Duvall, Downey Lay Down Law about 'Judge' at the Toronto International Film Festival

By Vancheri, Barbara | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), September 7, 2014 | Go to article overview

Duvall, Downey Lay Down Law about 'Judge' at the Toronto International Film Festival


Vancheri, Barbara, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


TORONTO -- Actor Dax Shepard couldn't believe he was having literal pillow talk with Robert Duvall.

They were about to shoot "The Judge" in Shelburne Falls and elsewhere in small-town Massachusetts, where there were no hotels but bed-and-breakfast hideaways.

He was staying at the same place as Mr. Duvall and actor Jeremy Strong and told a Toronto International Film Festival press conference, "My first real conversation with Robert was while he laid down in bed with some pillows, and I sat at the foot of his bed like his son and asked him a trillion questions about movies, and I went back to my room and I thought, I just had pillow talk with Robert Duvall in a weird gingerbread house."

He plays an antiques dealer and sometime lawyer who is so nervous he vomits before court, but Mr. Duvall's sons are played by Vincent D'Onofrio (who said he moved into the B&B but moved out 5 minutes later), Robert Downey Jr. and Mr. Strong in a family described as a "[expletive] Picasso painting."

Mr. Downey is a big-city lawyer who returns to his small hometown first for his mother's funeral and then when his father, a longtime no-nonsense judge, is suspected of purposely hitting someone with his car. The actor also known as Iron Man has some wonderful lines of dialogue, including, "Innocent people can't afford me," and "Everybody wants Atticus Finch till it's a dead hooker in a hot tub."

Mr. Downey dressed this day in a smart double-breasted suit and sitting between the more casually clad Mr. Duvall and Mr. Shepard, said the Atticus Finch reference from "To Kill a Mockingbird," a movie in which Mr. Duvall played Boo Radley, was in the script. It sounds as if it were brilliantly ad-libbed, but it was coincidence.

"I'd like to think that everything that's great in the movie was my idea," Mr. Downey said to appreciative laughter. "It's never so not been the case. ... Trust me, we weren't trying to put in Easter eggs."

The group at the press conference also included most of the other key actors, including Mr. D'Onofrio, Mr. Strong and Vera Farmiga as Mr. Downey's high school sweetheart who now owns a diner and bar in their small town, along with director David Dobkin and producers Susan Downey and David Gambino.

Ms. Downey, who is married to the actor and a co-founder of their entertainment company called Team Downey, addressed the notion of making a movie where people talk to each other in a superhero age.

"It isn't one of the big tentpole ones which Robert and I have been kind of living in for a while. Our hope is that this will get us going on that conversation of, can we put out movies about real people? ... We were inspired by movies that were back in kind of the late '70s and early '80s that were with people talking. Sometimes it's nice to have stakes that don't involve just defending the world."

Mr. Duvall, who described himself as a stepfather rather than biological father in real life, said there is much to glean from "The Judge," a movie in which the dad and middle son tell each other, "We're done" more than once. And mean it.

"There's a lot to learn from this script, a lot of wonderful conclusions to come to because of the complexities of this family and of the individuals. Working with these people was a wonderful experience to, even at my age, grow a little bit. …

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