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Academy Award-winning Actor
Veteran actor and director Robert Duvall was born on January 5, 1931, in San Diego, CA, to Mildred Virginia who was related to American Civil War General Robert E. Lee, and William Howard Duvall, a Virginia-born career military officer who later became a U.S. Navy admiral.
Duvall, a GI kid who grew up in a military family, majored in drama at Principia College (Elsah, IL). After graduating in 1953, Duvall enlisted in the United States Army for a two-year hitch, achieving the rank of Private First Class and receiving the National Defense Service Medal.
Duvall began attending The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City on the GI Bill in 1955, studying under Sanford Meisner. He shared an apartment with another soon to be famous young actor, Dustin Hoffman. Both were close to another struggling young actor named Gene Hackman
Shortly thereafter, Meisner cast Duvall in the play "The Midnight Caller" which proved to be pivotal to his career: he was recommended to play the mentally disabled "Boo Radley" in the movie version of the classic book, "To Kill A Mockingbird" in 1962, marking his movie debut. He was an instant success.
Duvall portrayed the first "Maj. Frank Burns" character in Robert Altman's Korean War comedy MASH in 1970. He also appeared as the lead in "THX 1130" (1971). When director Francis Ford Coppola cast The Godfather (1972), he provided Duvall with his career breakthrough as mob lawyer "Tom Hagen," a role for which Duvall received the first of his six Academy Award nominations.
Duvall went on to featured roles in "The Godfather Part II" (1974), "The Killer Elite" (1975), "Network" (1976), "The Seven Percent Solution" (1976) and "The Eagle Has Landed" (1976). Duvall's portrayal of "Lt. Col. Kilgore" in "Apocalypse Now" (1979) solidified his reputation as a great actor. He got his second Academy Award nomination for the role, and was named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most versatile actor in the world.
Robert Duvall has created some of the most memorable characters ever portrayed on film. He is one of the few established character actors to move from supporting to leading roles, with Oscar-nominated roles in "The Great Santini" (1979) and "Tender Mercies" (1983), the latter of which won him the Academy Award for Best Actor. Duvall also received Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor in "A Civil Action" and "Apocalypse Now." Robert Duvall's career boasts a body of work that few others can equal.