“Going through day after day of excruciating work was almost unbearable. Jack Nicholson’s character had to be crazy and angry all the time. And in my character I had to cry 12 hours a day, all day long, the last nine months straight, five or six days a week. I was there a year and a month, and there must be something to Primal Scream therapy, because after the day was over and I’d cried for my 12 hours … After all that work, hardly anyone even criticized my performance in it, even to mention it, it seemed like. The reviews were all about Kubrick, like I wasn’t there.” - Shelly Duvall, December 1980
To give a little more perspective on just how horrific this film was, I need to give people some information:
Since retiring from acting in 2002, Shelley Duvall has lived a reclusive and isolated life. However, in November of 2016, USA Today reported that she appeared to be suffering from mental illness. And then later that month, to an incredible amount of hype, Shelley appeared on the Dr. Phil show where she basically looked unrecognisable, seemed delusional and talked about people trying to kill her. The episode basically confirmed there rumours.
You can find videos/clips of the interview on youtube, however I won’t link it because it’s upsetting and disrespectful.
After the interview aired, Vivian Kubrick, daughter of The Shining director Stanley Kubrick, described the interview as “exploitative entertainment” and “appallingly cruel”. The show then received a lot of backlash (rightly so) and a number of other chat shows started discussing it (again, there’s some videos of these on youtube)
Now, how does this all connect to The Shining, you ask? To quote Wikipedia:
“Jack Nicholson states in the documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, that Kubrick was great to work with but that he was “a different director” with Duvall. Because of Kubrick’s methodical nature, principal photography took a year to complete. Kubrick and Duvall argued frequently, although Duvall later said she learned more from working with Kubrick on The Shining than she did on all her earlier films. In order to give The Shining the psychological horror it needed, director Stanley Kubrick antagonised his actors. The film’s script was changed so often that Nicholson stopped reading each draft. Kubrick intentionally isolated Duvall and argued with her often. Duvall was forced to perform the iconic and exhausting baseball bat scene 127 times. Afterwards, Duvall presented Kubrick with clumps of hair that had fallen out due to the extreme stress of filming.”
One year of solid filming. She had to cry, panic and be scared for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, nine months straight. She was isolated and antagonised by the director. She had to perform the baseball bat scene 127 times in a row (that’s her crying and screaming, and Jack Nicholson being hit) And to top it all of, Jack and Kubrick get all the attention while she gets ignored?
From my own personal experience of mental illness, being exposed to feelings of fear and distress for prolonged periods of time can cause the brain to learn and expect it. I’m not saying that filming The Shining caused Shelley Duvall to develop mental illness, I am stating that whether the movie brought out an existing condition, or prepared the bed for something to eventually develop, filming The Shining has a direct correlation with Shelley Duvall suffering from mental illness.
Next time you watch the movie, bare that in mind. It’s much sadder.
Side note: Three years prior to filming, her partner of two years, Paul Simon, walked off with her friend Carrie Fisher, after she introduced the two. So there’s that too.
Far too many directors love/loved tormenting their lead actresses. Hitchcock, Lars von Trier, David O. Russell, Bertolucci, Abdellatif Kechiche, and many more. What’s especially insulting to Duvall is that not only was she subjected to this treatment, but her performance has been largely unappreciated and even often ridiculed.
This is why any time people say what a ~masterpiece~ the shining is I have to roll my eyes. It’s especially frustrating when the convo is “lol yeah kubrik was the worst, but made a really good movie.” No, kubrik was awful, it’s awful and it’s shameful to celebrate that, period.
(Not so) Fun fact: Stanley Kubrick was a far-right social darwinist who considered democracy “a noble failure”. It shows.
Another fun fact: Stephen King HATES Kubrick’s The Shining because of how it portrayed Shelley’s character. He has said that Kubrick’s version made her into a sexist stereotype and not at all like the woman he wrote in his novel.
God that’s awful.
And you know, maybe people didn’t like her performance because she just looked like a wreck constantly, so Kubrick’s “method acting” actually made it worse.
Oh yeah during a bird attack scene Hitchcock tied a bunch of fucking live birds onto Tippi Hedren’s clothes while handlers threw more birds at her and he didn’t let her take a break until one of them nearly poked her damn eye out and she outright refused to continue filming the scene and her doctor basically forced Hitchcock to let her take a bed rest. He was pretty fucked up too.