al  Pacino,  Revolution,  1986.       Almost signed after Al Pacino, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Dustin Hoffman, Sam Shepherd backed off. They were lucky. “Revolution is so bad,” said the  critic, Pauline Kael, “it puts you in a state of shock.”
  10. Scott Glenn,  Man on Fire, 1986.      After The Hunger, Tony Scott, Ridley’s flashy brother, worked for 18 months on this project  – including six months with Duvall “giving us input in terms of script ideas and stuff.” Then, his producers started courting Marlon Brando and Tony could see another year going by, so he  quit for Top Gun. Lelouch apprentice Eli Chouraqui, directed Glenn in a script tightened by Brando’s input… although he refused to be in it.

  11. Mitchell Ryan, Lethal Weapon, 1986.    There were 39 possibles for Mel Gibson’s suicidal cop. Just seven seeking promotion to General McAllister: Ryan, Duvall, Peter Boyle, Bruce Dern, James Earl Jones, Richard Jordan and Lee Marvin.
  12. Gene Hackman, No Way Out, 1986.  For his excellent thriller (labyrinthine and ingenious, said Roger Ebert) the under-praised Aussie director Roger Donaldson tried all ages for the villain politico. From James Caan and Al Pacino at 46 to Gregory Peck at 70. Plus James Coburn, Sean Connery, James Cromwell, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Dustin Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Mitchum, Donald Moffat, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Jason Robards Donald Sutherland and Jon Voight.   Hackman was 56.

  13. Tommy Lee Jones, Lonesome Dove, 1989.      “But I’ve done that,”  said Duvall  about  the introverted Captain Woodrow Call. “I’d prefer to be Gus.”  And he was perfect as Augustus McRae.  First aimed in 1971 at John Wayne, when Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was a film script for Duke, James Stewart and Henry Fonda… all warned off it by a cantankerous (jealous!) John Ford.   “I was honoured to play that role,” said Duvall,  “probably the favourite of my entire career.”  

  14. Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs, 1989.

  15. Gary Kemp,  The Krays, 1990.         Early plan had Duvall as Ronnie opposite Bob Hoskins as Reggie. Hey, weren’t they  twins? 

  16. Bob Hoskins, Heart Condition, 1990.    A racist cop is haunted by the ghost of his murdered black partner.
  17. Alexsandr Zbruev,  The Inner Circle, 1991.     “I was  supposed to be Stalin in Konchalovsky’s film about Stalin’s projectionist,” Duvall told me in Cannes.  He was not met  o n arrival at Moscow airport, paid for his own hotel.  “The  Italian money didn’t  work  out. I went home  a little  disappointed.  But   there was a reason  – HBO’s Stalin was a more  interesting script!  Hard to play him such a quiet,  hermetic,  anti-social, complex, evil guy –  and still be alive.”
  18. George Hamilton, The Godfather: Part III, 1991.
  19. Michael Douglas, Falling Down, 1992.         Douglas swopped roles, preferring the angry nutter to yet another cop.
  20. John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire, 1992.   Too busy with his actor-directing debut, A Bronx Tale, Robert De Niro was first choice for the wannabe presidential assassin – thwarted by Secret Service man Clint Eastwood who lost JFK in Dallas. Next?  Duvall and Jack Nicholson. No budget could afford Clint and Jack – but what a great idea from German film-maker Wolfgang Petersen. One of Clint’s finest.
  21. Martin Sheen, Gettysburg, 1992.        General Robert E Lee was at one time slated for William Hurt or Tommy Lee Jones. Duvall did not waste all his research  into the man (and his Virginia accent) – because he played him in the prequel, Gods and Generals, 2003.

  22. Liam Neeson, Schindler’s List,  1993.      
    “I  wanted the role – but I was too old,” recalled Duvall.   “I could have made the emotional moment that the guy didn’t. Other than that, the guy was fine.  Nice movie.” Steven Spielberg spent ten years growing up before making  the Holocaust film and not just because he couldn’t find his Oskar Schindler, the Nazi businessman who saved the lives of more than 1,100 Jews. The list also included Warren Beatty, Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford, Swiss Bruno Ganz, Mel Gibson, Swedish Stellan Skarsgård, Australian  Jack Thompson… and the director’s   2011 Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis. After four previous nominations, this is  the film that finally won Spielberg his first Oscar on March 21, 1994. Chicago critic Roger Ebert praised Spielberg’s unique ability of adding  artistry to popularity in his serious films – “to say what he wants to say in a way that millions of people want to hear.”

