Robert Duvall Labels Performances in Kubrick’s Films as “Terrible”

     December 2, 2010


Legendary actor Robert Duvall has condemned “the great Stanley Kubrick” as an “actors enemy”.   The fiery exclamation came  during a round table interview with THR after it was revealed that director David Fincher frequently took around fifty takes to get the perfect shot whilst filming The Social Network. Fellow interviewees Mark Ruffalo and Jesse Eisenberg laugh (perhaps with disdain?) as Duvall compares Fincher to Kubrick. No doubt a comparison like that would normally be considered flattering, but Duvall continued, dismissing the performances in such classics as The Shining and A Clockwork Orange as “the worst performances I’ve ever seen in movies”. Hit the jump for more.

As some consolation, Duvall does admit that both films “maybe were great movies”, but questions the value of multiple takes during shooting, saying, “Why would anybody do that?…I don’t quite get that.” He brands the resulting performances as “terrible”. For the record, both movies received massive acclaim and currently sit at spots #49 and #52 respectively on IMDb’s top 250 films of all time.

It seems Duvall was getting a kick out of being provocative during the round table, and he definitely appears to wind up Eisenberg as the star describes himself as very “self critical” and Duvall nonchalantly interrupts “why?”

Earlier in the interview, Duvall shows that he may be a little out of touch with modern cinema after asking, “Who’s the director?” [of The Social Network] and questioning his directorial prowess, “How does he know the difference between the first take and the seventieth take?” I wonder whether Fincher would be prepared to give any feedback?

To watch the full video, which I highly recommend, click here. Other actors on the panel are Colin Firth, James Franco, and Ryan Gosling.


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  • Daniel Kalweit

    Ya know, he’s gotta point.

  • Tony

    Duvall’s one of the greats, fans can often be judgemental and fickle due to misunderstanding the wider context or ill judged comments.

    hope he doesn’t lose admirers because of any number of external reasons that provoked him to this stance. Imagine the things an experienced man like him can teach.

  • Mike91

    Jack Nicholson and Malcom McDowell’s respective performances were legendary and will go down in history as some of the greatest acting of our time.

  • Mike91

    Jack Nicholson and Malcom McDowell’s respective performances were legendary and will go down in history as some of the greatest acting of our time.

  • Sccitylhh

    “the worst performances I’ve ever seen in movies”

    Yeah. I think the old man is losing it. I’d like to know how he reconciles “maybe they were great movies” with that quote. I can’t recall too many great movies with horrible performances.

    • RAR

      Coppola’s ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ is a great movie (in my opinion–I could understand people hating it), but every scene with Keanu Reeves makes me grimace.

      I’ve actually seen a lot of great movies with horrible performances. I’ve been watching a lot of Italian movies from the ’60s through ’80s, and many of them have horrible actors, but the director manages to save the movie through storytelling techniques, cinematography/camerawork, and editing. It’s like watching a movie with bad CGI: sometimes it threatens to destory an otherwise good movie (‘Blade II,’ ‘Let the Right One In’) but in the end everything else can still save it.

      Hmm. I just realized all three movies I mentioned are about vampires. Kind of a weird coincidence.

      • Trick

        The Italian movies of the 60′s are known for their neo-realistic elements, and one of the most porminent elements was inexperienced actors. Which movies did you watch?

  • Three Gun Fish

    He a hater.

  • wrecks

    A fantastic, vetran actor who has been in over 80 movies and tv shows can really say whatever the hell he wants about any aspect of the filmmaking process as far as I’m concerned. Speak it Robert.

  • Jronald1978

    Duvall is way too opinionated…Sure he’s one of the all-time greatest but he seems to bash his fellow actors WAY too often. I remember a few years ago he slammed the actors in Canada after filming Open Range stating “I prefer not to work in Canada….I prefer to work in my own country. There are better actors down there. That’s why they have to import so many actors for their Canadian productions.” I mean sure he “may” have a point (I wouldn’t know, I’m not an actor) but keep it to YOURSELF OLD MAN!!!! Nobody likes a know-it-all.

  • Irons

    Duvall is one of the best actors in the history of cinema, so anything he has to say on acting has to have some truth to it, right ?

  • Anonymous

    I agree and disagree. I disagree that the performances are “terrible” I agree that 50 plus takes are a bit much. He is coming from an actors point of view. Actors don’t want to do that many takes. I don’t care who is directing. I think Andrew Garfiled was even quoted as not really liking doing so many takes on The Social Network.

    I think an actor should be able to “nail” a scene by the seventh take at the most. They are actors. That’s their job. It shouldn’t take 50 plus takes.

    David Mamet wrote that directors who do multiple takes don’t know what they want. Having said that, every director is different. SOme only like to do 2 or 3 takes and some are like Fincher and Kubrick. They do and did get good results. But come on, does Fincher really see a difference from the third take and the 50th take??

    • Excpired

      It is possible that what the directors are looking for isn’t necessarily in the acting but in the scene as a whole. It could also be that the director wants as many takes for the editing room as he can get to avoid having to do re-shoots.

