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Arts & Culture

With ‘Wild Horses,’ Robert Duvall Returns To SXSW, As Director

Robert Duvall is in the director’s chair for the first time since 2002's Assassination Tango. He also stars in his latest feature, Wild Horses, alongside Josh Hartnett, James Franco, Adriana Barraza, and wife Luciana Pedraza Duvall. The film premiered on Tuesday at Austin’s South By Southwest Film Festival.

In the film, a Texas Ranger reopens a 15-year-old missing persons case involving the disappearance of a boy which might involve the family of wealthy Texas rancher Scott Briggs (Duvall). Duvall enlisted the help of some real-life Texas lawmen on the film; Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West plays a part in the movie, as does Hank Whitman, who retired as head of the Texas Rangers in 2012.

“[It’s] better to have them, than necessarily get an actor to come in and play a ranger or sheriff or whatever,” said Duvall before the movie’s premiere. “To get the real thing, it puts a piece of authenticity into the fabric [of the film]. It’s very important.”

Because the state offered incentives to shoot there, Utah doubles for West Texas in the film, which took a little more than three weeks to film.

Duvall has played Texans before, most notably in The Apostle (1997), as a fire-breathing Pentecostal preacher, and Tender Mercies (1983), as a country singer working to get his personal life in order. That quiet, affecting performance earned him an Oscar for Best Actor.

Duvall said telling stories from Texas and the South is important to him, because “a lot of people in New York don’t know what goes on beyond the south Jersey Shore. To try and show that there’s something out there besides New York and L.A., that justifies good emphasis.”

At age 83, the Hollywood veteran shows no signs of slowing, even if he admits that directing Wild Horses was a lot of work. “Whether I’ll ever do it again, I’m not so sure!” he joked.

Although Wild Horses screened twice at SXSW, it’s currently caught in a legal battle over distribution rights. Once the parties involved have resolved that issue, the film can make its way to theaters and video on demand.

Duvall, meanwhile, praised Texas, emphasizing his love of Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, naming Bohanan’s steak house--on Houston Street in the Alamo City--as a particular favorite, whenever he’s visiting town. “I love that place!” he said.