Oscar-winner Robert Duvall appears to like talking about people, places and cultures as much as—if not more than—movies. Talking with religion writers recently in Beverly Hills—about his upcoming film “Secondhand Lions”—Duvall mentioned a friend from Oklahoma who had gone to see him during the shoot in Texas.
Talking with religion writers recently in Beverly Hills—about his upcoming film “Secondhand Lions”—Duvall mentioned a friend from Oklahoma who had gone to see him during the shoot in Texas.
The special thing about the friend is not that he’s 83. It’s that he can, according to Duvall, rip a quarter in half with his bare hands.
The cast and crew for “Secondhand Lions” had fun during the 53-day shoot, which occurred mostly in Pflugerville County, just north of Austin. Whether native Texan—like writer and director Tim McCanlies—or native Briton—like star Michael Caine—the people involved with the film soaked up life in Texas.
“I love Texas,” said Caine, who plays an old Texan named Garth. “Texas was everything I expected it to be. So few things are. It was really what I expected it to be. Everybody was all about barbecue all the time. I thought it was great. We’d go and have a barbecue. And there was a lot of music. Everybody played music all the time. And people were really tough.”
It wasn’t Caine’s first sojourn in Texas. He had shot “Miss Congeniality” with Sandra Bullock in Austin about two years earlier.
“I had three-quarters of the crew of ‘Miss Congeniality,'” he said. “I had the same make-up, same hair.”
“I even had the same motor home,” he continued. “The chewing gum was right under the sink.”
But unlike “Miss Congeniality,” “Secondhand Lions” required Caine to adopt a Texas accent. And director McCanlies wanted it perfect.
“I’m a native Texan,” McCanlies said, “so there’s nothing worse than a bad Texas accent to me.” McCanlies hired a friend and actor, Joe Stevens from Austin, to work with Caine on the accent.
Caine said Stevens told him that, initially, Caine was doing a Texas accent with an English rhythm. Stevens observed that Caine’s words were “standing up, not laying down.”
Caine then slipped into his newly acquired Texas drawl.
“Texas is lazier,” said the Londonite. “Every word lays on the next one. It’s all lazy. They don’t stand up on their own.”
McCanlies said he was pleased with Caine’s accent—and his look.
“Michael really looks Texas,” said McCanlies. “We put those LBJ sort of glasses on him.”
But there’s another movie prop arguably even more Texas than those LBJ glasses: guns, which gave McCanlies pause.
“There’s a lot of guns in this, but that’s very Texas,” said the writer and director. “You go by the Delhi Baptist Church in the area where I live, and all the pick ups out there, which is every car in the parking lot, will all have a gun rack on Sundays. Welcome to Texas.”
Caine’s Garth and Duvall’s Hub—eccentric brothers living out life at their rural farmhouse—are fond of firearms, passing many of their days on their front porch, cradling shotguns and waiting to scare off the next salesman that drops by.
There’s also a scene—albeit comic—in which children join their parents in brandishing guns.
“I worried about giving the kids guns,” McCanlies said, noting that he had removed the scene from an early cut of the movie, only to put it back in. “Putting guns in the hands of adolescents—being from Texas I sort of enjoy that.”
McCanlies said he considered the issue of firearms carefully, but ultimately decided guns were right for the movie.
“If you were just so completely scared, I think you’d end up with a very bland movie sometimes,” he said. “Eccentric behavior is, by its nature, eccentric. I don’t think any of it’s offensive.”
The principals from “Secondhand Lions” who gathered in Beverly Hills took real pride in the film. And Caine, especially, remembered his time in Texas with enthusiasm.
“Bobby [Robert Duvall] introduced me to a great friend of his,” said Caine, recalling that the friend then asked him for a quarter.
“I thought he wanted to make a phone call,” Caine said. “He ripped it in half and gave it back to me. Yeah, he ripped my coin in half.”
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
Our review of “Secondhand Lions” will appear opening day, Sept. 19.
Visit the movie’s official Web site.