      All in all it doesn’t matter, Duvall’s statement regarding the quality of the acting and the films is erroneous and was most likely said out of spite. In actuality what Duvall seems to be objecting to is the methods these directors employ in making a quality film; considering he comes from a background of directors who believe in taking natural takes (Apocalypse Now), it seems like the guy believes it is his way or the highway. Last I checked though, there is no ‘right’ way to eat a Reese’s.

  • pgitt

    Duvall is not losing it–the man just hates doing a lot of takes. Kubrick has directed a lot of great films that have great performances, but it can be over kill. I like “Eyes Wide Shut” and I still do not understand why it took years to film.

  • Trick

    Duvall has a point. When can we get back to the days when director’s just let the camera roll, capturing the performances and talents of the actors instead of creating the talent for them. Long takes and less editing is what makes proves a directors worth, i.e. the reason we will NEVER see another great musical such as the MGM musicals of old.
    That being said, Fincher is my favorite director at the moment. haha

  • Scoot

    Some actors give great performances on the 1st take and others on the 50th. The great thing about editing is you can combine those takes.
    I’m sure some actors like to think they give the best performance in 3 takes but actors aren’t the judge of that, the director and editor is. How much of the 50th takes ends up getting used too? There’s obviously something good about it to make them move on right?

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  •!/Ltdumbear Ltdumbear

    The man is a living-legend in modern-day Hollywood, has worked hard to give HONEST performances AND push-forth old-school Morals and Ethics which today’s generation is SADLY lacking in, so his comments are justifiable. That being said, Kubricks movies were (in thier own right) forward-thinking, and work on levels that simply don’t (or can’t) identify with what Mr. Duvall has been involved with (the only possible exception being ‘Falling Down’). My thoughts are the Mr. Duvall is simply ‘ranting’ against the fast-pace of changes in modern-day cinema…and who can blame him ?

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  • Nickula11

    All I can say is: “Fuck you, Duvall!”
    Those performances are some of the BEST! I think that some people just don’t understand the process of taking an actor past exhaustion to get them to a place of honesty, or, high anxiety. Kubrick and Fincher have/had their methods and are quite within their right to exercise them. Even Nicholas Meyer talks about these methods whilst directing Shatner.
    Duvall is just from a different school, but still… Fuck you, sir.

    • GreenWolfe

      many people has strongly criticised jack’s performance in the shining, duvall is not the first. Speilberg even told kubrick he thought the performance was over the top to his face and kubrick respected his opinion.

  • Ryan

    Fincher has stated that the does as many takes as it takes for an actor to get the “acting” out of them so that they can simply say the lines naturally and do the motions naturally because they’ve done it 50 times. He mentioned a specific instance of a shot where Jesse Eisenberg goes to his mini-fridge to get a beer. Jesse would do it a bunch of different ways, and Fincher just kept calling take after take until the act of getting the beer the way Zuckerberg would do it became muscle memory, as it would be for Zuckerberg.

    It’s not everybody’s method, and it’s easy to see how it would drive an actor nuts, but that’s how Fincher likes it, and it seems like his casts are willing to deal w/ it.

  • Kyle Michel Sullivan

    Consider this — William Wyler was notorious for doing 40-50 takes of a scene in order to get what he wanted, and he’s responsible for 14 actors getting Academy Awards out of 39 being nominated…and they were some great performances: Olivia de Havilland in “The Heiress”, Bette David in “Jezebel”, Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday”, and Frederick March in “The Best Years of Our Lives” amongst the winners. So it can be useful to do that many takes.

    That said, I don’t think Kubrick doing it was helpful, and I’d say the acting in “Spartacus”, “Dr. Strangelove…” and “A Clockwork Orange” were because he had some massively talented (and disciplined) actors to work with. The rest of the time they were merely mannequins while Jack Nicholson’s performance in “The Shining” was an embarrassment (but then, I consider the movie to be a travesty of the book, too).

  • d.r

    Duvall doesn’t know what he’s talking about.Kubrick was the best,because he either got actors to give their best,or certainly most iconic performances.Is nicholson’s performance his best?No,but its certainly his most riveting.Does shelly duvall give that bad a performance,think of the characters plight,and see if her actions aren’t believable huh?Mcdowell was amazing in clockwork orange,and the other performers are giving the performance,the role requires.Look at d’onfrio,ermey,modine have they given better performances in any other film they have done?Ryan o’ neal was even great in barry lyndon,ryan o’NEAL PEOPLE!!Sellers,scott in strangelove,windsor in the killing,ustinov in spartacus.Robert Duvall is out of it.

  • Reese

    The Nicholson performance is fun to watch but it’s hardly realistic. He turns the story of The Shining into a farce. At the end when he’s screaming “Danny, Danny Boy!!”, he just appears to be clowning around. That is a shame since everything else about that movie is outstanding, the cinematography and the atmosphere. It was ruined by Nicholson. McDowell was great though.