The Hollywood press corps, friends and supporters sang "Happy Birthday" to 80-year-old Robert Duvall at Grauman's Chinese Theater Wednesday as he placed his hands and feet in cement. "It's long overdue," said crony James Caan, who had co-starred with Duvall in The Godfather and wished he had made 25 more films with him.
Andy Garcia and Billy Bob Thornton also lent their support to their friend and mentor, who they consider to be more than actor, but an artist. They recalled talking with him about horses, the mambo and the tango, and lately, meat. Duvall, who has been acting for 50 years, thanked his friends and his wife, Luciana Pedraza, recalling his old pal Wilford Brimley telling him, as he was falling in love with the much younger woman (who shares the same birthday), "it's bad enough getting old, you don't want an old wife."
Don't mess with James Caan. I sat on a seat close to the dais labeled "J. Caan," which may explain why the actor looked witheringly at me from the podium and said, "What's with you?"
Sony Pictures Classic co-presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard were on hand; paying the $30,000 or so for a ceremony like this serves their Oscar campaign for Duvall's performance as a recluse in Get Low, which earned him a nomination from the Screen Actors Guild. (He won an Oscar for Tender Mercies.) Duvall hopes to star in a film written and directed by Thornton this spring.
The birthday celebration for Duvall continued at a lunch at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, as Caan regaled Garcia, Duvall and Thornton with a story about falling off a horse during the Robert Altman film Countdown and winding up naked in a bathtub at the house of an actress of whom he was terrified. He imitated Duvall's gleeful laugh as he abandoned him there.