The legendary Robert Duvall and Austin screenwriter Bill Wittliff have been trying for more than three decades to make "A Night in Old Mexico," and they finally got to see it on a big screen at the Paramount on Monday afternoon with about 1,000 other people.
Wittliff says he first showed the script to Duvall at either the second or third Sundance Film Festival, in 1979 or 1980, and that Duvall loved the character of Red, an old Texas rancher who has lost his home and land and is being told to move to a trailer park.
Reluctant to leave his land, Red heads to the barn where he puts a pistol to his head and plays what Wittliff calls "Russian roulette with God." But a knock on the barn door reveals that Red has a grandson – someone he’s never met since he has been estranged from his son for many years.
And before too long, Red and city-slicker grandson Gally (Jeremy Irvine) are headed to Mexico for what Red thinks might be one final fling. It quickly becomes clear that Red knows how to have a fling, and it’s an eye-opener for Gally. But it’s also a last chance for Red to find a bit of romance, mainly with a frustrated Mexican singer named Patty Wafers (Angie Cepeda).
Duvall is one of America’s great actors, and he has continually managed to astonish audiences with his intuitive acting that shows the vulnerabilities of even the crankiest characters. Wittliff says he wrote the screenplay with Duvall in mind, and it’s clear that no one but Duvall would be able to bring such a character to life.
Emilio Aragon, whose previous credits include Spanish-language TV and the 2010 feature "Paper Birds," directs the movie, which was filmed in Brownsville with a mostly Texas crew. The production values and musical score are excellent.
Duvall says he’s not sure when the movie will open theatrically, but thinks it will be probably be in May.
"A Night in Old Mexico" will screen again at 4:15 p.m. Thursday at the Marchesa and at 11 a.m. Friday at the Topfer. Duvall will participate in a conversation at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Austin Convention Center, Room 16AB. Film historian Leonard Maltin will moderate.