Tuesday, March 17, 1998

Gospel according to Apostle's Duvall

Creator pleased with film after long genesis

By BRUCE KIRKLAND
Toronto Sun

 HOLLYWOOD -- Not many moments get Robert Duvall off his 200-acre Virginia spread, but the Oscar festivities managed to move him westward.
 
 The cowboy-casual Duvall is even donning city slicker designer duds Monday night to celebrate his best actor nomination for his role in The Apostle.
 
 "I like to dress down," says the snickering 67-year-old actor at a Four Seasons Hotel suite. "At the Emmys one year I wore a rental."
 
 For the '98 Oscars, "it's a Hugo Boss tux," Duvall reports almost apologetically.
 
 He blames his Argentinian companion, Luciana Padraza, whom he says has "made me become more style conscious."
 
 Getting educated about the Oscars was not required, however.
 
 Duvall is a Hollywood survivor -- "I've been cynical about the industry, and enamored by it," he admits.
 
 He is also an Oscar night veteran after showing up for nominations in The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, The Great Santini. In '83, he was 'aw-shucks' after winning his Oscar for Tender Mercies, where he played the tough-luck country singer.
 
 As coincidence would have it, the Tender Mercies Oscar inspired Duvall to refine his Apostle script for the screen. "The Oscar was supposed to give me good leverage," he recalls.
 
 As the studios would have none of it, Duvall and The Apostle had to wait 15 more years to become a film, and only when writer-director-actor Duvall put up $5 million of his own money did it get made.
 
 "I am not bitter and I am glad I had to wait," says Duvall of the movie profile dealing with a rascal southern preacher.
 
 "Had a studio completed it when I first wanted to do it, there would have been too many marketing elements to patronize the moviegoer."
 
 Yet diplomatic Duvall is quick to add, "I never want to be overly smug about how things have turned out."
 
 Indeed, in any other Oscar year, Duvall would be a cinch to pass on those sentiments at the Shrine Auditorium podium as the winner Monday night. He has tough competition in two other actor icons -- Jack Nicholson (As Good As It Gets) and Dustin Hoffman (Wag The Dog).
 
 Still, the cagey veteran refuses to discuss the winning-or-losing likelihood, or what it means to compete against his friends.
 
 He will talk about The Apostle, which opened in Toronto recently after its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival last September.
 
 "Yes," says Duvall chuckling, "I guess as the years went by the movie aged well. I am happy. It's something I've always wanted to have behind me."
 
 After Monday night, it just might be.