The Shining actress Shelley Duvall dies at 75

By Ian Youngs, Culture reporter

grey placeholderGetty Images Shelley Duvall smiling in front of a bright red umbrellaGetty Images

Shelley Duvall spent 20 years out of the Hollywood spotlight

US actress Shelley Duvall, known for films like The Shining, Annie Hall and Nashville, has died at the age of 75.

Her partner Dan Gilroy confirmed the news to The Hollywood Reporter.

Duvall’s other credits included 1977 drama 3 Women, directed by Robert Altman, for which she won the Cannes Film Festival’s best actress award and was nominated for a Bafta.

Three years later, she starred as Olive Oyl opposite Robin Williams in Altman’s version of Popeye.

But Duvall fell out of favour in Hollywood and was off screens for two decades, before making her comeback in 2023’s The Forest Hills.

grey placeholderGetty Images Shelley Duvall talking to Woody Allen in a shot from Annie HallGetty Images

Duvall’s character went on a date with Woody Allen in Annie Hall

With her large brown eyes and offbeat charisma, Duvall was a distinctive and compelling presence.

She began her career, and her association with Altman, in 1970 dark comedy Brewster McCloud.

The pair reunited for 1975’s Nashville, Altman’s acclaimed satire of US society, politics and country music.

Two years later, she played Pam, a Rolling Stone reporter who goes on a date with Woody Allen’s Alvy in Annie Hall.

Her best-known role was perhaps Wendy, the wife of Jack Nicholson’s terrifying hotel manager in Stanley Kubrick’s 1977 horror classic The Shining.

Filming was an ordeal. “I had to cry 12 hours a day, all day long, the last nine months straight, five or six days a week,” she once recalled.

grey placeholderGetty Images Shelley Duvall screaming as an axe comes through a door in a shot from The ShiningGetty Images

Filming The Shining took its toll on Duvall

After that, Duvall’s film roles included Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits and Roxanne with Steve Martin.

She also set up her own production companies, and made and hosted beloved 1980s children’s TV show Faerie Tale Theatre.

Her acting roles diminished in the 1990s, with Jane Campion’s The Portrait of a Lady among the pick of the crop, and she dropped off the radar in 2002.

The New York Times attributed her absence to the impact of a 1994 earthquake that damaged her Los Angeles home, and the stress of her brother’s illness.

Discussing her prolonged absence from the screen, she told the New York Times in May: ”I was a star. I had leading roles. People think it’s just ageing, but it’s not. It’s violence.”

Asked to explain, she said: “How would you feel if people were really nice, and then, suddenly, on a dime they turn on you?

“You would never believe it unless it happens to you. That’s why you get hurt, because you can’t really believe it’s true.”

‘Ultimate film star’

Concerns about her health were raised when she appeared on the TV talk show Dr Phil in 2016 and told him: “I’m very sick. I need help.”

She also talked about receiving messages from a “shapeshifting” Robin Williams following his death, and talked about malevolent forces who were out to do her harm, the paper said.

Speaking about that period, her partner Dan Gilroy told the New York Times she had become “paranoid and just kind of delusional”.

Asked by the paper why she had agreed to return to the screen in The Forest Hills, she replied: “I wanted to act again. And then this guy kept calling, and so I wound up doing it.”

Novelist Nicole Flattery wrote in the Financial Times in 2023 that her return showed her magic had remained intact.

In an article dubbing her the “ultimate film star”, Flattery summed up her talent, writing: “She’s a master at playing characters who act happy when they’re sad, their daffiness masking depth.”

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