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Shelley Duvall Reveals Why She Left Hollywood (Wendy From the Shining)

After the success of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, lead actress Shelley Duvall seemed as if she was poised for a long and illustrious career in Hollywood. However, her star status started decreasing soon after her turn in that classic film, leading to the actress officially retiring from the industry around the turn of the century. Part of Shelley’s reasoning for leaving Hollywood behind was the traumatic experiences that she endured while filming The Shining. Join Facts Verse as Shelley Duvall reveals why she left Hollywood.


Shelley Duvall was born in Fort Worth, Texas, on July 7, 1949. She was the first child of a real estate broker and a lawyer. The couple’s remaining children were all boys, of which they had three. When Shelley was five, her family settled in Houston. Young Shelley always had artistic tendencies, but aspired to be a scientist. When she graduated high school in 1967, she worked at Foley’s department store selling cosmetics while attending South Texas Junior College. She majored in nutrition.

Shelley has claimed that she might have been a microbiologist if she hadn’t become an actress. However, fate had other plans. Shelley’s introduction to show business came when she met director Robert Altman at a party. Robert was shooting on location in Texas, and was struck by Shelley’s charming presence and unique physical appearance. Robert convinced her to appear in the film he was making, which was 1970’s Brewster McCloud. Shelley’s turn in the film was a success, and Robert subsequently cast her in several more of his features, including 1974’s Thieves Like Us, 1975’s Nashville, and 1977’s 3 Women.

1977’s Annie Hall saw Shelley take her first role in a feature that wasn’t helmed by Robert Altman. Of course, Annie Hall was the brainchild of writer and director Woody Allen. Woody also starred in the feature, alongside Diane Keaton. Another player in the film was pop singer Paul Simon, whom Shelley began dating after the two met during filming. The couple dated for approximately two years, ending their relationship in 1978. Shelley’s role in Annie Hall further cemented her as a rising star, and it wasn’t long before she was cast as the lead actress in Stanley Kubrick’s upcoming adaptation of the hit Stephen King novel The Shining.

Due to Stanley’s stringent nature, filming of The Shining was a bit more intensive than Shelley was used to. Although Robert Altman was certainly a skilled filmmaker, he was never quite as meticulous as Stanley was. The filming of The Shining led to some of the most notorious examples of Stanley being overbearing on his actors, though Shelley has claimed that the director was nothing but kind to her. Still, the amount of work that she was forced to do was incredibly demanding, and the work itself required Shelley to immerse herself in negative emotions that caused stress over time.

Filming of The Shining lasted for around a year, with some scenes requiring over 100 takes. Such scenes included the infamous scene where Shelley’s character is brandishing a baseball bat at Jack Nicholson. The filming of The Shining was so stressful for Shelley that the actress claimed chunks of her hair were falling out during filming. This is documented in Making ‘The Shining’, a short feature filmed by Stanley Kubrick’s daughter during The Shining’s production.

The trauma of filming The Shining could have potentially been worth it if the initial reception of the film was more positive. However, the film was met with incredibly mixed reviews upon it’s initial release. Although the film has since become regarded as a legitimate classic that was ahead of it’s time, both critics and audiences originally derided it. Not only was the film criticized for it’s apparent disregard of the Stephen King novel upon which it had been based, but it was also lambasted on it’s own right for what were perceived to be out-of-place comedic elements.

One of the few critics that enjoyed The Shining at the time of it’s release was Roger Ebert. Roger was fascinated with the film. In particular, he appreciated Shelley’s Duvall performance. Roger’s fascination with Shelley’s performance led him to track her down for an interview, which led to Shelley giving the public it’s first hint that her experience on the film hadn’t been entirely pleasant. Still, Shelley continued working for many years after filming The Shining, including reuniting with Robert Altman for 1980’s Popeye.

