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SYFY WIRE The Shining

Shelley Duvall rewatches The Shining, recalls crying over having to cry all day on Stanley Kubrick's set

By Vanessa Armstrong
Shelley Duvall - The Shining

Shelley Duvall (The Shining, Popeye) has been out of the Hollywood spotlight for decades, leaving Los Angeles in the mid-'90s for rural Texas and avoiding public appearances except for a 2016 Dr. Phil interview that exploited Duvall’s struggles with mental illness.

Recently, however, Duvall sat down with Seth Abramovitch from The Hollywood Reporter, and the resulting profile gives a much more nuanced and holistic representation of her life and career, including her work on Stanley Kubrick’s iconic horror film, The Shining.

Kubrick’s grueling work style, with multiple takes and long hours, is the stuff of Hollywood legend, and it was something that Duvall directly experienced during the 56 weeks she spent working on set. 

“[Kubrick] doesn’t print anything until at least the 35th take,” Duvall told THR. “Thirty-five takes, running and crying and carrying a little boy, it gets hard. And full performance from the first rehearsal. That’s difficult.”

Kubrick sometimes demanded over a hundred takes for certain scenes, many of which required Duvall to be in a state of extreme distress and panic as her maniacal husband (Jack Nicholson) tries to kill her.

To get into that state, Duvall told THR she would “think about something very sad in your life or how much you miss your family or friends. But after a while, your body rebels. It says: ‘Stop doing this to me. I don’t want to cry every day.’ And sometimes just that thought alone would make me cry. To wake up on a Monday morning, so early, and realize that you had to cry all day because it was scheduled — I would just start crying. I’d be like, ‘Oh no, I can’t, I can’t.’ And yet I did it. I don’t know how I did it. Jack said that to me, too. He said, ‘I don’t know how you do it.’”

But Duvall did it for 56 weeks, and her performance in The Shining is one that still leaves an impact on those who watch her, 40-plus years later. Duvall hasn’t seen the film in decades, and when Abramovitch showed her the iconic scene of her running up the staircase as Nicholson chases her, she started crying.

“We filmed that for about three weeks,” she said. “Every day. It was very hard. Jack was so good — so damn scary. I can only imagine how many women go through this kind of thing.”

You can read THR’s full profile of Shelley Duvall here.