Robert Duvall and Lucas Black have reunited for their third film together, the new sports drama Seven Days in Utopia. The movie follows down-on-his-luck professional golfer Luke Chisholm (Black), who, after having a meltdown during a major tournament, becomes stranded in the small town of Utopia, Texas. There he meets former professional golfer Johnny Crawford (Duvall), who convinces the young athlete to spend the next seven days with him to gain a new outlook on the game and life.
The two actors took the time to answer some questions about Seven Days in Utopia, which is set to hit theaters on September 2. The two actors discuss what it was like actually filming in Utopia, Texas, and why they became interested in the movie.
Question: Did you get a chance to ride( horses) during the making of this film?
Robert Duvall: I was on the horse, but we didn’t really ride much. One of the most phenomenal horses I ever sat on.
Lucas Black: Yeah, the horse is awesome.
RD: Quarter horse stallion, but the thing’s like a dog, if you believe that. It was a champion. It belonged to a guy from Little Waters Ranch. Wonderful people.
Q: Robert, you weren’t much of a golfer, but Lucas, you’re quite a golfer.
RD: He is quite a golfer.
Q: So did he teach you some things about golf?
RD: Oh, that’s the way it would have really been. But I only had to swing once. But he swang a lot.
Q: It was promoted as a golf film, but it wasn’t really about golf. It had golf in it, but it was more of a life film.
RD: Exactly, it was both.
Q: So how did you both get attached to this project?
RD: He was first, because he’s a golfer. You name me one golf movie in the history of movies that had a guy that could hit the ball really well. But he can.
LB: Well, I had read the book (Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at he Links of Utopia by David L. Cook, on which the movie is based on) about three or four years ago, before the script was written, and fell in love with the story. It had the golf part to it, and it also had the faith aspect of life to it.
RD: Which is good.
LB: I grew up in the south, in the Bible Belt. I could relate to that part of the story really well.
RD: If it had been about tennis and faith, you wouldn’t have taken it. (laughs) But golf with faith is a different thing.
LB: That’s right. I have been playing competitive golf, ammeter tournaments, for the past five years, all over the southeast, trying to qualify for the US Amateur. I haven’t succeeded yet in doing so. That’s a tough tournament to qualify for.
RD: Someone on the radio said he had the most authentic Texas accent they’ve ever heard. I said, he’s from Alabama! (laughs)
LB: That’s right. I’ve been working on this accent for 28 years, I finally got it down pat.
Q: How was your fishing? Fishing has a role in this film. (In one scene, Johnny takes Luke fly fishing to help build his confidence.)
LB: He can fly fish.
RD: Yeah, I’m alright. He picks anything up. Yeah, I fly fish, I have my own pond in Virginia where I live. I have skunk in my own pond! You know, fly fishing is okay, but they had to hook the fish on before they said action, because how do you know if you’re going to get one for real?
Q: Did you get any extra lessons to enhance your fishing skills, since you already know how?
RD: Yeah, there were some guys down there.
LB: Well, I grew up fishing, back when I was a little kid. When I grew up, that’s what we did on the weekends. My dad fished, and my brother, I have an older brother.
RD: When he did All the Pretty Horses, he wanted to be a professional bassist.
LB: That’s right.
RD: He played one round of golf, and it was all over. (laughs)
LB: That’s right, you said it.
Q: Can you talk about your collaboration with director Matt Russell, because he comes from a visual effects background. This is his first time directing a feature. Robert, did you give him any tips?
RD: I don’t give tips. I may give arguments now and then, but I don’t give tips. He did fine.
Q: Can you talk about shooting in Utopia, Texas? What was that like?
RD: One of my favorite locations ever.
LB: When he told me that, I said, well, it’s all down hill from here for me now, because how many locations has this guy been on? He said this is one of the best, and I said, what do I have to look forward to?
RD: People in Utopia, Texas, they have Little Waters and Wonder Waters, which they opened up to us. They housed us, let us use their golf course. They were just wonderful people. They had a beautiful river running through there. We had barbecues out there, it was such an inviting river. My wife and friends would jump right in there with their clothes. It was just wonderful. Melissa Leo was swimming in her clothes one day.
LB: They had a swing.
Q: How long were you shooting there?
RD: Only a month.
LB: One month in Utopia. Two weeks in Fredericksburg, probably one of the cleanest cities. Then we went further southwest, I guess, to Utopia.
Q: You were about to mention something about the swing?
LB: The river is spring-feed, and there was a big rope. There were boulders that you could climb up, and climb on the swing and jump in the water. It was amazing.
RD: There were no snakes.
LB: So they say. That’s what they told him. He doesn’t like snakes.
RD: There was a little girl who said, oh, I did see a snake with a white mouth.
Q: There are cottonmouths there?
RD: Yeah, the next river over there are.
LB: We’d pull up at that spot, remember we’d go to that spot on the river a lot just to relax. We’d see wildlife drinking from the river, that was their water hole. The scene in the film didn’t really do it justice, I don’t think.
RD: The Waters’ daughter Christie is a world-class lady polo player, and she’s married to a high-ranking cowboy. They have the thoroughbred horses for polo, and he has great ranch horses. The other daughter studied in Provence, and he built her a restaurant, a French restaurant. It’s open one night a week. They’re interesting people, nice people down there. So it was a wonderful experience working there.
Q: You two, speaking of working, are building quite a rapport (having previously appeared in Sling Blade and Get Low together).
