2005 National Medal of Arts
President George W. Bush and Laura Bush present the National Medal of Arts award to Robert Duvall. White House photo by Eric Draper.
"Robert Duvall is the finest American actor in film today," said Richard Harris who starred with Duvall in Wrestling Ernest Hemingway. "His work is so versatile, so courageous, so unpredictable. He paints it so beautifully."
Robert Duvall was born in San Diego, California and grew up mostly in Annapolis, Maryland. After a two-year tour of duty in the Army, he moved to New York in 1955 and enrolled in the Neighborhood Playhouse on the G.I. Bill studying under the renowned Sanford Meisner. Meisner cast him in Tennessee Williams' Camino Real and Horton Foote's The Midnight Caller. As a fledgling actor, Duvall supported himself with a number of jobs, including night janitor at American University and employment at the Post Office.
In 1963, Foote recommended him for his screen debut in To Kill A Mockingbird, playing the role of the mysterious Boo Radley. Other 1960s film credits include The Chase, Bullit, The Rain People, and True Grit, in which he played a villainous cowboy opposite John Wayne.
Duvall received an Oscar nomination for his role as Tom Hagen in The Godfather in 1972, a role he reprised two years later in The Godfather, Part II. In 1978, he played the title role in the highly regarded television miniseries, Ike, which he followed in 1979 with the role of Kilgore in Apocalypse Now, for which he earned his second Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor.
In 1980, Duvall was nominated for Best Actor in The Great Santini. In 1983, Duvall received the Oscar for Best Actor for his role as Max Sledge, a country music star, in Tender Mercies. And in 1989, he had the lead role in Lonesome Dove, a major television miniseries based on a novel by Larry McMurtry, a role for which he received an Emmy Award nomination.
The 1990s saw Duvall in several films including The Handmaid's Tale with Faye Dunaway, Horton Foote's Convicts, and Wrestling Ernest Hemingway.
Duvall formed Butchers Run Films in 1992 so that he could become more actively involved in all elements of film development and production. Four years later he directed and starred in his own screenplay, The Apostle. Duvall received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for that role. He followed with co-starring roles in Deep Impact and opposite John Travolta in A Civil Action, for which Duvall received his sixth Oscar nomination. The film also garnered an Independent Spirit Award for Best Picture.
At the beginning of 2001, Duvall went to Argentina to direct, produce, and star in his own script Assassination Tango. Upon completing that film, Duvall portrayed his actual ancestor, General Robert E. Lee in the Civil War epic Gods and Generals followed a year later by Secondhand Lions with Michael Caine. Recent projects include Lucky You directed by Curtis Hanson and starring in and producing the four-hour, Western miniseries currently titled, Daughters of Joy, set to premiere in Summer 2006.
Return to News Index
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency
1100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20506