Where Shelley Duvall has been for 20 years as she returns to movies

The horror story of why Shelley Duvall vanished from the spotlight: As The Shining star returns after 20 years, FEMAIL reveals how actress’s anxiety over ‘abusive’ Stanley Kubrick and bitter struggle with fame drove her to QUIT Hollywood for decades

  • Duvall, now 73, was skyrocketed into the spotlight after she starred opposite Jack Nicholson in the psychological thriller 42 years ago
  • Duvall’s emotionally raw performance in the 1980 cult classic blew everyone away, but starring in the horror flick was so strenuous for the actress that she said it made her ‘ill’
  • She later opened up about the grueling process, explaining that she was isolated from her loved ones, and ‘abusive’ director Stanley Kubrick ‘pushed and prodded’ her ‘further than she’s ever been pushed before’ 
  • The role earned Texas-native Duvall massive fame practically over night, and it led to her landing a slew of other roles in movies like Popeye, Suburban Commando, and Tale of the Mummy
  • However, when the star was at the height of her popularity, she made the shocking decision to leave her glorious life behind and move back to her home state, where she pretty much fell off the grid for two decades 
  • After 20 years living under the radar, Duvall is now set to return to the big screen in the movie The Forest Hills, and FEMAIL has revealed what she’s been up to lately – and the truth about why she left Hollywood

Shelley Duvall’s emotionally raw performance in the 1980 cult classic The Shining blew everyone away, but starring in the beloved horror flick was so strenuous for the actress that it may have led to her stepping out of the spotlight for two full decades.

Duvall, now 73, was skyrocketed into the spotlight after she starred opposite Jack Nicholson in the psychological thriller 42 years ago; she played Wendy Torrance – the wife of a psychotic murderer who was left fighting for her life as her husband began to unravel after they got stuck in an abandoned hotel together.

The role earned Texas-native Duvall massive fame practically over night, and it led to her landing a slew of other roles in movies like Popeye, Suburban Commando, and Tale of the Mummy. However, when the star was at the height of her popularity, she made the shocking decision to leave her glorious life behind and move back to her home state, where she pretty much fell off the grid for two full decades.

Now, after spending 20 years living under the radar, Duvall is set to make her return to acting in the forthcoming indie horror flick, The Forest Hills. But what has she been up to over the last two decades and why did she decide to retire from acting in the first place? 

After spending 20 years living under the radar, The Shining star Shelley Duvall is set to make her return to acting in the forthcoming indie horror flick, The Forest Hills. She is seen in the movie

hen the star was at the height of her popularity, she made the shocking decision to leave her glorious life behind and move back to her home state, where she pretty much fell off the grid for two full decades. She is seen in The Shining


As the once-glamorous Shining star prepares to head back to the big screen, FEMAIL has uncovered the truth about why she left Hollywood – a decision that many believe stemmed from the intense stress that she was under while filming of The Shining

As the once-glamorous Shining star prepares to head back to the big screen, FEMAIL has uncovered the truth about why she left Hollywood all those years ago – a decision that many believe stemmed from the intense stress that she was put under while filming of The Shining

She later opened up about the grueling process, explaining that she and the rest of the stars were sometimes forced to refilm scenes more than 100 times, which left her mentally and physically exhausted, while ‘cruel and abusive’ director Stanley Kubrick ‘pushed and prodded’ her ‘further than she’s ever been pushed before.’

After relocating to Texas with her boyfriend – Breakfast Club lead vocalist Dan Gilroy, who she had started dating in 1989 – in 2002, Duvall went 14 years practically unseen by the public. But in 2016, she appeared on the show Dr. Phil, where she gave a shocking interview in which she claimed there were recording devices inside her body and that her former Popeye costar Robin Williams (who died by suicide two years prior) was still alive but had become a ‘shape shifter.’

The Hollywood Reporter then caught up with her in 2021, and they reported she was spending most of her days living out of her car ‘snacking on takeout food.’

