Movie: "Secondhand Lions"
Tuesday, September 16, 2003; 2:00 p.m ET
In the film Secondhand Lions, young Walter (Haley Joel Osment) spends his summer with his two eccentric great-uncles Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine). Typical grumpy old men, Hub and Garth do not like strangers, salesmen or taking care of a young boy. However, they are known to have millions of dollars stashed away in their Texas ranch and Walter's single mother Mae (Kyra Sedgwick) is looking to come back for it. During his visit, Walter finds out that his great-uncles have great adventures of their youth to tell. But it is up to him to decide if they are true. Do you believe the old stories that your great-uncles tell you?
Actor Robert Duvall was online Tuesday, Sept. 16 at 2 p.m. ET to answer your questions about the movie.
"Secondhand Lions" opens Sept. 19 in theaters nationwide.
A transcript follows.
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Robert Duvall: I'm looking forward to seeing the movie Thursday night and I hope this is a human movie with a sweet and good tone to it!
Wheaton, Md.: Mr. Duvall,
I'm a big fan of yours and truly enjoy your work. I'm looking forward to seeing Secondhand Lions.
2 questions: When you work with actors like Michael Caine on a film, do you ever get together socially while filming, meet for dinner etc.? What actor have you had the most fun working with?
Robert Duvall: It is a lot of fun working with Michael Caine and I call him the European version of James Caan. Off camera, Michael Caine's wife is very charming and she made sure we had dinner once a week so that we can keep that brotherly bond together.
Detroit, Mich.: How impressed are you with Haley Joel Osment? Is he finding the transition from young child actor to teenager difficult? What kind of advice did you give him on the set? (And did you learn anything from him?)
Robert Duvall: He seems to be going his own way gracefully from childhood to manhood. You always learn from people -- from younger people and they also learn from you. Younger people are quicker and more hip today then when we were way back. It was just nice to see someone dedicated to acting at such a young age. It was like working with an adult actor and he was always there and ready.
Potomac, Md.: What are your memories of Gregory Peck? And do you ever keep in touch with Mary Badham (for readers: she played Scout in the film version of "To Kill A Mockingbird")? Apparently Mary Badham lives on a farm not too far (in terms of a general region) from your estate! Also, what was it like to work with Michael Caine? I'm a longtime fan of your work, you're great, and thanks for taking the time to talk about your new film.
Robert Duvall: He was a very gracious man and I was the very last to come on the set for Mockingbird. He was a real gentleman and nice to work with.
I bumped into Mary at a film festival at U.Va about ten years ago and chatted a little bit. So many of the people I meet are so good to work with.
New York, N.Y.: Mr. Duvall- I'm looking forward to seeing the new movie having seen the preview before I saw "Open Range", which btw, is excellent.
I went kicking and screaming to "Open Range" not being a western fan but was hooked w/in 15 minutes. Thank you.
Robert Duvall: Good. Well Westerns are ours. The English claim Shakespeare and the French claim Mollier but we do westerns and that is our genre (along parts of Canada). I love westerns and it is part of our culture. A lot of people don't know westerns and then watch them and like them -- you can be drawn to west from anywhere.
The best Western. John Wayne ever played was The Shootest and it was a wonderful performance and elevated him to his legend. He wasn't always comfortable on his horse as a horseman but he was a Western actor.
Haymarket, Va.: Mr. Duvall, its been a pleasure watching your film career. I thought The Apostle was extraordinary. Any plans of directing in the future? Thanks
Robert Duvall: Yeah I have been asked to do a big Hollywood movie but we'll see. I like working on some personal projects such as the Grapes of Wrath that I'm developing or a film on northern Argentina. More acting roles are coming my way more than ever which I feel very fortunate about.
Los Angeles, Calif..: Mr. Duvall, you are very talented and I look forward to seeing this movie. Knowing the length of time involved in film projects, I am wondering what projects you have been involved with since or are planning to be involved? All the best to you.
Robert Duvall: I have no specific plans and I'm taking a vacation from doing four projects this year.
Harrisburg, Pa.: How did you come to be involved in this project? Good luck with its success.
Robert Duvall: New Line Productions called me and I was working on Open Range. And by day I was doing the movie and by night I was memorizing the lines for Secondhand Lions. It worked out okay and I got the part that I wanted.
Hub is an interesting guy as a mercernary and he gets to know this kid to make him a better man and the kid makes him a better man. Growing old in life and not trying to be tabbed useless, he finds this kid who teaches him to live his life out a little longer.