  23. Jeremy Irons, The Lion King, 1993.         In the frame to voice the villainous Scar in the 32nd Disney toon – Bambi meets Hamlet in Africa! – were top Brits, Sean Connery, Tim Curry, Malcolm McDowell. And assorted Hollywood-mafiosi Duvall, James Caan, Ray Liotta.
  24. Jamey Sheridan, The Stand, TV, 1993.    David Bowie,. Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Lance Henriksen, Christopher Walken, James Woods – they were all unavailable Stephen King’s signature villain in at least nine books: the walkin’ dude Randall Flagg, aka The Man in Black, aka Marten Broadcloak, the Covenant Man, Richard Fannin, Richard Farris, Raymond Fiegler, Walter o’Dim, Waltert Paddick.   Miguel Ferrer was keen but given Flagg’s henchman, Lloyd Henreid,  King suggested Robert Duvall but fell for Sheridan, who understood  ‘Flagg is really a funny guy, isn’t he?’ He must have bothered to read the book… “There was a dark hilarity inhis face… a face that radiated a horrible handsome warmth, a face to make water glasses shatter… to make small children crash their trikes… a face guaranteed to make barroom arguments over batting averages turn bloody.” Sheridan was perfect  for the 41st of King’s staggering 313 screen credits. (King Kameo: Teddy Weizak).
  25. Harvey Keitel, Imaginary Crimes, 1994.      Over eleven years, Duvall, Harrison Ford and Dustin Hoffman had been  up for the  hustler-father of two young girls – based on Sheila Ballantyne’s autobiography.
  26. Morgan Freman, Se7en, 1994.       Duvall passed on Ridley Scott’s invite  to be  Somerset, a meticulous veteran cop overseeing Brad Pitt investigating murders inspired by the seven deadly sins.
  27. James Woods, Ghost of Mississippi, 1996.        He backed off from the white supremist killer of civil rights leader Medgar Evers in 1963. At 49, Woods had to age from 42 to 73 – the reason director Rob Reiner sought an older star. Woods showed  them all how – all the way to an Oscar nod.
  28. Eric Roberts, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.    
  29. Danny Glover, Switchback, 1997.          Arkansas auteur Jeb Stuart first planned his film – as Going West in America – in the 80s with three different actors: Bacon,  Duvall and Sidney Poitier.
  30. David Huddleston,The Big Lebowski, 1997.  In his making of book, ex-Coen Brothers assistant Alex Belth said the titular casting  (Jeff Bridges was the son, remember) was among the final decisions made before shooting. The Coens aimed high – Marlon Brando! – then chewed through Duvall (not seduced by the script), Ernest Borgnine, Andy Griffith (great idea!), Gene Hackman (on a break), Anthony Hopkins (not keen on playing Americans), author Norman Mailer, George C Scott,  longtime right vleft political adversaries William F Buckley and Gore Vidal…. And even the arch conservative Bible thumping televangelist Jerry Falwell!

  31. John Travolta, The Thin Red Line, 1998. Numerous stars – Clooney, Depp, DiCaprio, Oldman, Pacino, Pitt, Rourke, Martin Sheen, etc –  were almost queuing up, offering their services (even for free) for wizard auteur Terrence Malick’s first movie  since Days of Heaven…  21 years before! Others wondered if  Malick still had “it”. He did.  And  then lost it with one  too many, call them, what you will,  iconoclastic or pretentious movies.  Sidney Lumet had earlier come close to filming “the best novel of war.”) Andf Duvall, of course, had already smelt napalm in the morning in Apocalypse Now.
  32. Jeff Bridges, Seabiscuit, 2002.       Had to pass on the story of the great (and titular) racehorse of the ’30s –  he was shooting Secondhand Lions with fellow lion Michael Caine.
  33. Bill Murray, The Lost City, 2004.         Andy Garcia, star and director,  landed Dustin Hoffman as Meyer Lansky but not Duvall as… The Writer.
  34. Terry Bradshaw, Failure To Launch, 2005.        New Dad for Matthew McConaughey – still living at home at age 35.  So Dad calls in an interventionist: Sarah Jessica Parker. 
  35. Richard Dreyfuss, W,  2007.       In the  mix for what many saw as  the villain of the George W Bush biopic: Dick Cheney, the 46th US vice-president, 2001-2009.
  36. Bruce Dern, Nebraska, 2012.       Excepting Clooney and Nicholson, Nebraskan director Alexander Payne had a phobia with (some say, an hostility toward) casting stars. Not this time… While flirting with Bryan Cranston and  the two Roberts (Duvall and Forster), Payne was really wooing Hackman back into movies – the perfect crotchety alcoholic who thinks he’s won a sweepstake.  But no, retired is what it said! Dernsie said it  was a relief not to be playing “some piece of piece of shit who wants to blow up the Superbowl.”   Result: He was voted the 2013 Cannes festival Best Actor  by Steven Spielberg’s jury.
  37. Jonathan Pryce,The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, 2017.










 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  37