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Actor Shelley Duvall Dies Aged 75


Shelley Duvall in ‘The Shining’. Photo: Warner Bros.

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  • Actor Shelley Duvall has died at the age of 75.
  • She’ll forever be remembered for ‘The Shining’.
  • Duvall was a favorite collaborator of director Robert Altman.

Shelley Duvall, who seared herself into the public imagination as the harried yet resourceful Wendy Torrance opposite an axe-wielding Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’, died at home in Texas from complications of diabetes. She was 75.

Yet ‘The Shining’ was just one role in a varied and creative career, partly marked by collaborations with Robert Altman.

Related Article: ‘Clue’ and ‘Arrested Development’ Actor Martin Mull Dies Aged 80

Shelley Duvall: Early Life and Career

Shelley Duvall in 'Nashville'.

(Center) Shelley Duvall in ‘Nashville’. Photo: Paramount Pictures.

Shelley Alexis Duvall was born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1949, and was soon recognized as an artistic soul with boundless energy (her childhood nickname was “Manic Mouse”). But she initially took science courses and even sold cosmetics.

Still, fate, in the form of a fortuitous party encounter, had other plans.

Discovered by talent scouts working for director Robert Altman in 1970, Duvall found herself thrust into the world of filmmaking. Despite having no prior acting experience, her infectious energy and unique presence impressed Altman. He cast her in the black comedy ‘Brewster McCloud,’ marking the beginning of a fruitful collaboration. Duvall, initially hesitant about acting, found herself drawn to Altman’s unconventional style and willingness to explore the fringes of human behavior.

Nashville

This became a hallmark of Duvall’s career. She wasn’t afraid to take on challenging, often quirky roles. She reunited with Altman for films like ‘McCabe & Mrs. Miller’, ‘Thieves Like Us’ and ‘Nashville’ showcasing her versatility and ability to portray complex characters with depth and nuance.

Of working with Altman, Duvall said this to the New York Times:

“He offers me damn good roles. None of them have been alike. He has a great confidence in me, and a trust and respect for me, and he doesn’t put any restrictions on me or intimidate me, and I love him. I remember the first advice he ever gave me: ‘Don’t take yourself seriously.’ Sometimes I find myself feeling self-centered, and then all of a sudden that bit of advice will pop into my head and I’ll laugh.”

Shelley Duvall and ‘The Shining’

Director Stanley Kubrick and Shelley Duvall on the set of 'The Shining'.

(L to R) Director Stanley Kubrick and Shelley Duvall on the set of ‘The Shining’. Photo: Warner Bros.

The turning point for Duvall came in 1980. Director Stanley Kubrick, notorious for his demanding style, cast Duvall alongside Nicholson in his classic psychological horror film infamously adapted from Stephen King’s book.

Her portrayal of a writer’s wife unraveling alongside him in a haunted hotel, became iconic. Duvall’s commitment to the role was legendary, with the filming process taking an emotional toll. Yet her performance delivered a masterclass in portraying emotional descent and sheer terror, forever etching Wendy Torrance in the annals of horror cinema.

The Shining

Shelley Duvall: Other Work and Later Struggles

Shelley Duvall and Robin Williams in 1980's 'Popeye'.

(L to R) Shelley Duvall and Robin Williams in 1980’s ‘Popeye’. Photo: Paramount Pictures.

Torrance may be the role for which she’s remembered, but she brought warmth and humor to films like Altman’s ‘Popeye’ opposite Robin Williams, and ‘Time Bandits’ with Sean Connery.

The 1990s saw a shift in Duvall’s career. Public appearances became less frequent, and she took on fewer roles. Personal struggles became a focus of unwanted media attention. Yet, she continued to act sporadically, appearing in films such as ‘The Underneath’ and ‘The Portrait of a Lady’. Her final on-screen appearance was 2022 horror film ‘The Forest Hills.’

Popeye

Shelley Duvall: Tribute

Dan Gilroy, Duvall’s partner since 1989, wrote the following tribute:

“My dear, sweet, wonderful life partner and friend left us. Too much suffering lately, now she’s free. Fly away, beautiful Shelley.”

Shelley Duvall in 'The Shining'.

Shelley Duvall in ‘The Shining’. Photo: Warner Bros.

Shelley Duvall Movies and TV Shows:

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