Overall you have to put what's in you into a character. Sitting around and holding court, sharing stories on the front porch are some of the things that I could identify with. There is always some part of you in a character. I contacted some universities to research the whole concept of sleepwalking and dreaming and how to play that part of the script.
Midland, Texas: Mr. Duvall,
I really enjoyed you in "Open Range". Looking forward to seeing your new movie. When did you start your acting career?
Robert Duvall: I started in a small college in Illinois and my military family pushed you into acting. When I got out of the army and went to NY, that is what I wanted to do but it was with the encouragement of my parents. I was 20 years old.
Washington, D.C.: As a screen legend, who do you see as the top young actors today?
Robert Duvall: There are some very good young actors today, Javier Bardam, the actor of the Son of the Bride, Darin and in Snatch, you can see how good Brad Pitt can be. There are a lot of good actors in this country and the bar has been raised.
Pittsburgh, Pa.: Mr. Duvall, honestly, I could watch you read the phone book and be captivated. What was it like to be reunited with Mr. Caine since "The Eagle Has Landed" and why are so many mainstream Hollywood films so appallingly bland these days? Foreign and indie filmmakers seem to make more interesting films than studios.
Robert Duvall: Well that's true and it was good to work with Michael after all these years. During the 1970's independent films were always in the system. But in Hollywood they like to think big out there but it forces people to make film outside of the system. I think young people want to be filmmakers instead of writers instead and there is room for all if you can't make it into the system -- you have to find your own way. A lot of those big film industries in Hollywood have small companies that help with that.
Harrisburg, Pa.: Unless this is a secret, what is your movie on northern Argentina about?
Robert Duvall: There's no movie and it's just a faint idea.
First off, you are one of my favorite actors and I love everything you do!
My question is out of all of your movies, which one was your favorite to make? Who have you enjoyed working with in your career?
The Apostle is by far one of my all time favorites. Did that character come to you naturally?
Keep up the great work.
Robert Duvall: Lonesome Dove is still my favorite when I played Augustus.
James Caan and Michael Caine were great people to work with people but I really don't worry about who to work with.
Long Beach, N.Y.: I have long appreciated your earthy, believeable portrayals in film; not the least were those in THE GREAT SANTINI and THE GODFATHER.
1. Clearly, you have the opportunity to select your roles; whay do you look for in a character/story? What did you see in your most recent role?
2. Do you do stage work these days; if so, when might we see you soon?
Robert Duvall: I'm not going back to the stage.
With the character, you look to see if it's a different character from what you have done before. It's like being a carpenter where you build out of your own psyche and temperament and self and that's how i go after a character.
If you don't mind, first a personal note: I was fortunate to know your late brother Jack, and will always remember his many kindnesses -- especially to my wife and our young daughter, who is profoundly disabled. He was an extraordinarily gracious, warm, generous, delightful and good-spirited soul, and the world is a better place for him having been in it.
I have long admired your work, particularly the way you create and inhabit your characters. The range of characters -- from Frank Burns to Gus McCrae, Sonny Dewey, Tom Hagen, LTC Kilgore, Jerome Facher(sp?) Bull Meechum, Wyly King and now Boss Spearman, to name only a few -- is nothing short of remarkable. I can't think of another actor today who could be believable as both Eisenhower and Eichmann, or as Stalin and R.E. Lee.
Given your highly successful career and your place as one of the great American actors -- as well as your skills as a filmmaker in your own right -- I'm curious as to what draws you to other people's scripts and movies. And, 2nd Hand Lions looks like it has some strong comic elements. Although you've done M-A-S-H, Something to Talk About, and The Paper (and Kilgore may be film's most memorable scary/funny character) you're not really known for comedy. Should we be looking for more comedy roles from you in the future?
Robert Duvall: Usually people who play comedy roles I don't laugh at. I find the best humor comes out of behavior and out of life. I find it even in life it's the same way. People who try to make you laugh aren't funny but the ones with peculiar behaviors and don't mean to do. I think there is humor in when I played Lonesome Dove and such and people come naturally with humor.
Sterling, Va.: Mr. Duvall, you were terrific in a 1960 episode of "Naked City" I saw recently. Is there a performance you're particularly proud of that got little notice or box office that you wish more people would have seen, that you would recommend?
Robert Duvall: Tomorrow from the Faulkner short story. I've done a lot of films... maybe when I played the Cuban barber and I have certain favorites and Horton Foot and Lonesome Dove and Stars Fell on Henrietta and other films.
I appreciate you seeing and I hope you are pleased with seeing my films as much as I've enjoyed doing them.
washingtonpost.com: That wraps up today's show. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.