Film

Barbequing with Legends: Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek on Cinema, Cinephilia and Good-Looking Shoes

Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek in Get Low

On the eve of the release of Get Low, PopMatters talks with film legends Sissy Spacek and Robert Duvall about food criticism (sort of), film critics (without mentioning any, ahem, names), and of course, cute shoes (and a few other things).

Coal Miner's Daughter. In the Bedroom. Badlands. Carrie. 3 Women. Crimes of the Heart.

These are among some of the key films that would shape my future as a writer, each in its own way emblematic of my overall experience as a cinephile, and each in possession of a separate quality that would eventually inspire me to study gender and film. Their common denominator, the glue that holds them together, so to speak, is that each features a singular performance by Sissy Spacek.

When I saw the trailer for Aaron Schneider's new film Get Low I dared to dream a little and fantasized about how Spacek might make the ideal subject for PopMatters' first Performer Spotlight Series. Knowing that the actress lived far outside of the conventional industry circles and didn't do many interviews, I didn't take into consideration that if I could, by some small miracle arrange an interview, that I would actually have to meet her or at least talk to her.

Film: Get Low

Year: 2009

Director: Aaron Schneider

Cast: Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray, Lucas Black, Gerald McRaney, Bill Cobbs

Trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi2880046873/

Website: http://www.sonyclassics.com/getlow/

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/columns_art/m/mazur-getlow-poster.jpgTo me, Spacek is a powerhouse of talent not unlike another hero of mine, a woman who is one of her few true contemporaries: Jessica Lange. These are the kinds of artists who are elusive, elegant, gifted and versatile; steering a career, a family and a body of work in a business that is so often preoccupied with looking forward that it often cruelly overlooks its past. Like Lange, Spacek has remained distinctly herself in a business that often asks women to hide themselves, successfully integrating her own magnetic personality into a blisteringly extensive range of unforgettable characters for four decades. “It is a fact, and not hyperbole, to state that she is without doubt one of the greatest screen actors of all time,” said director Todd Field via email.

Once the interview was confirmed, I lived in sheer terror, revisiting these films and reliving these wonderful formative movie-watching experiences and anticipating the meeting. To me, Spacek's performances in the films we have looked at all week in this series, and in such wonderful depth, were an integral part of my own first memories of loving movies. I remember watching Spacek opposite Lange and Diane Keaton in Crimes of the Heart and right on the spot falling in love with actresses in a profound, Pedro Almodovar kind of way.

Somehow, I now find myself interviewing the people I admire most in life, and I seem to stumble into these anxiety-inducing situations more and more frequently, coming face to face with these legends, and trying to just not hyperventilate. Inside, I am screaming “Oh my God, you know David Lynch!” like a total movie geek.

Spacek, who won the Oscar for her iconic performance as Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter is a six-time Academy Award nominee (Carrie, Coal Miner's Daughter, Missing, The River, Crimes of the Heart and In the Bedroom) and was most recently seen (justifiably, hysterically) calling Bill Paxton a “douche bag” during her electric stint on HBO's Big Love, for which she deserves to win the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.

To add extra schein to this already impossibly fever-dream like day would be an added twist: I would be simultaneously talking with Robert Duvall, Spacek's Get Low co-star and a living legend in his own right. In case you haven't been to the movies in the last 50 years, Duvall has appeared in such pictures as Francis Ford Coppola's classics Apocalypse Now and The Godfather (Parts I and II), Sidney Lumet's Network and The Apostle in 1997 where he directed himself to one of the most galvanic filmed performances of the entire decade. Duvall, also a six time Oscar nominee (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, The Great Santini, The Apostle and A Civil Action), won the Best Actor Oscar for his work in 1983's Tender Mercies as Mac Sledge, a broken country crooner. The actor was most recently was seen supporting another performer playing a country singer, Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart, to another iconic Oscar win.

No pressure!

So, I schlepped from the woods of Western Massachusetts to the Upper East Side of New York to see what was happening with two of America's finest living actors. Walking into the suite where we are to meet, the familiarly lilting quality of both actors' voices put me at ease before I even saw their faces. Then, almost immediately, we began an introspective conversation about how the film industry has evolved since they started working, what Oscars really mean, and ended with what it was like for them acting with supernovas like Anne Bancroft and Marlon Brando.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, they also both sang a little. As is my custom when doing interviews, I was ridiculously over-prepared with questions, themes, and seriousness, but instead found myself just kind of laughing and shooting the breeze about cinephilia with two of the foremost authorities on the subject. Duvall and Spacek have a lot to say about movies, so why should something like prepped questions stand in the way of such effortless chemistry that is present both on and off screen?

Like any good fairy tale, our story begins and ends with the power of good shoes.

Spacek, looking smart, tailored and wearing chic little round black sunglasses throughout the interview (“I'm not dressed for uptown” she joked), immediately noticed my black and white boots when I walked in. They complemented her own black and white shoes perfectly. As she grabbed my hand firmly, greeting me with a warm smile, Spacek put her comparatively tiny foot next to mine to highlight the similarities of our footwear and to trade compliments. A shoe moment with Sissy Spacek is a pretty damned fantastic ice-breaker.

And then we were off, and I felt caught in a thrilling whirlwind of cinema history.

Next Page

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image