His pivotal 'Get Low' confession done in a single take

There is a moment, late in the independent drama “Get Low,” when Robert Duvall’s character, Felix Bush, confesses in public.

It’s a setpiece without bombs or car chases; instead it’s a poignant emptying of a warehouse of emotions that had been padlocked for years.

The actor did it in one take.

“You just do it, and let the moment evolve as it happens,” Duvall says. “I did a lot of thinking about it beforehand, and it became like a stage play where you’re saying the lines to yourself two or three weeks after you’re finished with it.

“It was so much a part of me that it just worked. They had three cameras going. There was no need to do it again. They turned the camera on Sissy (Spacek), and she did hers in one take. Sometimes they beat a scene to death, and you don’t know if they’re going to use the best take anyway. This time, they seemed satisfied, so we went on to the next scene.”

Duvall, who turns 80 in January, is a six-time Academy Award nominee who took home an Oscar in 1984 for his role as a country singer in “Tender Mercies.” He has forged a wondrous career by playing characters with a fiercely independent spirit, from Lt. Colonel Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now” to Bull Meechum in “The Great Santini” and many others. In “Get Low,” he plays a hermit with a dark secret who sets out to arrange his own funeral.

He said a common thread that ties all of his work together is a determination to “keep it simple.”

“The talking and listening process is a simple thing, but it can lead to emotional things,” he said. “Talking and listening.”

Fortunately for him, Hollywood is still listening when his agent calls. Rather than “Get Low” representing a career fade-out, it’s just another bold and important step in the journey.

“They say you don’t retire in this business, the business retires you,” he explained. “There are projects out there as good as ever before.”

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