Shelley had been cast in Popeye while filming The Shining. The film was a passion project for director Robert Altman, as he had always been a huge fan of the character. While Robin Williams had been cast in the titular role, Shelley was cast as Olive Oyl. Robert didn’t even need to test her for the part, as he knew that she would be perfect. Roger Ebert went on to further his praises for Shelley in his review of the film, saying that Olive Oyl was the role that the actress had been born to play. Sadly, the film wasn’t much more successful than The Shining had been. Shelley’s career never quite recovered from these two flops, even though their directors’ did. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!

Throughout the 1980s, Shelley Duvall created and produced a children’s television series for Showtime called Faerie Tale Theatre. 27 episodes of the show were produced over 6 seasons. Francis Ford Coppola and Tim Burton were among the directors whose talents were tapped for the show. Shelley featured in the intro of each episode, and even acted in a few. The show was a success, marking Shelley’s first foray into children’s television. She would go on to do some work with the Disney Channel, where she met boyfriend Dan Gilroy in 1989. The two are still together today.

In 1994, Shelley and Dan were living in Los Angeles when the infamous Northridge earthquake struck. The earthquake caused extreme damage to their home, and the couple was unsure of how they were going to pay for it. In the midst of dealing with this situation, Shelley went to Texas to film Steven Soderbergh’s The Underneath. There, Shelley got the idea to give up on the reconstruction of her and Dan’s Los Angeles home and move back to Texas. The couple did so, making a new home in the city of Blanco.

Eight years after moving to Texas with Dan, Shelley officially retired from her work as an actress. Her last role was in the 2002 feature Manna from Heaven. In the film, Shelley played a detective. Shelley had begun painting soon after moving to Texas, and pursued the hobby further after her retirement. The actress remained relatively elusive after her retirement, up until a now-notorious 2016 appearance on Dr. Phil revived the public’s interest in the former Hollywood star.

The interview Shelley gave on Dr. Phil focused on the numerous reasons that the actress decided to retire. Unsurprisingly, she touched upon the incidents she endured while filming The Shining. While these issues were innocent on their own, the troubling nature of the interview came from Shelley’s rambling train of thought. The former actress seemed to freely transition into unrelated tangents, and Dr. Phil seemed as if he was exploiting her mental state for views. The interview took a dark turn when Shelley brought up the fact that she was suffering from untreated mental illness, prompting Dr. Phil to extend an offer to help check her into a facility for treatment. Shelley declined.

Many of Shelley’s fans and former peers were worried about the actress after seeing her appearance on Dr. Phil. However, it has since become clear that the actress’s appearance during the interview wasn’t emblematic of her overall state of being. It seems as if Shelley is doing much better for herself than that 2016 appearance on Dr. Phil seemed to indicate, and Shelley has since made further public appearances to help clear the air about her seemingly unhealthy mental state.

Shelley was offered the chance to give an interview to The Hollywood Reporter in an attempt to help clear the damage that had been done to her reputation by her appearance on Dr. Phil. Shelley gladly took the opportunity, and the ensuing interview painted the actress in a much more positive light. Still, it remains unlikely that the 72-year-old actress would ever be interested in stepping back into the spotlight.

Even after all these years, Shelley’s experience on the set of The Shining still haunts her. Filming of the classic horror movie was said to have required 16-hour days six days a week, and most scenes required Shelley to be screaming and crying as if she were at her wit’s end. Unsurprisingly, this filming schedule resulted in the actress reaching her wit’s end herself, and she was never quite comfortable with giving her all to a film after this traumatic experience.

Although Shelley found some success as a producer after the release of The Shining, she eventually chose a life of peace and quiet in her home state of Texas. She still holds no grudge against Stanley Kubrick for what he apparently put her through on the set of The Shining, though she has shared that she hasn’t watched the film in many years.


Besides her work with Stanley Kubrick and Robert Altman, Shelley Duvall also acted in a few other notable films before retiring from the industry altogether. Comment down below to share what your favorite Shelley Duvall role is besides the ones mentioned above, or if you’d like to see her come out of retirement before it’s too late. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!

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