Thursday, November 7, 1996

Chameleon Duvall portrays Adolf Eichmann

 LOS ANGELES (AP) -- In addition to the movie roles that have won him acclaim and an Oscar, Robert Duvall has a body of work in TV that could earn him the title of history teacher to the masses.
 
 In TV miniseries and movies, Duvall has played Second World War titans Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
 
 Now, he's adding another war figure to his library of roles -- one of history's ogres, Adolf Eichmann.
 
 In The Man Who Captured Eichmann, first airing Sunday on the U.S network. TNT, Duvall gives a chilling performance as the tender family man who had no problem sending children to Auschwitz.
 
 An SS colonel who escaped to Argentina, Eichmann was the architect of Hitler's Final Solution -- the shipment of European Jews to death camps.
 
 In 1960, Eichmann was kidnapped in Argentina by Israeli agents and spirited to Israel, where he was tried for crimes against humanity and executed two years later.
 
 "He kept his work totally on an administrative level," Duvall said. "He justified that he was just a member of the state, following the order of the state, so that it became abstract."
 
 Eichmann never considered his work evil, Duvall said. He claimed to be a machine-like instrument of policy.
 
 Duvall, perhaps best-known for his work in The Godfather, Apocalypse Now and his Oscar turn in Tender Mercies, said he is always looking for a character "that he can bring something to."
 
 He came across the book Eichmann in My Hands, an account of Eichmann's capture by Peter Malkin, one of the Mossad agents who grabbed the SS man off the street in a Buenos Aires slum.
 
 Duvall, who also served as executive producer of the movie, decided to make Eichmann's story with his own company for TNT.
 
 Known as a meticulous researcher, Duvall sought out older residents of the German community in Buenos Aires to study mannerisms and speech patterns.
 
 Director William Graham said Duvall actually met with a man who worked for Eichmann and asked what he looked like. Co-producer Rob Carliner said the Argentine man told the actor, "Begging your pardon, sir, he looked like you."
 
 True enough. Even without heavy makeup, Duvall achieves one of his eerie, chameleon-like transformations; he completely resembles the bureaucrat who personified "the banality of evil."
 
 Filmed in Buenos Aires, the emotional core of the film is a series of encounters between Eichmann and his captor Malkin, played with quiet intensity by Arliss Howard.
 
 Duvall visited Malkin last year and said the former Israeli agent found himself reluctantly drawn into a dialogue with Eichmann while the fugitive was hidden in a Mossad safe house.
 
 "Malkin said it was like sitting on an airplane, together on a long ride," Duvall said. "It was that kind of intimacy."
 
 For Duvall, the opportunity to make the film becomes a way to reach a bigger audience with a story that is part spy thriller and part contemporary history.
 
 "You reach millions on television," he said. "In a strange way, you can reach more people than you can in a feature film."