Robert Duvall Went 'Over The Top' When Getting Into Character For 1976's Network

Robert Duvall is not a method actor. Though he has played a wide variety of characters, from the hauntingly silent Boo Radley at the heart-rending end of "To Kill a Mockingbird" to the surfing-crazed Colonel Kilgore in "Apocalypse Now," his method is anti-method. "You talk, you listen," he once said. Nevertheless, when playing the abrasive television executive Frank Hackett in Sidney Lumet's "Network," Duvall got a little carried away.

In Duvall's defense, Hackett is a despicable character. He gleefully weaponizes the fiery sermons of once-staid network news anchorman Howard Beale (Peter Finch), and, at the end of the movie, has him canceled in the harshest sense of the word. Embodying a character this toxic requires any sane person to engage parts of their personality they'd rather not access. But it's hard to hear what Duvall did during his time on the set and not view his behavior as awfully method-y.

Beware the backside of Robert Duvall

According to David Itzkoff's fabulous behind-the-scenes tome "Mad as Hell: The Making of 'Network' and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies," Duvall bared ... well, not quite his soul, but certainly an intimate region of his body to people who had nothing to do with the production. Per an unnamed source, Duvall used the production's perch near the top of MGM's thirty-five-story headquarters in Midtown Manhattan to, frankly, expose himself:

As one person who worked on the film recalled, after the MGM office shoot began, "He opened up the window and screamed out the window, this very absurd primal scream out there." And then, this person said, Duvall lowered his pants and thrust his bare buttocks through the window frame. "We're on the twenty-second floor or whatever, and he's like, 'I mooned this guy down on Sixth Avenue.' I went to Sidney and said, 'You know, your actor's going a little over the top in your camera room.' I didn't elaborate on it. I think that's the way he got into character."

This is boorish behavior to be sure, but it's not without precedent. On the set of "The Godfather," Duvall, James Caan, and Marlon Brando were mooning bandits. Clearly, this is a prankish practice with which Duvall is quite familiar. Perhaps it had nothing to do with getting into character. Maybe Duvall just loves sharing his derrière with total strangers. If true, you've got to think he's brought his mooning shenanigans to every film he's made. There must be more stories out there. If you've been mooned by Robert Duvall on the set of a movie (or just in general), please contact me posthaste.