LB: Well, the truth for me, obviously I’m working with a legend.
RD: Me too, me too.
LB: Really, I had to guide him around the set. I asked him if he ever worked on a set before. (laughs) I’m just kidding, but it was fun.
RD: But everybody was nice to us. There were a lot of good people on this project. It was a good experience.
Q: Lucas, how familiar were you with the bucking of the bulls, in the scene when you were playing poker?
LB: Oh, the cowboy poker (laughs). Yeah, they really do that.
Q: Is that real?
LB: Yeah, they really do that. Actually, they had a rodeo right before we shot that scene in Utopia, and they actually did it. Mike, Christie’s husband, the Water family, he actually performed in it. I’ve never done it, but I’ve been around some of my family in Alabama, who are farmers and rodeo people, so I’ve been around rodeos and bucking bulls, but I’ve never experienced the cowboy poker.
RD: Somebody must get hurt.
LB: Oh, they must. But that’s for entertainment, it’s fun.
Q: But you weren’t actually in the rodeo during the bucking?
LB: No, it’s CGI.
Q: But they got you in the mud?
LB: Absolutely. They made some fake manure that I had to dive in. The stunt guy, he left camp on that scene. He didn’t want to be around. He was kind of a weenie stunt guy. (laughs)
RD: The stunt guy and the head wrangler almost got into a fist fight.
Q: What happened?
RD: Somebody said somebody’s going to the hospital. Something to do with a stunt.
Q: Can you talk about working with (professional golfer) K.J. Choi (who played golfer T.K. Oh)?
LB: On TV, he’s got a very intimidating look. That was appealing for all of us for his character in this movie. But man, he’s got a great personality and a great sense of humor. I loved talking to him about golf, and he’s a man of faith. We were blessed to have him, really. He loved the book, he read the book. There are a couple of scriptures and quotes in the book that we were really fond of, and that’s what sparked his interest, so that was good. He won the Players Championship back in May.
RD: What do you mean?
LB: They consider it the fifth major, it’s a big, professional tournament. They play it in Ponte Verde Beach (in Florida). He won it, and it’s the fifth largest tournament of the year. He was very humble and gracious towards God, so that was great to see.
Q: Were there any concerns about people who aren’t faith-oriented seeing the movie? Or do you feel the movie had a broader reach?
RD: We’ll see. (laughs)
LB: Yeah, we’ll see. I think we tried to make it so it would be appealing to everyone, and everyone can take something positive from it. Each individual can take what they want to from it. It’s definitely a concern for all of us, because we want it to appeal to everyone.
Q: Robert, how close would you say Johnny is to yourself?
RD: Not that close, but you always take some part of yourself and put it into the movie. Yeah, it’s just another character to play. You find aspects of yourself to fit what you’re trying to do.
Q: Are we going to see you directing some more?
RD: I’d love to. I don’t have a project. I had one, and we were raising the money, but right now, the most difficult thing for me would be to find a project to do. Something along that Texas border I’d like to do. I had something before, it didn’t work out. AMC didn’t go for it, after we put them on the map with Broken Trail. I’d like to, because I got to know a lot of the border sheriffs. A friend of mine was just elevated to head Texas Ranger. I’d like to, even if it was a really cheap video camera, I’d like to do something.
Q: So get writing!
LB: I know, that’s what I was thinking about!
RD: He’d be too expensive for me! (laughs)
Q: What’s next for you both? Do you have any projects?
RD: Possibly with Scott Cooper, who (wrote, directed and produced) Crazy Heart (and acted with Duvall in such films as Gods and Generals, Broken Trail and Get Low), that I produced. We might do something with Jeremy Renner. Who knows, these young actors are wonderful and have become successful. Before you can pin them down, they get something else, because they have so many options. They’re spoiled.
LB: I”m not in that category, though. (laughs) Not yet!
RD: But I don’t know what’s next, really. I just worked with Billy Bob Thorton. He’s one-of-a-kind.
Q: What’s next for you, Lucas?
LB: Well, I’m taking care of my wife. I’m just tagging along, we have a nine-week-old baby girl. Also, playing some golf, I’ve got two more tournaments this year.
Q: Another quality, that was a little less in Get Low and a little more with this film, were the woman.
RD: Yes, Kathy Baker and Melissa Leo. We’ve got so many people, I didn’t even know who some of these women were. It was a terrific cast.
Q: You’ve never worked with Melissa Leo before?
RD: I never heard of her before, I didn’t even know who she was. I forgot who she was, and then I saw this terrific performance in The Fighter, and they said that’s Melissa Leo, and I said, who’s she? They said you just worked with her! (laughs) I’m terrible with names. I went to my prom in high school, and I went to introduce my date, and I couldn’t even remember her name! (laughs)
LB: Well, the characters they play are so totally different.
RD: When we talked about people who we knew, her boyfriend was someone who I worked with in The Great Santini, so we had a lot to talk about. Kathy Baker, I knew. Brian Geraghty was in The Hurt Locker, and that had a good cast.
Q: Lucas, talk about working with Deborah Ann Wool (who played Sarah Hawkins, the daughter of Leo‘s character Lily and Luke’s love interest).
LB: I thought she did a phenomenal job. It was an important character for the movie. She pulled it off.
RD: She has a nice career going for her.
That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank Robert Duvall and Lucas Black for talking to us. Make sure you read our review of Seven Days in Utopia. You can catch the film in theaters on September 2.