... while Duvall burns with a slow flame

By Ann Oldenburg
USA TODAY

NEW YORK -- Robert Duvall isn't going to buzz with excitement about anything. It's not his style.
    But he will graciously allow you into his grand Manhattan apartment -- where he says legendary tenor Enrico Caruso once lived -- for a chat.
The Oscar that Duvall won for 1983's Tender Mercies watches from atop the mantel as the actor and his third wife, Sharon, do the tango on the living room floor.
    Without music and without much prompting, the two glide across the open, slippery wood space.
    Now, sitting stiffly on a nearby couch, Duvall says he is developing a script around the tango, but was never considered for the role in Scent of a Woman that required Al Pacino to tango and won him an Oscar.
    "No, no," he says. "People said, 'How did he do?' I said, 'He did pretty good for a blind guy.'"
    Duvall quietly chuckles.
    His newest character, from Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, a Cuban with a strict sense of routine, almost stole his heart as his favorite alter-ego.
    "It's right up there" with Gus, from Lonesome Dove, says the quiet Duvall. "It's like a tie. About even."
    When he's talking about Lonesome Dove, you can hear pieces of Augustus McCrae. When he's talkin about his cowboy character in Geronimo, you can hear an Oklahoma/Texas poke. And when he's talking about Walter in Hemingway, Duvall slips into his thick Cuban accent.
    "Oh, s&etilde;nor!" he says mimicking the barber who shaved him once a week during filming. He spent time with Cubans in Miami, immersing himself in research, even before he got the role and right up until the final day of filming when he ate at one restaurant, only to make sure he ate dessert at a different restaurant for the experience.
    "Even during the Christmas break," he says. "We drove from New York to our farm in Virginia, I made sure I had a Cuban limousine driver."
    He's happiest when he's on that farm -- so much so that he's buying a new, bigger, more private one for his Jack Russell terriers (one is named Gus), horses and other assorted animals.
    "Big fat pig," says Duvall, with his typical chopped sentences. "It got so big. He used to do a figure 8 between your legs. Now he's too fat."
He chuckles, shaking his head.
    Hemingway made him think about getting old, as it did his co-star Richard Harris, whom he met a long time ago watching a rugby match. Harris didn't remember the meeting, says Duvall, 63.
    After Hemingway, Duvall recalls, "I said to him, 'You'll remember me now?'"
    Slipping into Harris' voice, Duvall says, "Till the rest of our lives..."

Thanks to Jamaica for sending this article.