60 seconds with... Robert Duvall

Robert Duvall and Eva Mendes at the premiere for "We Own the Night."

The Emmy-winning actor on producing, immigration and the Pony Express.

By Mike Flaherty, Special to the Times
October 11, 2007

Fresh off his two Emmy wins for AMC's smash miniseries "Broken Trail," the 76-year-old actor-director-producer shows no sign of slowing down. He talked with us about his latest appearance in front of the camera in this week's film "We Own the Night," previewed his projects in development and defended the actor as director.

What's "We Own the Night" about?

It deals with the police counteracting the Russian Mafia in Brooklyn in the '80s, but it's about the trials and tribulations of family life within the police world. There's the father (me), who's a widower, and his two sons -- one's in the police department [Mark Wahlberg] and one's going downhill quickly and badly [Joaquin Phoenix], but eventually turns around, goes to the police academy and helps avenge my death.

I hope that doesn't mean you're only in the beginning of it.

No, I'm in the beginning and the middle and then, toward the end, not so much. It's a well-made movie, very talented director, Jimmy Gray, and the story is kind of the reverse of "The Godfather" in terms of the son's ordeal.

Congratulations on your two Emmys for "Broken Trail."

Thank you.

I couldn't help but feel the academy was bestowing a bit of belated justice for your not winning for your amazing work in "Lonesome Dove" in 1989. Did that occur to you?

It crossed my mind, yeah. It was an amazing and strange realization when we didn't win back then. I didn't get it.

Has there been any talk with AMC about a sequel to "Broken Trail"?

There could be. It did really well. Over 30 million people saw it. If it had been a film, maybe six people would have seen it. Television, lately, is pretty interesting. And some of the films you see aren't that great anyway.

Seems like there are more and more high-profile movie people doing TV projects nowadays.

My little production company has signed on for two television series in the last month. And we may get a third. It's unheard of!

Tell me about them.

Well, yeah, with AMC we're going to do, co-producing with Dick Donner's company and his wife, a series on the Pony Express. It's a very, very interesting story, the Pony Express. And just yesterday we sold an American version of the British series "Cracker." The third thing is a series dealing with the current immigration situation. We were down on the border doing research last winter. Pretty fascinating stuff.

Will you be acting in any of these?

Yeah, in the Pony Express and border projects. But mostly I want to produce: Hopefully, you do something good, then you can sit back and collect.

You seem to be really struck by, fascinated by, the idea of the frontier, even as it plays out in the current day, with the immigration issue. Why is that?

I guess I have a feeling for it. I don't know when it was cultivated or if it's a conscious thing. Maybe it goes back to when I spent two summers on my uncle's ranch at the end of World War II, up in northern Montana. Also, way back when I was 9 or 10, I rode on a horse out in New Boston, Texas, with my mother's side of the family. It was such a thrill.

---- Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2007