Now, she’s gearing up to star in her first acting role in 20 years. As she gets ready to jump back into the spotlight, here’s everything she’s been up to over the last 20 years and why she decided to give up her life as a Hollywood starlet.

Duvall’s breakthrough: How she went from a Texas girl aspiring to be a scientist to a huge actress thanks to a chance meeting with a Hollywood director

Duvall was born on July 7, 1949, in Fort Worth, Texas. As a teen, she aspired to become a scientist, and after graduating from high school in 1967, she attended South Texas Junior College, where she majored in nutrition and diet therapy

However, after performing a monkey vivisection and realizing that it wasn’t for her, she dropped out of college and began selling cosmetics at the department store Foley’s. She is seen in 1970

She broke into acting somewhat accidentally – after she met director Robert Altman at a party in 1970. He was in Texas filming the flick Brewster McCloud, and asked her to star in the movie. She is pictured in the flick

Duvall was born on July 7, 1949, in Fort Worth, Texas; her mother was a real estate broker and her father was a cattle auctioneer-turned-lawyer. 

She moved around a lot as a child before she settled in Houston at age five. As a teen, she aspired to become a scientist, and after graduating from high school in 1967, she attended South Texas Junior College, where she majored in nutrition and diet therapy. 

However, after performing a monkey vivisection and realizing that it wasn’t for her, she dropped out of college and began selling cosmetics at the department store Foley’s.

‘Ladies would come up to the counter, and I’d tie scarves for them and show them how to look pretty. I’d come home smelling like a lily,’ she recalled to Hollywood Reporter in 2021. 

She broke into acting somewhat accidentally – after she met director Robert Altman at a party in 1970. He was in Texas filming the flick Brewster McCloud, and it’s been said instantly became enthralled with her spunky personality and unique appearance.

He offered her a role in the movie, and when she turned it down because she wanted to return to school, he was persistent.

Altman certainly saw something in Duvall, and he went on to cast her in four more of his movies – McCabe & Mrs. Miller in 1971, Thieves Like Us (pictured) in 1974, Nashville in 1975, and Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson in 1976

‘I got tired of arguing, and thought maybe I am an actress. They told me to come. I simply got on a plane and did it. I was swept away,’ she told Boca Raton News in 1977. 

Duvall had married an artist named Bernard Sampson before she found fame, however, she then decided to divorce him and move to the West Coast full time, purchasing a ‘tiny little cabin over a one-car garage’ near Griffith Park Observatory. 

Altman certainly saw something in Duvall, and he went on to cast her in four more of his movies – McCabe & Mrs. Miller in 1971, Thieves Like Us in 1974, Nashville in 1975, and Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson in 1976.

Duvall’s overwhelming success: How making The Shining propelled her into the spotlight practically overnight, but left her ‘ill’ from the immense ‘stress’


By the late ’70s, Duvall was becoming a rising star in Hollywood. She starred in the psychological thriller Three Woman (left) in 1977, and she also had a small part in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (right) that year

But arguably her biggest role came in 1980, when she was cast in The Shining alongside Jack Nicholson. She played Wendy Torrance – a woman left fighting for her life as her husband began to unravel after they got stuck in an abandoned hotel

By the late ’70s, Duvall was becoming a rising star in Hollywood. She starred in the psychological thriller Three Woman in 1977, which earned her an award for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival, and she also had a small part in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall that year.

But arguably her biggest role came in 1980, when she was cast as Wendy Torrance in The Shining alongside Nicholson. 

She later opened up about working on the movie with director Kubrick – who was well known for being a perfectionist and making the stars of his movies film scenes over and over again, sometimes forcing them to hundreds of retakes – and she admitted the process was ‘unbearable.’

The actress told THR that filming the horror flick was ‘very hard’ because Nicholson was so believable in his portrayal of her crazy and murderous husband that she was left terrified.

She also recalled reshooting the famous scene that showed him chasing her up a staircase as she swung at him with a baseball bat a whopping 127 times.

