Robert Duvall, The Dude

Charley Waite (Kevin Costner, left) and his friend and mentor, Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall, right), as they must confront a new enemy
In the new movie "Open Range," Robert Duvall plays veteran cattle driver Boss Spearman, who teams up with his longtime friend and confidante, played by Kevin Costner, to fight the injustices of a ruthless rancher.

Duvall talks to The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler about the Western tale, rarely made in Hollywood today, that was set in "maybe the most beautiful country I have ever seen - up around Calgary and Lake Louise." Duvall calls it "just wonderful country" and adds, "Nice people up there."

The script must have resonated with him. He signed on to do the picture within 24 hours after reading it.

Duvall explains, "It was a wonderful part. Wonderful project. When I read the part it was, like, wow, what a part. I felt like I could do it, find a way to do it. I answered within 12 hours or less."

"Open Range" follows the men of the untamed West, who live off the land. Charley (Kevin Costner), Boss (Duvall), Mose (Abraham Benrubi) and Button (Diego Luna) roam the countryside with their cattle and each other's company. But the four cowboys soon take a stand against a ruthless rancher (Michael Gambon), who controls the town of Harmonville with dictatorship tactics.

The producers of "Open Range" say getting Duvall to agree to work on the movie was vital to making the film. The screenwriter, Craig Storper, says he always had Duvall in mind as the actor to play Boss.

Boss is friend, mentor, father figure and employer to Charley and they keep a respectful distance. Duvall notes, "A lot of those guys are like that. I have been to my uncle's ranch when I was a kid. Lot of those cowboys are like that."

Duvall almost lost his chance to play Boss because he broke six ribs in a horse-riding accident before shooting started for "Open Range."

"Had it happened a month later," he says, "I couldn't have done the movie. I slept on my back for six weeks."

Some Facts About Robert Duvall

  • Robert Selden Duvall was born in San Diego, Calif., Jan. 5, 1931
  • In 1955, Duvall moved to New York City to study acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse
  • Duvall made his Off-Broadway debut in 1958's "Mrs. Warren's Profession"
  • In 1962, Duvall made his film acting debut in "To Kill a Mockingbird"
  • Duvall made appearances on episodes of "The Twilight Zone" and "The Outer Limits" in 1963
  • In 1968, Duvall made his first movie with director Robert Altman and actor James Caan in "Countdown"
  • In 1969, Duvall made his initial screen collaboration with director Francis Ford Coppola, "The Rain People"; his second film with Caan
  • Duvall portrayed Maj. Frank Burns in the 1970 movie hit "M*A*S*H"
  • In 1971, Duvall played the title role in George Lucas' feature directing debut, "THX 1138"
  • In 1972, Duvall supported Clint Eastwood in "Joe Kidd"; cast as Tom Hagen in Coppola's "The Godfather"; received first Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor; third film with Caan, second with Brando; starred as a handyman who falls in love with an abandoned pregnant woman in "Tomorrow"; adapted from the William Faulkner story by Foote
  • In 1974, Duvall acted in Coppola's "The Conversation", first film with friend Gene Hackman; he reprised role of Tom Hagen in "The Godfather, Part II"
  • In 1979, Duvall had featured role as the gung-ho Lt. Col. Kilgore ("I love the smell of napalm in the morning") in Coppola's Vietnam epic "Apocalypse Now"; nominated for Best Supporting Actor Oscar
  • In 1980, Duvall earned his first Best Actor Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of a hard-nosed military man in "The Great Santini"
  • In 1981, Duvall co-starred with Robert De Niro in "True Confessions"
  • Duvall won Best Actor Academy Award for "Tender Mercies" in 1983
  • In 1992, the actor was nominated for an Emmy for his HBO biopic "Stalin"
  • In 1997, Duvall received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his "The Apostle" movie
  • In 2002, Duvall was cast as a hostage negotiator in the drama "John Q," starring Denzel Washington
  • In 2003, Duvall wrote, produced, directed and starred in the drama "Assassination Tango"; portrayed General Robert E. Lee in the Civil War drama "Gods and Generals"