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Wednesday, September 11, 2002
Assassination Tango Press Conference

On the second day of pre-production for Assassination Tango - actor Robert Duvall's fourth directorial effort and a Special Presentations film at this year's Toronto International Film Festival - life and art became entangled.

"A well known couple was assassinated in a very posh vacations spot in Northern Argentina at three in the morning," explained Duvall during the press conference for the film. "Across the bodies, a sign was placed saying 'the gringo was here'. It was so much like our story, it spooked us, especially since the victims were the parents of our production manager. It was a very strange set of circumstances that almost brought us to a halt."

Assassination Tango is a thriller that plays out in the world of Argentine tango. John J. (Robert Duvall) is a hit man who's hired to kill an Argentine general in Buenos Aires. He is forced to prolong his stay in the city when the general stays out of town longer than expected. While he waits for his target's return, he meets Manuela (Luciana Pedraza), a tango dancer who teaches him the sensual dance. John eventually completes his hit, but his chances of evading capture grow slim when the country tightens security. "Anything that happens in your imagination can happen somewhere in reality, " said Duvall.

Duvall, who owns a house in Argentina and refers to the country as his second home, revealed that he has been dancing the tango for more than 15 years. But, he questions his proficiency. "When you go to Argentina, nobody likes anybody's dancing. They're worse than actors," he jested. "I have become better within a small circle."

The director wrote the screenplay for Assassination Tango a number of years ago on the suggestion of his friend Francis Ford Coppola. After completing The Apostle, he dusted off the script and asked Coppola to read it. Coppola immediately agreed to finance the film and joined the project as executive producer.

The movie marks Pedraza's film debut. The actress is Duvall's romantic partner, and a native of Argentina. She revealed that the part she plays was intended for another actress who failed to return their phone calls offering the part. Although Pedraza said she has no immediate plans to do another film, she noted that she enjoyed working with Duvall on the project. "I was amazed with how he is able to get things from both actors and non-actors," she explained. "Manuela is another side of myself, she isn't somebody else. Maybe more shy, and with different moods. There's always another side of yourself that you can present. Some directors are afraid to let actors bring something to the table, but Bobby welcomes the actor with his ideas."

Duvall contended that because Argentineans live by their wits, they tend to be very good, natural actors. He also admitted that he prefers a more improvisational style of shooting. "As soon as you utter the words 'take two' it becomes scripted," he said. "We tried to turn it around and let the process come from these people. They're kings of their own space, I'm not. I can't tell them what to do."

-Kimberley K. Brown

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