‘The Shining’ Star Shelley Duvall Dies at 75

Shelley Duvall, the fearless, Texas-born film star whose wide eyes and winsome presence were a mainstay of Robert Altman’s films and who had a supporting role in “The Shining” by Stanley Kubrick, has died. She was 75.

Duvall died Thursday in her sleep at her home in Blanco, Texas, her longtime partner Dan Gilroy announced. The cause was complications from diabetes, said her friend, publicist Gary Springer.

“My sweet, dear, wonderful life, partner and friend left us last night,” Gilroy said in a statement. “She has suffered too much lately, now she is free. Fly away beautiful Shelley.”

Duvall was a high school senior in Texas when Altman’s crew, preparing to film “Brewster McCloud,” encountered her at a party in Houston in 1970. They introduced the 20-year-old to the director, who cast her in “Brewster McCloud” and made her his protégé.

AP correspondent Margie Szaroleta reports on the death of actor Shelley Duvall.

Duvall would later appear in Altman films including “Thieves Like Us,” “Nashville,” “Popeye,” “Three Women” and “McCabe & Ms. Miller.”

“He offers me damn good parts,” Duvall told The New York Times in 1977. “None of them were the same. He has a great deal of confidence in me, and a trust and respect for me, and he doesn’t restrict me or intimidate me, and I love him. I remember the first advice he ever gave me: ‘Don’t take yourself seriously.'”

Duvall, thin and awkward, was not a conventional Hollywood star. But she had a seductively candid manner and radiated a unique naturalism. The film critic Pauline Kael called her the “female Buster Keaton.”

At her peak, Duvall was a regular star in a number of defining films of the 1970s. In “The Shining” (1980), she played Wendy Torrance, who watches in horror as her husband, Jack (Jack Nicholson), goes crazy while their family is isolated in the Hotel with a view. It was Duvall’s screaming face that provided half of the film’s most iconic image, along with Jack’s axe coming through the door.

Kubrick, a famous perfectionist, was notoriously hard on Duvall during the making of “The Shining.” His methods of pushing her through countless takes of the most terrifying scenes took their toll on the actor. One scene was reportedly shot in 127 takes. The entire shoot took 13 months. Duvall said in a 1981 interview with People magazine that she cried “12 hours a day for weeks” during the film’s production.

“I will never give that much again,” Duvall said. “If you want to suffer pain and call it art, go ahead, but not with me.”

Duvall disappeared from films almost as quickly as she appeared in them. In the 1990s, she began to withdraw from acting and from public life.

“How would you feel if people were really nice and then all of a sudden, out of the blue, they turned on you?” Duvall told the Times earlier this year. “You would never believe it unless it happened to you. That’s why you get hurt, because you can’t really believe it’s true.”

Duvall, the eldest of four, was born on July 7, 1949, in Fort Worth, Texas. Her father, Robert, was a cattle auctioneer before becoming a lawyer, and her mother, Bobbie, was a real estate agent.

Duvall married artist Bernard Sampson in 1970. They divorced four years later. Duvall had a long-term relationship with the musician Paul Simon in the late 1970s, after meeting while making Woody Allens “Annie Hall.” (Duvall played the rock critic who keeps calling things “transplendent.”) She also dated Ringo Starr. While making the 1990 Disney Channel movie “Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Duvall met musician Dan Gilroy of the group Breakfast Club, with whom she remained until her death.

Duvall’s run in the 1970s was remarkably versatile. In the gritty Western “ McCabe and Mrs. Miller” (1971), she played the mail-order bride Ida. She was a groupie in “Nashville” (1975) and Olive Oyl, opposite Robin Williams, in “Popeye” (1980). In “3 Women,” starring Sissy Spacek and Janice Rule, Duvall played Millie Lammoreaux, a spa worker in Palm Springs, and won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival.

In the 1980s, Duvall produced and hosted a number of children’s television series, including “Faerie Tale Theatre,” “Tall Tales & Legends” and “Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories.”

Duvall moved back to Texas in the mid-1990s. Around 2002, after making the comedy “Manna from Heaven,” she retired from Hollywood altogether. Her whereabouts became a favorite subject of Internet sleuths. One favorite but incorrect theory was that it was residual trauma from the grueling filming of “The Shining.” Another was that damage to her home after the 1994 Northridge earthquake was the last straw.

For those who in Texas Hill Country, Where Duvall lived for some 30 years, she was neither “in hiding” nor a recluse. But her circumstances were a mystery to both the media and many of her old Hollywood friends. That changed in 2016, when producers for the “Dr. Phil” show tracked her down and aired a controversial hour-long interview with her, in which she spoke about her mental health issues. “I’m very sick. I need help,” Duvall said on the program, which was widely criticized because they are exploitative.

“I found out the hard way what kind of person he is,” Duvall told The Hollywood Reporter in 2021.

THR journalist Seth Abramovitch wrote at the time that he had made the pilgrimage to find her because “it didn’t feel right that McGraw’s callous carnival ride would have the final say on her legacy.”

Duvall attempted to revive her career by dipping her first toe in the water with the indie horror film “The Forest Hills,” which filmed in 2022 and quietly premiered in early 2023.

“Acting again — it’s so much fun,” Duvall told People at the time. “It enriches your life.”


AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr contributed to this report.

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