His father was of French Hugenot descent (with the family having immigrated to the U.S. in the 1700s), while his mother was of Anglo-Saxon descent, and is a direct descendant of General Robert E. Lee.
Served in the U.S. Army (serial #52 346 646) from 19 August 1953 to 20 August 1954, achieving rank of Private First Class and awarded the National Defense Service Medal.
Appears in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and Tender Mercies (1983), both of which were written for the screen by Horton Foote, and both of which earned him an Oscar for "Best Screenplay".
Has been had a role in more American Film Institute Top 100 films (six), than any other actor. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Apocalypse Now (1979), The Godfather (1972), The Godfather: Part II (1974), MASH (1970) and Network (1976). Robert De Niro and James Stewart were each in five.
Was director Robert Altman's first choice for country singer in Nashville (1975), but he used Henry Gibson instead when Duvall couldn't do it because of the scheduling. (source: Nashville commentary track).
Was considered for the role of "Brody" in the original Jaws (1975) film.
His performance as "Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore" in Apocalypse Now (1979) is ranked #59 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
His performance as "Mac Sledge" in Tender Mercies (1983) is ranked #14 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
The middle of three brothers, his elder brother William Duvall and younger brother John Duvall both appeared as singers in his film Angelo My Love (1983).
Named Mitt liv som hund (1985) as one of his favorite movies.
He says the work he is most proud of by far is his role as the former Texas Ranger "Augustus McCrae" in the 1990 TV miniseries "Lonesome Dove" (1989).
Received an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, Virginia in 1998.
A staunch, lifelong supporter of the Republican party, Duvall was personally invited to George W. Bush's inauguration as President in 2001. Duvall attended the ceremony.
He publicly criticized director Steven Spielberg for flying to Cuba in October 2002, and vowed never to work for Dreamworks studio again.
Received star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. [18 September 2003]
Owns a large estate in rural Virginia, where some skirmishes of the Civil War were fought (he has found shells and other artifacts on the property). Some scenes in Gods and Generals (2003) were filmed on his land.
Played ancestor Robert E. Lee in Gods and Generals (2003), when Martin Sheen was unable to reprise the role (due to his commitment to "The West Wing" (1999)).
In Gods and Generals (2003), played ancestor Robert E. Lee. The role was originally played by Martin Sheen in Gettysburg (1993). Duvall and Sheen starred together in the popular Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now (1979).
Fractured several ribs in April 2002 after falling off a horse while rehearsing for role in Open Range (2003).
Being descended from Robert E. Lee, he can actually trace his family back to President George Washington. Washington himself had no biological children, but his wife, Martha Custis, did, and he adopted them after the death of Martha's first husband. Her son, John Custis, had a son of his own, Washington Custis, whose daughter, Mary Custis, was Robert E. Lee's wife. Interestingly, Duvall played Lee in Gods and Generals (2003), opposite Jeff Daniels, who had played Washington in The Crossing (1990). Duvall starred in the adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).
Lived with Luciana Pedraza for seven years before marrying her in 2004. She is 41 years younger than him.
He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2005.
Watched "Broken Trail" (2006) with President George W. Bush in a special screening at the White House. (11 June 2006).
Hosted a fundraiser for Rudolph W. Giuliani at his Hollywood home in January 2008. He later endorsed Senator John McCain after Guiliani dropped out.
Has a family connection to two 2008 Presidential hopefuls. One of his ancestors, Mareen Duvall, is also an ancestor of Barack Obama. John McCain's family has been involved in the military for several generations, including an ancestor who worked with George Washington, to whom Duvall is related (by adoption).
Narrated a video supporting John McCain for the Republican National Convention in 2008.