Life Advice from Robert Duvall

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What adventure most changed your life?
A lot of things changed my life. One of the bigger ones was when I went down to Argentina 11 years ago to play Adolf Eichmann in a TV movie. I was wandering down the street in the afternoon, when Buenos Aires is empty, looking for something to take to a party. The flower shop was closed, so I was walking to the bakery and a woman approached me and we started talking, though she didn’t understand too good English. One thing led to another, and now we’ve been married for two years.

What one thing should every man know about women?
You gotta understand that there’s a difference between women and men. And you gotta try to reach out to them without going for this ultrafeminism stuff. It’s a day-to-day deal. My wife and I have the same birthday, January 5, but she’s a few decades younger than I am. She didn’t even know my work. More into European films, as they say. Then she saw “Godfather” and couldn’t get over how great it was. She’d never seen it.

What’s the best cure for heartbreak?
To have backups to the backups. In this business there’s always somebody around you can grab, whereas the average guy can’t necessarily do that. You just gotta roll with heartache and find somebody else.

What’s the best cure for a hangover?
I don’t drink, so I couldn’t tell you.

The worst physical pain you ever experienced?
Back around 1970, I was riding my stepdaughter’s pony out in the woods without a saddle and he rubbed me into a tree and cracked my pelvis. I couldn’t move. I lay on the ground for four hours practicing my line readings on “Help! Help! Help!” These kids came along and started throwing stones at me. Finally they realized it was serious and called an ambulance. Those ponies can be mean.

The most cherished possession you ever lost?
My lines – when I was doing a play, ‘American Buffalo‘ by David Mamet, on Broadway. That’s the worst feeling when you’re onstage live and it just leaves. I had to improvise to get out of it. But Mamet has such a rhythm that you’re pretty locked in.

Where’s your favorite place on earth?
My favorite place to roam around and hang out is Buenos Aires. I’ve been there about 60 times. I just feel at home there, although I’m not great with the language. It’s just an aura. I’m a stranger, and many of them don’t like Americans, but I feel like I fit in.

What’s your favorite meal?
I love a good rib eye. There are some cuts of meat I like in Argentina, but our steaks are better up north. They don’t corn-feed or age their beef down there, and they cook steaks too well-done. They kill it again and take all the taste out. A good rib eye from Nebraska is just about as good as Kobe beef.

Your favorite vice?
I curse too much. My wife tells me that, so I’m cleaning up the act. I guess I’ve got a bit of a temper. My cursing goes on more in private now. How much usually depends on what director I’m working with.

What modern convenience could you live without?
Well, other than a good news show and the sports that I like, you can keep television. It’s a love/hate relationship, really. The North American and South American male are the same – they go around that remote button 150 times a night.

If you could master one skill, what would it be?
Jumping horses. Though I do have one of the better seats on a horse in Hollywood. When John Wayne and I charge at each other across the clearing in True Grit, that’s all me. Now, John Wayne on those close-ups, they had a two-by-four and a pickup truck that he sat on.

What one experience do you want to have before you die?
I want to keep working till they wipe the drool. But I don’t know – you never know what you really want to do until it comes around the corner at you, like an accident. There could be something coming that’s really going to surprise me.

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