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Duvall Takes Local Role

Actor appears at theater opening, hosts gala.

The Plains man pulled up to the Tally Ho Theatre in the smallest of the limousines there, so Scottish band member Nelson Stewart was not sure it was him.

Nelson and the other members of the Houston, Texas-based Rogues band played for Robert Duvall's arrival and the hundreds of others who came to see "A Shot at Glory," the first movie to show at the refurbished movie theater.

The movie's lead actor, who is 71 and an Oscar award winner, stepped out of the limousine free of the usual tinted windows, Stewart said. "I thought he was cool," he said. "He's down to earth, a nice guy."

To the background of bagpipes and bodhran drums, Duvall entered the theater's 1930's-style lobby Friday evening and talked to some of the more than 300 people expected to attend the grand opening and private screening event.

"He's put down roots here, and I'm very much impressed with that," said Loudoun Heights resident Chuck de Caro, president of Aerobureau Corp. in McLean. "He's a movie star with a sense of community, which is rare."

DUVALL'S APPEARANCE at the theater was a matter of "coincidence," according to Leesburg resident Patrick "Pat" Hoke, co-owner of the theater with Judy Wilson, who lives in Lowes Island.

The Loudoun Healthcare Foundation, which raises funds for the Loudoun Hospital, needed a place to host the foundation's annual gala scheduled for Sept. 28.

"Every year, we go to another location. We like to spread our joys around," said gala chairperson Lillian Griber. "Every year, it [the gala] grew. ... We outgrew every ballroom in the area. Now we're under tent."

Griber asked Duvall, a neighbor of hers, to host an event that was intended to benefit the foundation and diagnostic imaging services at Loudoun Hospital. "He sort of needed convincing," she said. She told Duvall of the gala's "importance" for the community and for the hospital, since it typically raises $100,000 to $200,000 a year from ticket sales and donations. "He liked the idea."

Duvall agreed to hold the black-tie affair at Byrnley Farm, where he lives with his partner Luciana Pedraza, who is 30 and originally from Argentina. Members of the foundation wanted to hold a private screening at the Tally Ho Theatre, but when renovations took longer than expected, the grand opening ended up falling on the same weekend as the gala, dubbed "Puttin' on the Ritz."

"We kind of backed into it," Hoke said.

HOKE AND WILSON spent the last 10 months renovating the theater, which was built in 1931 and was in use until two years ago. Hoke, a real estate investor, called the building's owner after his son asked him about the plans for a building being considered for office use. Hoke called the building's owner, Don Devine of Devine Commercial.

"It was like being overcome," Hoke said about going inside the two-story building, which is on Market Street near King Street. "It was so neat, though it was a mess. This could be like 'The Majestic.'" The Majestic, which stars Jim Carrey, is about restoring an old movie theater.

"I love the old building and bringing it back to life," Hoke said. "It's a gem. This theater is a gem."

Hoke told Wilson, also an investor, about the building. After another visit, they agreed to make the investment. They refurbished the two auditoriums with new seats and drapes; added a staging area for live music, comedy shows and live and silent auctions; and removed the balcony seating to make room for a dinner theater area with a wet bar.

"When you look at the outside and walk in the lobby, it's going to feel like a hotel lobby in the '30s," Hoke said.

DUVALL was born in 1931 in San Diego, Calif. and began his movie career in 1962 with "To Kill a Mockingbird." Since then, he has acted in more than 75 movies and several television shows.

"Robert represents a couple of things," Hoke said. "He's one of our best actors, and people know that. Also, he lives in Loudoun County and contributes a lot to Loudoun County. People in Loudoun County rightfully embrace him."

Hoke dedicated one of the auditoriums to Duvall before the showing of "A Shot at Glory."

"We're very appreciative of Robert doing this and all he has done for the community," Hoke said. "It will now be called the Robert Duvall Theater."

Hoke named the second auditorium after Kevin Chadwick, the artist who provided interior painting for the building.

"A Shot at Glory" is about a fictional Scottish soccer team with 23 professional players acting out the part of team members.

"It's new, but it's not new. It's been out before but limited," Duvall said about the movie.

On Saturday, Duvall and Pedraza hosted the gala for an expected turnout of 850 people, an event that sold out before invitations were sent.

"Mr. Duvall graciously offered his home and his name. His generosity is unbelievable," said David Goldberg, vice-president of development for Loudoun Healthcare, Inc. and executive director of the Loudoun Healthcare Foundation.

For Duvall, he wanted to do something "to give back to the community," he said.

The gala, which was not held last year, was the 15th gala for the foundation. The event had a 1930s theme, same as the theme of the theater.

"You can call it Club Duvall," Goldberg said. "He's comfortable here, and we're comfortable with him. ... He's a very quiet man. He's a very unassuming man."

Duvall said, "It looks like a Barnum and Bailey tent on my yard. It's great."