By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 30, 2010 at 4:17AM
Get Low opens Friday, almost a year after its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it was one of the few movies to pop out as a winner. Sure enough, Sony Pictures Classics scooped up the unpretentious rural drama, which showcases veteran actor's actor Robert Duvall in a finely-tuned performance as a taciturn bearded recluse who has been punishing himself for decades for what happened one mysterious night long ago.
The old man has turned into an angry rifle-toting loner hiding on the outskirts of a sleepy 30s southern town whose denizens are terrified of him. Suddenly he turns up at the local funeral parlor (run by an hilarious Bill Murray, with assistant Lucas Black) with the idea of throwing himself a funeral while he's still alive so that he can hear all the crazy stories about him. Sissy Spacek plays an old flame, and Duvall's Crazy Heart director Scott Cooper plays a nasty supporting role.
My flip-cam interview is below.
Based on his Virginia farm, Duvall has been steadily working since his screen debut in 1962 as Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird. An actor who prepares for the first take as his only rehearsal, Duvall has appeared in many less-than-stellar movies, but I'd argue that he's never given a bad performance and is still on his game: he improvised his memorable scene in last year's The Road. He has been nominated for the Oscar six times, starting with Francis Coppola's The Godfather and Apocalypse Now through The Great Santini and his win for Tender Mercies in 1984. Duvall also scored nominations for The Apostle and A Civil Action, in 1998. Judging from the standing ovation he received at Get Low's Academy premiere this week, Duvall is due for another Oscar nod.
In recent years Duvall has been working largely in the indie sector. He starts yet another Texas indie, Matthew Dean Russell's golf drama Seven Days in Utopia, next month, co-starring Sling Blade and Get Low's Black. Duvall is up for a number of juicy roles in films that are still seeking financing, from director Cooper and screenwriter Eric Roth (The Hatfields and the McCoys), Terry Gilliam (as Quixote in a present-day The Man Who Killed Don Quixote opposite Ewan McGregor), a southern family drama running through both World Wars from writer-director Billy Bob Thornton (to co-star James Caan), as well as a Comanche drama written by Larry McMurtry, who wrote Duvall's arguably greatest role--and he agrees with me--as Gus McCrae in the CBS mini-series Lonesome Dove.
Duvall, who turns 80 in January, is far from ready to hang up his hat.