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Film

Why Robert Duvall called Stanley Kubrick "an actor's enemy"

@Russellisation

During the 1970s, there were few male actors with the same industry weight and cultural prominence as Robert Duvall, an actor who enjoyed consistent success throughout the decade with the likes of THX 1138, The Godfather, The Eagle Has Landed and Apocalypse Now. Having worked with the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Sidney Lumet and Robert Altman through the decade, Duvall became the go-to actor for any role that involved a tough exterior and steely resolve. 

Receiving worldwide praise for his iconic role in Apocalypse Now, Duvall’s character, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, has since been written into the pages of cinema history thanks to his line: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning”. The film would later become an influential addition to the pantheon of Vietnam war movies, itself an ode to the true chaos, paranoia and horror of the controversial American war. 

Whilst Duvall may have collaborated with some of cinema’s most impressive minds, from Coppola to Sidney Lumet, it seems as though the actor has little respect for arguably the greatest director of the 20th century, Stanley Kubrick. Speaking at The Hollywood Reporter’s annual roundtable that looks into the latest awards contenders, the actor gave some brutally honest opinions on Kubrick, calling him, “an actor’s enemy”. 

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Further criticising the work of the cinematic great, Duvall added: “I can point to movies he’s done, the worst performances I’ve ever seen in movies: The Shining, A Clockwork Orange”. Shockingly picking apart the brilliance of the likes of Jack Nicholson and Malcolm McDowell, Duvall continues his tirade, commenting that such films have “terrible performances, maybe great movies but they’re terrible performances”.  

As if taking Stanley Kubrick down wasn’t enough damage, Duvall then sought to pick apart the Gone Girl, Fight Club and Zodiac director David Fincher, turning to the host of the panel to ask, “who’s he? He’s the director?”. Discrediting the modern filmmaker, Duvall finally remembered the director before adding: “He’s always been like that David Fincher? How about when he did Se7en? He got good results from that… I turned down a part in Se7en maybe [his methodology is] the reason I did. Subconsciously I knew”. 

Quite what the methodology was that Robert Duvall wasn’t a fan of is unclear, though what remains self-evident is that he is a contrarian of popular cinema, with Stanley Kubrick and David Fincher being recognised as two titans of modern cinema. 

Though Duvall enjoyed his heyday in the late 20th century, the actor still appears in films throughout modern cinema with the star next due to appear in Hustle alongside Adam Sandler and Queen Latifah for the Jeremiah Zagar-directed film. Let’s hope Zagar receives better treatment from Robert Duvall than Stanley Kubrick and David Fincher ever did.

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