This week, Seth Abramovitch profiled Shelley Duvall for The Hollywood Reporter, and you may want some tissues on hand. It’s a clear-eyed and deeply empathetic conversation with a very talented woman who has been treated quite poorly during and since her time in Hollywood.
It’s also the beautiful story of someone finding acceptance and protection in a close-knit small town. Duvall now lives in rural Texas with Dan Gilroy, who was in a band with Madonna in her early days.
The piece is full of astonishing anecdotes from Duvall’s remarkable life, like singer Paul Simon breaking up with her at the airport as she was on the way to do the grueling 56-week shoot of The Shining with co-star Jack Nicholson and director Stanley Kubrick.
Duvall was living with Simon in Manhattan at the time. “I was at a really scary scene, and I didn’t hear Paul come in. He snuck up behind and went, ‘Bla!‘ I went, ‘Ahhh!‘ I got really mad at him. I said, ‘Why did you do that?’ ” Though they had been living together for two years, they had been growing apart. A month later, on New Year’s Day 1979, as Duvall was about to board a Concorde jet to London to begin filming The Shining, Simon broke up with her at the airport. She cried for the entire journey across the Atlantic — what, it turns out, would be just a warm-up for the emotional marathon that lay ahead. When she arrived in London, Kubrick met his star with his daughter Vivian in tow. “We had a nice dinner, and that was it,” Duvall says. “The rest of the time we were at work.”
Duvall also talks about what many consider the cruel and exploitative 2016 episode of Dr. Phil that turned into a field day for the press.
That is until 2016, when she was contacted by a Dr. Phil producer. She grows visibly distressed at the mention of McGraw’s name. “I found out the kind of person he is the hard way,” Duvall says. “My mother didn’t like him, either. A lot of people, like Dan, said, ‘You shouldn’t have done that, Shelley.’ ” (She had submitted to the interview without Gilroy’s knowledge.) After the broadcast and ensuing backlash, McGraw made repeated attempts at contacting Duvall: “He started calling my mother. She told him, ‘Don’t call my daughter anymore.’ But he started calling my mother all the time trying to get her to let me talk to him again.”
On a lighter note, here’s supercut of her intros from her beautiful classic series Faerie Tale Theatre. Such great costumes!
There is such a guileless openness to her, which is why she was so great at acting. She was too kind for Hollywood, and while she is justifiably proud of her legacy, it seems her time in the industry damaged her in heartbreaking ways.