Shelley Duvall Once Said Filming ‘The Shining’ Was ‘Almost Unbearable’

Shelley Duvall shocked fans this week when she revealed her serious mental health battle in an upcoming episode of Dr. Phil set to air on Friday, November 18. The actress, who has spent years out of the spotlight, was best known for her role in horror classic The Shining — but found working with legendary director Stanley Kubrick so stressful it made her hair fall out.

According to her costar Jack Nicholson, who played her deranged husband in the iconic horror film, Kubrick was a “different director” when it came to working with Duvall, who played the terrorized Wendy Torrance in the 1980 film.

In the documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, Nicholson claims that Duvall was forced to perform their terrifying bat scene 127 times. The stress of filming reportedly caused Duvall to grow physically ill. Nicholson even said that Duvall showed him clumps of her hair that had fallen out. 

Shelley Duvall
Shelley Duvall on Feb. 28, 1989, at Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage

Working on the film under Kubrick was so brutal that Duvall also once told movie critic Roger Ebert that the experience was “almost unbearable.”

“From May until October I was really in and out of ill health because the stress of the role was so great,” she said in the book The Complete Kubrick. “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 later went on to star in Popeye, a more enjoyable role opposite Robin Williams.

“After all of that crying, it was a real treat for me to play Olive Oyl. I loved her,” she told Ebert during another interview in the ’80s. “Now don’t laugh: I’ve never before been allowed to play a woman of any strength, of depth. And although Olive Oyl is a cartoon character, I think she does have depth. All of the other characters I’ve played in the movies … to me, they never really broke the surface. But Olive Oyl is 101 percent woman! She’s not Popeye’s ‘girlfriend’ … I see her as a real femme fatale.”

Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, and Jack Nicholson in 1980's 'The Shining.'
Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, and Jack Nicholson in 1980's 'The Shining.' Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Duvall made headlines earlier today after Kubrick’s daughter Vivian Kubrick called for people to boycott Dr. Phil’s show after the talk show host teased an upcoming interview with Duvall in which she shares she’s struggling with a serious mental illness.

Vivian called the interview — in which Duvall claims that Robin Williams isn’t dead and that she’s being threatened by a fictional character from Robin Hood — “a form of lurid and exploitative entertainment” that is “appallingly cruel.”

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