The last time the world saw Shelley Duvall was in 2016, in an exploitative interview with Dr. Phil where he talks to a seemingly mentally incapacitated Duvall, who claims that her late Popeye costar, Robin Williams, is actually alive and a shape-shifter. It’s a troublesome interview to watch, seemingly done as a ploy to get views instead of actually helping her. But this year, The Hollywood Reporter’s Seth Abramovitch found Duvall and gave an accurate, caring glimpse at what her life is currently like.
Back in the ’90s, Duvall settled in a small town in Texas, living a very low-key life. From the bits of her extensive conversation with Abramovitch, we can see she’s far more mentally sound than what the Dr. Phil clip showed, and she remembers her time as an actor fondly.
Duvall shares plenty of great stories, among them recalling the Hollywood parties she’d attend in her early L.A. days, “thrown just to look at the young actresses and actors. Some became famous. Like, there was this carpenter guy who got a big job building a waterfall for the home of a studio executive. Every time the executive would have a party, everybody saw the waterfall.” The carpenter is, of course, Harrison Ford.
She also cleared up previous statements that hinted at Stanley Kubrick being emotionally abusive toward her while filming The Shining. When asked by Abramovich point blank about it, she said: “He’s got that streak in him. He definitely has that. But I think mostly because people have been that way to him at some time in the past. His first two films were Killer’s Kiss and The Killing.” She added, “He was very warm and friendly to me. He spent a lot of time with Jack [Nicholson] and me. He just wanted to sit down and talk for hours while the crew waited. And the crew would say, ‘Stanley, we have about 60 people waiting.’ But it was very important work.”
Anjelica Huston, who was dating Nicholson at the time, told Abramovich that she does recall both Kubrick and Nicholson being a bit hard on Duvall while filming, though. “I got the feeling, certainly through what Jack was saying at the time, that Shelley was having a hard time just dealing with the emotional content of the piece. And they didn’t seem to be all that sympathetic. It seemed to be a little bit like the boys were ganging up. That might have been completely my misread on the situation, but I just felt it.”
Abramovich also got to show Duvall The Shining’s iconic staircase scene on his iPhone, making this the first time Duvall had seen the scene in perhaps decades. She had an emotional response to it. When asked by Abramovich why she cried watching it, she replied saying, “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.”
It doesn’t look like Duvall’s planning on returning to Hollywood anytime soon, but she doesn’t need to. She seems perfectly happy living a low-key life and that’s all that matters.
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