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Shelley Duvall, ‘The Shining’ and ‘Popeye’ Actress, Dead at 75


Shelley Duvall has died. The actress, best known for her roles in The Shining and Popeye, died on Thursday at age 75. Dan Gilroy, the actress’ partner for over 30 years, told The Hollywood Reporter that Duvall died in her sleep of complications from diabetes at her home in Blanco, Texas. 

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

Duvall made her acting debut in Brewster McCloud in 1970 after being discovered by director Robert Altman. She had acclaimed leading roles in Popeye and The Shining, and won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for her role in the 1977 drama 3 Women. In the 1980s, she went into producing television programming for children and youth, earning two Primetime Emmy Award nominations.

In 2002, Duvall appeared in her final film, Manna From Heaven, before announcing her retirement from acting. In a lengthy New York Times profile published in April 2024, Duvall shared her reasoning for stepping back from the spotlight in the prime of her career.

Dan Gilroy and Actress Shelley Duvall in 1989.Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

“I was a star; I had leading roles,” she told the outlet. “People think it’s just aging, but it’s not. It’s violence. How would you feel if people were really nice, and then, suddenly, on a dime” — she snapped her fingers — “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.”

Gilroy told the outlet that the couple’s life in Los Angeles was “really terrific” before the 1994 Northridge earthquake damaged Duvall’s home, and they moved to Texas after her brothers fell ill.

“Things went downhill when she started becoming afraid of things, maybe didn’t want to work. It’s really hard to pin it on any one thing,” he added. “She became paranoid and just kind of delusional, thinking she was being attacked. She tried to make calls to the F.B.I., and asked our neighbor to protect us… It was just shocking that, suddenly, from normal, it went south like that.”

Things took a turn when Duvall was a guest on a controversial episode of the daytime talk show Dr. Phil in 2016. The episode was titled “A Hollywood Star’s Descent Into Mental Illness: Saving The Shining’s Shelley Duvall,” and, according to Gilroy, was filmed without his knowledge.

Shelley Duvall in ‘The Shining’Warner Brothers/Getty Images

“I’m very sick. I need help,” Duvall told host Dr. Phil McGraw at one point during the episode. “Well, that’s why I’m here,” he responded.

At the time, the Brewster McCloud star’s statements included the claim that she’d seen the late Robin Williams — whom she co-starred with in 1980’s Popeye — since he died in 2014. She claimed that he wasn’t really dead, and was “shapeshifting.” She also claimed that the “Sheriff of Nottingham” had been threatening her, and that there was a “worrying” disc inside of her.

Although the episode never aired in full, the damage was done. 

“It did nothing for her,” Gilroy said of the show. “It just put her on the map as an oddity.”

Last June, the former daytime host appeared on Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?, during which he said he doesn’t regret the interview, despite many — including Stanley Kubrick’s daughter, Vivian — publicly criticizing the show for being exploitative and sensationalist.

Duvall came out of retirement with her role as Mama in writer-director Scott Goldberg’s indie horror film, The Forest Hills

The film also stars Edward Furlong, Chiko Mendez, Dee Wallace, and Felissa Rose. The Forest Hills follows a disturbed man who is tormented by nightmarish visions, after enduring head trauma while camping in the Catskill Mountains.

When the actress spoke with ET ahead of the film’s initial release date of March 2023, she was enthusiastic about her return to the big screen. 

“I know it’s been a long time,” Duvall told ET, “but it’s been great. It really has, it feels good. Makes me want to do more acting.” 

“It’s actually so much fun to act in a movie,” she said of the return to set. “I should appreciate every minute of it.” 

Duvall’s co-stars also spoke up about their excitement to work alongside her. “I could not have done it without her,” Mendez said. “We need each other because acting is not acting, it’s reacting.” 

It had been a long break, but Duvall was confident she was making her return with the right role and cast. “You don’t want to have to take every role that comes along, every movie that comes along,” she said. “You want to be able to choose.”

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