You don't have to be a horror fan to recognize the magic of Shelley Duvall, whose iconic roles in The Shining, Annie Hall and more are forever cemented in film history. As one of the most gifted actresses throughout the '70s and '80s, Duvall seemed to be on top of the world. Then, she left the industry in the early '00s.
Every horror buff's ears perked up at the sight of Duvall's name being attached to the upcoming independent horror film The Forest Hills, written and directed by Scott Goldberg. The film follows a man who is haunted by terrifying visions and hallucinations after suffering head trauma while camping. Also starring Edward Furlong, Chiko Mendez and Dee Wallace, Duvall will play as the mother of the main character (Mendez).
“We are huge fans of The Shining and it’s honestly one of my favorite horror movies of all time, up there with John Carpenter’s Halloween and George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead with the dark tones they delivered in their movies, along with perfect scores and elements that make them my personal favorites,” Goldberg said of Duvall's casting. “Shelley contributed to The Shining being an absolute masterpiece by giving her all, and performing in a way that really showcased the fear and horror of a mother in isolation.”
The Shining is one of the most iconic horror films of all time, but it was also a testament to Stanley Kubrick's intense directing style that caused a lot of tension. After his previous film, Barry Lyndon, suffered from poor box office numbers, he was determined to create a masterpiece. He would often do countless takes of the same scene until the dialogue felt natural, or he'd change the script right before they'd shoot a scene. Jack Nicholson, who plays the film's main character that descends into madness, was forced to eat the same cheese sandwich for weeks.
However, Duvall dealt with the brunt of Kubrick's mad genius, suffering from actual isolation and loneliness. Kubrick instructed the cast and crew to minimize contact with her and would only praise other cast members' performances. She would have to do up to thirty takes of the same scenes where she would cry nonstop, often while holding Danny Lloyd, who played her young son in the film. The result is an exhausted Duvall who embodied the role of a terrified mother perfectly. Despite this, Stephen King, who wrote the book the film is based on, despised the adaptation and felt that Duvall's performance was not at all what he wrote originally. Co-screenwriter Diane Johnson also noted that in original script drafts, Duvall had more dialogue and was not as meek and submissive as she was portrayed in the final film.
Duvall starred in many other movies well into the '80s and slowed down toward the end of the '90s. In 2002, she starred in her final film, Manna from Heaven. She then retired and lived out of the public eye.
Duvall's tumultuous relationship with Hollywood resurfaced after a controversial 2016 appearance on Dr. Phil, in which she came out of retirement for a rare interview. Suffering from obvious mental health issues, Dr. Phil drew a lot of criticism for his exploitation of Duvall's mental state, which was painted as a mockery. Duvall eventually addressed everything in a 2021 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, even clearing up some of the air between her and Kubrick.
"He was very warm and friendly to me,” she says. “He spent a lot of time with Jack and me. He just wanted to sit down and talk for hours while the crew waited." Nonetheless, she also acknowledged the grueling process of shooting her iconic role.
We welcome Shelley Duvall back with open arms, and we hope she can add another film to her portfolio that she's proud of for a new generation to enjoy.
Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers/Getty Images)
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