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The Contender: Robert Duvall

Inside the minds of the actors who gave 2014’s most astonishing performances

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Initially, Robert Duvall says, the jury was out when it came to The Judge. “It didn’t appeal to me,” he recalls. “I really needed time to think about it.”

Nevertheless, he came to love his role (opposite Robert Downey Jr.) as tough-as-nails Judge Joseph Palmer. The part required Duvall to portray Palmer—a longtime judge with a seriously dysfunctional family who finds himself on an unfamiliar side of the bench—at both his most ferocious and his most helpless.  

Luckily, the actor had a strategy for pulling off such a complicated character: “You daydream in the middle of the day and you dream during the night about the part,” Duvall says. “You go in each day and try to meet the demands, which are different from any other day and any other scene. So, you just go in and operate, and let it come from within yourself.”

Duvall says he filmed some of the most harrowing scenes of his career for The Judge, which follows Palmer as his
faculties fail him, sometimes graphically, and he comes to begrudgingly rely on the son he’s long been estranged from. Looking back, he says he’s glad he took the risk. “It’s hard to decide to do something like this initially, but not so hard to watch now,” he says, “because it’s just making believe.”

Polo shirt, Duvall’s own. Duvall photographed on location at The Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills

Go behind the scenes at DuJour‘s photo shoot for Hollywood’s most incredible actors of 2014