She later opened up about working on the movie with director Stanley Kubrick – who was well known for being a perfectionist and making the stars of his movies film scenes over and over again – and she admitted the process was ‘unbearable’ 

The actress told THR that filming the horror flick was ‘very hard’ because Nicholson was so believable in his portrayal of her crazy and murderous husband that she was left terrified

She also recalled reshooting the famous scene that showed him chasing her up a staircase as she swung at him with a baseball bat a whopping 127 times

‘We filmed that for about three weeks. Every day. It was very hard,’ she said. ‘Jack was so good – so d**n scary. I can only imagine how many women go through this kind of thing. It was a difficult scene, but it turned out to be one of the best in the film.’

Despite the hardship, Duvall’s performance in the cult classic earned her massive fame practically overnight. She is seen in 1983

It’s been reported that Kubrick isolated Duvall from her loved ones, as well as the rest of the cast and crew, during the filming process, and that clumps of her hair began falling out due to the stress.

She recalled working 16-hour days, six days a week to THR, and said she struggled to reach the level of ‘hysteria’ that the director wanted.

‘I would listen to sad songs. Or [I would] just think about something very sad in my life or how much I miss your family or friends. But after a while, my body rebelled. It said: “Stop doing this to me. I don’t want to cry every day,”‘ she continued. 

‘And sometimes just that thought alone would make me cry. 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. Jack said that to me, too. He said, “I don’t know how you do it.”

‘[So many] takes, running and crying and carrying a little boy, it gets hard. And full performance from the first rehearsal. That’s difficult.’

In the book The Complete Kubrick, Duvall said the ‘stress’ of filming the movie made her ‘ill.’

‘From May until October I was really in and out of ill health because the stress of the role was so great. Stanley pushed me and prodded me further than I’ve ever been pushed before. It’s the most difficult role I’ve ever had to play,’ she said.

After that, she went on to star in Altman’s movie adaptation of the classic cartoon Popeye (opposite Robin Williams)


Her other roles included the fantasy adventure Time Bandits (left), Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, the TV show Booker, the comedy movie Roxanne (right), The Twilight Zone, action-packed film Suburban Commando, and the drama LA Law

She also narrated, hosted, and executive produced the children’s show Faerie Tale Theatre, helped create the Showtime anthology series Tall Tales & Legends, and founded her own production company, called Think Entertainment

She told THR that the director had a ‘cruel or abusive’ streak in him, but added, ‘He was very warm and friendly to me. He spent a lot of time with Jack and me.’

She also released an album that featured her covering popular Christmas hits in 1991. She is seen in 1980

Despite the hardship, Duvall’s performance in the cult classic earned her massive fame practically overnight. 

After that, she went on to star in Altman’s movie adaptation of the classic cartoon Popeye (opposite Williams), the fantasy adventure Time Bandits, Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, the TV show Booker, the comedy movie Roxanne, an episode of The Twilight Zone, action-packed film Suburban Commando, and the drama LA Law.

She also narrated, hosted, and executive produced the children’s show Faerie Tale Theatre, and helped create the Showtime anthology series Tall Tales & Legends.

In 1988, she founded her own production company, called Think Entertainment, which was behind a ton more kids shows; however, she sold the company five years later. She also released an album that featured her covering popular Christmas hits in 1991.

During the ’90s, Duvall’s acting career continued to soar. She appeared in the 1996 movie Portrait of a Lady, the fantasy flick Twilight of the Ice Nymphs, Home Fries (which also starred Drew Barrymore and Luke Wilson), Casper Meets Wendy (in which she payed the aunt of Hilary Duff’s character), Tale of the Mummy in 1998, mystery movie The Fourth Floor, and the teen comedy Boltneck.

Duvall’s retirement: How she went from Hollywood starlet to Texas recluse after deciding to step away from the spotlight at age 53

In 2002, Duvall appeared in the independent film Manna from Heaven, before announcing that she was stepping away from the spotlight and retiring from acting. She is seen in 1999

In 2002, Duvall appeared in the independent film Manna from Heaven, before announcing that she was stepping away from the spotlight and retiring from acting.

