Tender Mercies

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Tender Mercies is a 1983 American drama film directed by Bruce Beresford. The screenplay by Horton Foote focuses on Mac Sledge, a recovering alcoholic country music singer who seeks to turn his life around through his relationship with a young widow and her son in rural Texas. Robert Duvall plays the role of Mac; the supporting cast includes Tess Harper, Betty Buckley, Wilford Brimley, Ellen Barkin and Allan Hubbard.

Financed by EMI Films, Tender Mercies was largely shot in Waxahachie, Texas. The script was rejected by several American directors before the Australian Beresford accepted it. Duvall, who sang his own songs in the film, drove more than 600 miles (966 km) throughout the state, tape recording local accents and playing in country music bands to prepare for the role. He and Beresford repeatedly clashed during production, at one point prompting the director to walk off the set and reportedly consider quitting the film.

The film encompasses several different themes, including the importance of love and family, the possibility of spiritual resurrection amid death, and the concept of redemption through Mac Sledge's conversion to Christianity. Following poor test screening results, distributor Universal Pictures made little effort to publicize Tender Mercies, which Duvall attributed to the studio's lack of understanding of country music.

The film was released on March 4, 1983, in a limited number of theaters. Although unsuccessful at the box office, it was critically acclaimed and earned five Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture. Tender Mercies won Oscars for Best Original Screenplay for Foote and Best Actor for Duvall, his first and, as of 2011, only win.


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