Shelley Duvall, ‘The Shining’ Star and Favorite of Robert Altman, Dies at 75

Shelley Duvall best known for her roles in “The Shining” and several Robert Altman films, died at the age of 75 from complications of diabetes.

Musician Dan Gilroy, her life partner, confirmed the news in a statement to THR. “My dear, sweet, wonderful life partner and friend left us. Too much suffering lately, now she’s free. Fly away, beautiful Shelley,” Gilroy said.

According to Gilroy, Duvall died in her sleep at her home in Blanco, Texas.

While most movie fans might know her as Jack Nicholson’s imperiled, baseball-bat-wielding wife in Kubrick’s “The Shining,” the actress worked most frequently with auteur Altman. He discovered the actress and gave her her first part in his 1970 film “Brewster McCloud” as the love interest of the title character played by Bud Cort.

She also played a kooky Californian in Altman’s 1975 epic ensemble “Nashville,” and won the Cannes Best Actress Award for her largely improvised performance in his 1977 mystery, “3 Women,” which costarred Sissy Spacek and Janice Rule.

A 1977 profile in the Boca Raton News described the rising actress as “a 5′ 7″ stick figure of a girl, with bangs, a blank-page expression and an overbite.” Altman raved to the paper that Duvall was able “to swing all sides of the pendulum: charming, silly, sophisticated, pathetic — even beautiful.”

She also appeared in the Altman films “Thieves Like Us,” “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” and “Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson.” She played Olive Oyl in the director’s 1980 live-action “Popeye” film that starred Robin Williams as the comic book character, a role that she was “born to play,” Roger Ebert wrote at the time.

“Shelley Duvall is like a precious piece of china with a tinkling personality. She looks and sounds like almost nobody else, and if it is true that she was born to play the character Olive Oyl. It is also true that she has possibly played more really different kinds of characters than almost any other young actress of the 1970s,” wrote Ebert.

During the ’80s, she created and hosted the anthology series “Faerie Tale Theatre,” which ran for six seasons on Showtime. The fanciful series boasted directors including Tim Burton and Francis Ford Coppola and talent from Mick Jagger to Vanessa Redgrave to Jean Stapleton. In 1985, it won a Peabody Award, a Golden CableAce Award and the Television Critic Association’s Outstanding Achievement in Children’s Programming.

Duvall followed the series with another Showtime anthology series, “Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories.”

Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd and Jack Nicholson in "The Shining"
Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd and Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.” (CREDIT: Warner Bros. via Getty Images)

In the ’90s and ’00s, she appeared sporadically in films, including Jane Campion’s “Portrait of a Lady,” before taking a 21-year absence from acting to take care of her cancer-stricken brother.

She was back in the spotlight in 2016 thanks to a bizarre interview with Dr. Phil, which was condemned by viewers, including Stanley Kubrick’s daughter, Vivian, who called it “exploitative” and “appallingly cruel.” During the interview, Duvall said she believed Robin Williams, who had died two years earlier, was still alive, and told the TV host, “I’m very sick. I need help.”

According to a 2021 Hollywood Reporter profile, “Coco” director Lee Unkrich was among those who were concerned for Duvall’s well-being. “Unfortunately, on ‘Dr. Phil,’ the world saw what it’s like to have untreated mental illness,” he told the publication, noting that it “has helped make Shelley mostly forgotten by Hollywood.” Unkrich located Duvall in Texas and found that while she was prone to panic attacks, the actress could “converse for long, coherent stretches.”

In 2023, Duvall returned to acting in the independent horror film “The Forest Hills.” Ahead of the film’s release, she told People that she was eager for more roles, pointing out that if Jessica Tandy could win an Oscar at age 80, so could she. “Acting again — it’s so much fun. It enriches your life,” she told the magazine.

In the 70s, Duvall dated singer Paul Simon for two years; She and musician Dan Gilroy had been together since 1989.

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