Robert Duvall Describes Late Director Stanley Kubrick As An "Actor's Enemy"

by Simon Dang
December 6, 2010 3:32 AM
8 Comments
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Calls Performances In 'The Shining' & 'A Clockwork Orange' Some Of The Worst Ever



You gotta love Robert Duvall. The great actor showed up to the recent THR's Awards Watch Roundtable and more or less played the part of the lovable uncle, amusing the rest of the table with his timeless tales and brutally honest observations and opinions.

Duvall began by taking aim at the late, great director Stanley Kubrick as the conversation led to the practice by some directors of endless takes. "To me, the great Stanley Kubrick was an actor's enemy. He was an actor's enemy. I can point to movies he's done, the worst performances I've ever seen in movies: 'The Shining,' 'A Clockwork Orange,'" Duvall claimed, clearly to the enjoyment of Ryan Gosling who is visibly giggling in the background. "Terrible performances, maybe great movies but they're terrible performances. How does he know the different between the first take and the seventieth take? I mean, what is that about?"

Jack Nicholson, Malcolm McDowell, eat your heart out.

Next on Duvall's list? David Fincher. As the helmer's similarly meticulous style was being discussed by Jesse Eisenberg and Mark Ruffalo, Duvall turned to the host and asked, "who's he? He's the director?" Moments later though, after seemingly remembering who Fincher was, the actor asked "he's always been like that David Fincher? How about when he did 'Se7en'? He got good results from that... I turned down a part in 'Se7en' maybe [his methodology is] the reason I did. Subconsciously I knew." We're presuming he was up for the role of Detective Somerset played by Morgan Freeman? Surely not John Doe, the villain played by Kevin Spacey, right?

Another memorable Duvall moment occurred when the THR host spent minutes on a well-constructed question -- involving his own experiences as an English literature student -- about an artist's most memorable work. Turning to Duvall immediately after concluding for a response, the actor simply responded, "what was the question again?" Hilarious.

Duvall eventually got back on the page though and revealed the two projects of which he was proudest were "American Buffalo" on Broadway and the television series "Lonesome Dove," even though the "better directed" and "most successful" film would no doubt be "The Godfather."

The full interview lasts for a whole hour but is definitely worth a watch with Duvall throwing it down with Gosling, Ruffalo and Eisenberg as well as James Franco and Colin Firth. Check it out below.

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More: Actors, Robert Duvall, Stanley Kubrick

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8 Comments

  • dasds | December 7, 2010 7:07 AMReply

    re Seven: I'm guessing if it wasn't Somerset or John Doe he turned down, it was the guy R. Lee Ermey played.

    @rodie: exactly.

  • rodie | December 7, 2010 3:30 AMReply

    I don't think Duvall means anything malicious toward Kubrick. In fact he says those were great films, but there's obviously something about certain performances in those films that he finds irritating from his experience as an actor and director. Maybe he can look at a performance and what we see as really interesting, he sees as forced or over the top or something that feels like it was take 50. He doesn't go into much detail, so its hard for us non-actors to get at what he's really referring to. I don't think his comment was that big of a deal, though. Heaven forbid someone critique something from a Kubrick film...no we mustn't do that!

  • Glass | December 7, 2010 2:10 AMReply

    Kubrick may not have been an actor's director, but the man knew how to get inspired performances from his casts.

  • jon | December 6, 2010 8:13 AMReply

    Ryan, I think you misunderstood why Gosling was laughing in the background. He is giggling because Duvall sounds crazy when is says the stuff about Kubrick not because he agrees with him.

  • Ryan | December 6, 2010 7:52 AMReply

    If putting actors into classic movies which will be remembered throughout the ages is being an enemy to actors, then Yes, Kubrick was an Actor's Enemy. I think that Kubrick is brilliant and the movies Duvall names here have great performances. I like it better when Kirk Douglas called Kubrick "A talented little shit".
    And why is Gosling laughing in the Background? If you want to see bad performances watch Blue Valentine with Gosling.

  • David Rilstone | December 6, 2010 4:42 AMReply

    "Lonesome Dove" was indeed a classic with memorable performances by Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Danny Glover, Robert Urich, Rick Schroeder, Diane Lane, Angelica Huston, and a strong supporting cast. Great story, great acting, great film making.

  • Edward Davis | December 6, 2010 4:34 AMReply

    Nah, she's great. Shelly Duvall is super underrated in general.

  • Ken | December 6, 2010 4:16 AMReply

    Aw I love Nicholson's performance in The Shining although Shelley Duvall was pretty bad. Funny how I still consider The Shining to be one of my all-time favorites even though I do dislike Duvall's performance in that movie.

    And I actually thought McDowell's performance was excellent in A Clockwork Orange even though I'm not a big fan of the film.

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