[Interviewer:] Critics are calling 'The Apostle' one of the best American films about religion ever made.From: Louis B. Hobson, "Toughing it out" in Calgary Sun, 5 April 1998 (http://www.canoe.ca/JamMoviesArtistsD/duvall.html; viewed 5 July 2005):
[Robert Duvall:] I tried not to make it just that, but that's at the core of it. Like a film about a man on a farm is about the man first and the farm second.
[Interviewer:] You were raised a Christian Scientist, right?
[Robert Duvall:] I don't go to church, but that would be my belief.
[Interviewer:] Have you ever had a profound religious experience?
[Robert Duvall:] One guy said Duvall could do a better movie if he was born again. Who knows. I was in a church in Harlem where they sang "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," and I had a very quiet emotional experience. If I was of that persuasion, that would suffice for me as a conversion...
[Interviewer:] Which one of your characters would you most like to be?
[Robert Duvall:] I don't think I want to be a preacher, but I like this character a lot. I guess Lonesome Dove's Texas Ranger. He liked women and tried to give them their space and respect. Maybe the older I get, I get a little more intelligent about wives, or myself.
Duvall, 67, is the son of a Methodist father and a Christian Scientist mother.From: Amanda Coyne, "This alaskan life: Reading the scientific way" in Anchorage Press, November 27 - December 4, 2002, Vol. 11, Ed. 48 (http://www.anchoragepress.com/archives/document5353.html; viewed 5 July 2005):
"Because my parents were so religious, I attended church regularly. I've always been a believer."
It was Duvall's parents who encouraged him to pursue acting.
There have been lots of famous Christian Scientists - Marilyn Monroe, Carol Channing, Jean Harlow, the Anchorage Daily News' Kay Fanning, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman from the Nixon administration, Val Kilmer, Robert Duvall.Catherine M. Barsotti and Robert K. Johnston, Finding God in the Movies: 33 Films of Reel Faith, Baker Books: Grand Rapids, Michigan (2004), pages 125-126:
Written, directed, produced, acted, and funded by [Robert] Duvall himself, The Apostle was thirty-five years in the making. Ever since he wandered into a small Pentecostal church in Hughes, Arkansas, in 1962, Duvall had wanted to do a movie on a southern preacher. Encouraged by his writer-friend Horton Foote to do it himself, over a decade ago Duvall started studying in earnest the style of southern preachers, particularly black Pentecostals. (Duvall calls it "the true American art form.") Duvall says on one Sunday he heard six different sermons! And his homework has paid off. The worship that is portrayed is genuine, as is the power of personality. The belief is real, as is the gift for sales.
During the final twenty minutes of the film, we see E. F. [Duvall's character] praching his last service as the police wait for him at the door of his church. There is a wonderful mixture of folk in the church, black and white, old and young. When E. F. tells his people that it's "a one-way road to heaven" where Jesus is calling us and then begins singing, "Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling," a young mechanic comes forward wanting to be saved. The moment is real and the tears heartfelt. It is not just the mechanic who is being given a new life, however. Sonny is also living into his baptism. He has confessed his past to his copastor and has turned from his womanizing, and now he is even willing to give up his church. E. F. is at peace. As the credits roll, we see Sonny on a prison work crew cutting weeds at the side of the highway. As he works freely and joyously, he is again that "Holy Ghost, Jesus-filled preachin' machine," leading his fellow prisoners in praising Jesus!
Appearing on the David Letterman show after release of the film, Duvall was asked, "Is Sonny doing this because he is good at it or he has accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior?" Duvall responded, "What do you think" and Letterman said, "Probably, he's good at it." No," Duvall corrected, "it's both. That's why I put in the first scene (at the car wreck)."