Shelley Duvall Recalls Enduring a "Very Hard" Time While Filming The Shining

In a rare interview, actress Shelley Duvall discussed filming The Shining, her controversial 2016 interview with Dr. Phil and why she’s sworn off the entertainment industry for good.

By Cydney Contreras Feb 12, 2021 1:49 AMTags
Watch: Selena Gomez & More Stars Who Opened Up About Mental Health in 2020

Shelley Duvall's retreat from the spotlight has been a subject of speculation for a long time, with some wondering if Stanley Kubrick's treatment of the actress on set of The Shining played a factor in her withdrawal. But now, the former actress tells The Hollywood Reporter there's more to the story. 

In one of her first interviews in many years, the actress confirms Kubrick's filming method was "difficult" to take part in. She recalls, "[Kubrick] doesn't print anything until at least the 35th take. Thirty-five takes, running and crying and carrying a little boy, it gets hard. And full performance from the first rehearsal. That's difficult."

At times, she defends the director by describing how "warm and friendly" he could be towards her, but eventually admits he had an abusive and violent "streak in him."

Eventually, she says her body couldn't take it anymore.

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40 Secrets About The Shining

"But after a while, your body rebels. It says: ‘Stop doing this to me. I don't want to cry every day.' And sometimes just that thought alone would make me cry," she reflects. "To wake up on a Monday morning, so early, and realize that you had to cry all day because it was scheduled—I would just start crying. I'd be like, ‘Oh no, I can't, I can't.' And yet I did it. I don't know how I did it."

Duvall adds that even co-star Jack Nicholson noticed the negative impact on her mental health, one day telling her, "I don't know how you do it."

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Anjelica Huston, Duvall's friend and Nicholson's girlfriend at the time, tells THR she had a "feeling" Duvall was having a "hard time just dealing with the emotional content of the piece." 

But Huston says that Nicholson and Kubrick "didn't seem to be all that sympathetic" towards their co-star. "It seemed to be a little bit like the boys were ganging up," the Addams Family star recalls. "That might have been completely my misread on the situation, but I just felt it. And when I saw her during those days, she seemed a generally a bit tortured, shook up. I don't think anyone was being particularly careful of her."

Even now, Duvall seems shaken by the role she once took on, crying as she re-watched the scene when Nicholson chases her with a bat. When asked why she's overcome with emotion, the 71-year-old explains, "Because we filmed that for about three weeks... Every day. It was very hard. Jack was so good—so damn scary. I can only imagine how many women go through this kind of thing."

The Dr. Phil Show

Her experience on set of The Shining wasn't the reason she up and left Hollywood, according to Duvall. In fact, she doesn't give any explanation.

Rather, she says the 1994 Northridge earthquake that damaged her home subsequent financial problems led her to move to rural Texas. For the next two decades, Duvall remained out of the public eye.

It was only in 2016 that Duvall felt ready to appear in front of a camera again. She agreed to an interview with Dr. Phil McGraw, who at the time was widely criticized for exploiting her mental health struggles. 

During their conversation, the actress made troubling remarks, at one point claiming her Popeye co-star Robin Williams never committed suicide, he was just "shape-shifting."

To this day, the 71 year old says she regrets allowing The Dr. Phil Show cameras into her home. "I found out the kind of person he is the hard way," Duvall shares. "My mother didn't like him, either. A lot of people, like Dan, said, 'You shouldn't have done that, Shelley.' "

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Stars Who Quit Hollywood

In response, a spokesperson for The Dr. Phil Show told THR that their "goal was to document the struggle and bring amazing resources to change her trajectory as we have for so many over 19 years."

"Unfortunately, she declined our initial offer for inpatient treatment that would have included full physical and mental evaluations, giving her a chance to privately manage her challenges," the statement continues. "After many months of follow-up, in collaboration with her mother, she ultimately refused assistance. We were of course very disappointed, but those offers for help remain open today."

Duvall has since found comfort and security in Texas, where she's made a life for herself. Though it's not what people imagined for the former movie star's future, she has friends who look out for her, including a waitress who warned the author Seth Abramovich, "I'm not sure who you are, but out here amongst these rural Hill Country communities, we look out for each other and we take care of each other. Does that make sense?"

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