Childhood & Early Life
Robert Selden Duvall was born to William Howard Duvall and Mildred Virginia in San Diego, California. While his father was a Virginia-born US Navy admiral, his mother was an amateur actress.
He had an English, German, Swiss German, French Huguenot, Welsh and Scottish ancestry. He was raised in Christian Science religion.
He received his formal education from Severn School. He graduated from The Principia in St Louis Missouri in 1953 and later enrolled at the Principia College in Illinois.
From 1955 until 1957, he studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater in New York, wherein he was trained by Sanford Meisner. It was there that he befriended Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman
Besides receiving his acting training, he took up odd jobs for survival which included working as a clerk in Manhattan post office, doing clerical work at Macy’s and driving a truck
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
His first stint at acting professionally was in 1952, playing the role of a Pilot for a stage show, Laughter in the Stars, an adaptation of The Little Prince.
He was drafted to serve the United States Army for a year from 1953 to 1954. It was during his service at the military that he acted in an amateur production of the comedy, ‘Room Service’.
After relieving himself of the military duties, he returned to theater and was cast in a variety of roles in 1955 including, Eddie Davis in Ronald Alexander's ‘Time Out For Ginger’, Hal Carter in William Inge's ‘Picnic’, Charles Wilder in John Willard's ‘The Cat And The Canary’, Paris in Arthur Miller's ‘The Crucible’ and John the Witchboy in William Berney and Howard Richardson's ‘Dark Of The Moon’.
Just as the 1955 season, the 1956 season was even jam-packed for this budding star who was seen in a number of theatre productions such as Frederick Knott's ‘Dial M For Murder’, Inge's ‘Bus Stop’ and John van Druten's ‘I Am A Camera’.
Tremendous artistic capabilities and acting talent won him much popularity and varied roles. Year 1957 witnessed him play the characters of Mr. Mayher in Agatha Christie's ‘Witness For The Prosecution’, Hector in Jean Anouilh's ‘Thieves' Carnivall’ and Eddie Carbone in Arthur Miller's ‘A View from the Bridge’
Other than appearing at the Gateway Theatre, he also made an appearance at the Augusta Civic Theatre, McLean Theatre and Virginia and the Arena Theatre. After playing so many characters in theatre, he became a leading actor of the theatre.
He made his Off-Broadway debut in 1958 playing the character of Frank Gardner in George Bernard Shaw's ‘Mrs. Warren's Profession’. Some of his other Broadway works include Michael Shurtleff's‘Call Me By My Rightful Name’ and William Snyder's ‘The Days and Nights of BeeBeeFenstermaker’
Year 1959 saw him appear in a number of lead roles such as Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams' ‘Streetcar Named Desire’, Maxwell Archer in ‘Once More With Feeling’, Igor Romanoff in Peter Ustinov's ‘Romanoff and Juliet’, and Joe Mancuso in Kyle Crichton's ‘The Happiest Millionaire’.
In 1959, he made his debut on television for ‘Armstrong Circle Theatre’, in the episode, ‘The Jailbreak’. Ever since then, he made regular guest appearances in several television shows including, ‘Naked City’, ‘The Untouchables’, ‘Route 66’, ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘The Outer Limits’, ‘The Fugitive’ and so on.
Continue Reading Below
While his career graph was steadily escalating, he made his foray into the big screen with the film ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ in 1962. All throughout the 1960s, he played minor and major supporting roles in varied films.
In 1966, he made his Broadway debut as Harry Roat, Jr in Frederick Knott's ‘Wait Until Dark’. Thereafter, he was seen playing the character of Walter Cole in David Marnet's‘American Buffalo’.
No sooner, he became a major figure in the Hollywood film industry. Though he had appeared in a number of films, his biggest breakthrough came with the 1972 film, ‘The Godfather’ in which he played the character of Tom Hagen. He reprised his role for the sequel in 1974.
Two years later he was seen playing a notable supporting role in the film, ‘The Eagle Has Landed’. In 1979, he gave a Golden Globe award winning performance in the film ‘Apocalypse Now’ playing the supporting character of Lt Colonel. Some of his other films of the decade include, ‘Network’, ‘The Great Santini’ and ‘The Betsy’.
The decade of 1980 opened with a bang as he earned an Academy Award for Best Actor for the film, ‘Tender Mercies’. His other releases for the decade included ‘The Natural’ and‘Colors’. Additionally, he appeared in the miniseries ‘Lonesome Dove’
The decade of 1990 was the busiest year in terms of film career as he made an appearance in as many as 21 films, sometimes starring in four films in a single year. While all his films did good business at the box office, two exceptionally successful ones include the Academy Award nominated flick, ‘The Apostle’ and ‘A Civil Action’.
In addition to appearing in films, he has made numerous appearances in television including the Golden Globe Award winning portrayal of the character of Joseph Stalin in ‘Stalin’ and ‘Adolf Eichmann in ‘The Man Who Captured Eichmann’
He started year 2000 with three releases scheduled, ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’, ‘The 6th Day’ and ‘A Shot at Glory’. Eventually, he was seen appearing in a number of movies, some of which include ‘Assassination Tango’, ‘Gods and Generals’, ‘Open Range’, ‘Four Christmases’, ‘Thank You For Smoking’, ‘Get Low’ and so on.
In 2011, he played the role of Johnny Crawford in ‘Seven Days in Utopia’. The following year, he had two releases with ‘Jayne Mansfield’s Car’ and ‘Jack Reacher’.
Continue Reading Below
Awards & Achievements
For his exemplary artistic talent and acting skills, he has been nominated six times to the prestigious Academy Awards, winning once for ‘Tender Mercies’. Furthermore, out of his six nominations at the Golden Globe, he won four times.
In addition to this, he has won one each of BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Emmy Award.
He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003.
In 2005, he was felicitated by President George W. Bush with the National Medal of Arts at the White House.
Personal Life & Legacy
He tied the nuptials four times, with Barbara Benjamin (1964-75), Gail Youngs (1982-86), Sharon Brophy (1991-96) and lastly to Luciana Pedraza (2005 - till date).
Not many know that he is a trained Argentina Tango dancer and has a Tango Studio of his own in Argentina and the United States.
Besides his work commitments and crazy schedule, he works for the Robert Duvall Children’s Fund which he founded along with his wife Pedraza for assisting families in Northern Argentina through renovations of homes, schools, and medical facilities.
Furthermore, they actively support a non-profit charitable organization, Pro Mujer that is dedicated to helping Latin America's poorest women
He has been an avid supporter of historic preservation and has openly voiced his opinion against building of a Wal-Mart store to safeguard Wilderness Battlefield National Park.