Shelley Duvall, ‘The Shining’ and ‘Nashville’ Star, Dies at 75

Shelley Duvall, the big-eyed, waifish performer who won the Cannes actress award for Robert Altman’s “3 Women” and endured Stanley Kubrick’s intense directing techniques to star in “The Shining,” died of diabetes complications on Thursday in Blanco, Texas, Variety confirmed with her partner Dan Gilroy. She was 75.

“My dear, sweet, wonderful life, partner, and friend left us last night. Too much suffering lately, now she’s free. Fly away beautiful Shelley,” said Gilroy in a statement.

More from Variety

Duvall was known for working with director Altman, who cast her in “Brewster McCloud” as her first screen role. She went on to appear in his films “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” and “Thieves Like Us” before starring as part of the ensemble cast of “Nashville” in 1975. After gaining attention in “Nashville,” Altman cast her in “Buffalo Bill and the Indians,” then gave her unusual screen presence a chance to shine in “3 Women,” for which she won the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress as well as a BAFTA nomination.

Also in 1977, Duvall played a Rolling Stone journalist in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall,” and met Paul Simon on the set. They dated for two years.

Duvall starred as Olive Oyl in Altman’s “Popeye” in 1980, a role that she seemed born to play, with her giant eyes. Her unnerving performance as a health spa worker in “3 Women” led Kubrick to cast her as Wendy Torrance, the wife of Jack Nicholson’s character in Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” based on the Stephen King novel.

“The Shining” required more than a year of shooting, and throughout, the legendarily demanding director pushed Duvall to her limit. Some of her scenes in “The Shining” required more than 100 takes, with the baseball sequence landing in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most takes of a scene with dialogue.

Years later, she talked about the difficult shoot with the Hollywood Reporter. “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.’“

Among her other roles were Terry Gilliam’s “Time Bandits” and the comedy “Roxanne” with Steve Martin.

During the 1980s, Duvall produced a series of children’s anthology shows based on classic stories. “Faerie Tale Theatre,” “Tall Tales & Legends,” “Nightmare Classics” and “Bedtime Stories” boasted notable directors including Tim Burton, Francis Ford Coppola and Ivan Passer and guest stars like Robin Williams, Jamie Lee Curtis, Elliot Gould, Laura Dern, Molly Ringwald and Ed Asner.

Born in Ft. Worth, Texas, she met Altman at a party while he was shooting “Brewster McCloud” in Texas.

After returning to Texas, Duvall appeared in Steven Soderbergh’s “The Underneath” in 1995 and the next year starred in Jane Campion’s “The Portrait of a Lady.” She retired from acting in 2002.

Though she lived a reclusive life, her appearance on “Dr. Phil” in 2016 garnered negative publicity for sensationalizing her struggles with mental health. In 2021, she was interviewed by the Hollywood Reporter writer Seth Abramovitch, who traveled to Texas and found her happy to reminisce over her career and fondly regarded in her community in the Texas Hill Country, despite her eccentricities.

In 2023, she returned to acting after many years, appearing in the indie horror movie “The Forest Hills,” which was not widely available.

She is survived by her partner, musician Dan Gilroy, and her brothers, Scott, Stewart and Shane.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.