At the time, she was living in a three-acre hillside property in Studio City with 36 birds, eight dogs, two cats, and her boyfriend.

She decided to sell it and relocate to Texas, where she practically fell off the face of the Earth – that is, until 2016 when she appeared on an episode of Dr. Phil, where she gave a shocking interview in which she claimed she was being tormented by an unidentified man and that Williams had become a ‘shape shifter.’ 

She also said she believed there were recording devices inside her body and that ‘someone changed her appearance in the middle of the night.’

After the appearance, she checked into a mental health facility in southern California – but left a few days later after refusing medication.

Acclaimed Pixar director Lee Unkrich told THR that he sat down with the former actress in 2019 after he became unsettled by the Dr. Phil appearance. 

He said of their meeting: ‘She could be gripped by anxiety attacks or meander into unsettling descriptions of alien-surveillance programs. But she also could converse for long, coherent stretches and conjure up the slightest details about her life and of her career, of which she remains very proud.’ 

Two years later, in January 2021, Duvall spoke to THR for her first interview in five years, and the interviewer claimed that they found her memory to be ‘sharp’ and her stories to be ‘engrossing.’

She decided to sell it and relocate to Texas, where she practically fell off the face of the Earth – that is, until 2016 when she appeared on an episode of Dr. Phil, where she gave a shocking interview

In it, she claimed there were recording devices inside her body and that her former Popeye costar Williams (who died by suicide two years prior) was still alive but had become a ‘shape shifter’

At the time, the publication reported that she spent most of her days ‘in her car, chatting with locals and snacking on takeout food.’ It added that the people in Duvall’s town were ‘fond’ of her, explaining, ‘To them more of an eccentric aunt than faded movie star.’

In 2021, THR reported that Duvall (seen in 1994) spent most of her days ‘in her car, chatting with locals and snacking on takeout food’

When asked why she decided to trade in her glamorous life as a movie star for a much more reclusive lifestyle, Duvall didn’t divulge a lot of information on the decision, but she did state, ‘They wear you out, man. The people.’ 

She also addressed the surprising Dr. Phil interview from five years prior, and slammed him for extorting her mental health issues.

‘I found out the kind of person he is the hard way,’ she said. ‘My mother didn’t like him, either. A lot of people, like [my boyfriend], said, “You shouldn’t have done that, Shelley.”‘

In a statement to the outlet, a spokesperson for Dr. Phil said, ‘We view every Dr. Phil episode, including Miss Duvall and her struggle with mental illness, as an opportunity to share relatable, useful information and perspective with our audiences. 

‘We don’t attach the stigma associated with mental illness which many do. With no one else offering help, our 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. 

‘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 popped up on social media a few times in recent months, after posing for some photos with fans around Texas. 

Now, Deadline has reported that she’s going to make a return to acting in the upcoming movie The Forest Hills, which is also set to star Edward Furlong, Chiko Mendez, and Dee Wallace.

The movie will follow a man who begins experiencing disturbing visions after enduring a head injury during a camping trip in the Catskill Mountains. Duvall is set to play the mother of Mendez’s character, and she will serve as his ‘inner voice.’ 

Now, Deadline has reported that she’s going to make a return to acting in the upcoming movie The Forest Hills, which is also set to star Edward Furlong, Chiko Mendez, and Dee Wallace

The Forest Hills’ writer, director, and producer, Scott Goldberg told Deadline in a statement that he and his collaborators were big fans of Duvall’s work in The Shining, and that they were honored she chose to join their cast.

‘We are huge fans of The Shining and it’s honestly one of my favorite horror movies of all time, up there with John Carpenter’s Halloween and George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead,’ he said.

‘Shelley contributed to The Shining being an absolute masterpiece by giving her all, and performing in a way that really showcased the fear and horror of a mother in isolation.’

A representative for the movie told Hollywood Reporter that Duvall ‘thoroughly enjoyed herself and said she missed acting’ while making the movie.

‘It was a lot of fun and I’m excited to be back,’ she added in a statement. 

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