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shelley duvall© Photo: Getty Images

Shelley Duvall, reclusive star of The Shining, dead at 75

The beloved, wide-eyed actress lived a quiet life in Texas away from the spotlight for the last 30 years

Beatriz Colon
Beatriz Colon - New York
New York WriterNew York
2 days ago
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Shelley Duvall, the star best known for her role on The Shining — for which she barely survived Stanley Kubrick's infamous demands — as well as her indelible mark on retro aesthetics, though who later left Hollywood, has died. She was 75.

The Nashville actress passed away just days after marking her 75th birthday on July 7, at her home in Blanco, Texas.

Her longtime partner Dan Gilroy confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that she died of complications from diabetes.

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In a statement, Gilroy, who had been with Duvall since 1989, said: "My dear, sweet, wonderful life partner and friend left us. Too much suffering lately, now she's free. Fly away, beautiful Shelley."

Duvall was born Shelley Alexis Duvall on July 7, 1959 in Fort Worth, Texas. She was the first child of her mother, Bobbie Ruth Crawford, a real estate broker who lived to 91 until her death in 2020, and father Robert Richardson "Bobby" Duvall, a cattle auctioneer-turned-lawyer. 

In addition to her role on The Shining — for which she, and moreover the strenuous filming conditions she endured, regained notoriety long after her departure from Hollywood — Duvall was known for the seven films she starred in by her mentor Robert Altman, including 3 Women, for which she won the Cannes actress award, as well as for playing Olive Oyl opposite the late Robin Williams in 1980's Popeye.

Actress Shelley Duvall in a scene from the movie '3 Women', 1977.© Getty
The actress became instantly recognizable for her wide eyes and waif look

Still, despite new and old generations' fascination with her wide-eyed look, painful history, and their hopes of seeing her return to Hollywood, her last film role, separate from a brief comeback on 2023 horror film The Forest Hills, was in 2002's Manna From Heaven.

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For the last two decades of her storied life, she lived in Texas Hill Country, specifically in Blanco, a "one-stoplight town" where she became a true local, a regular with go-to orders at most establishments in the rural area. 

Wendy Torrance, played by American actress Shelley Duvall, recoils in shock as her husband chops through the bathroom door with a fire axe in a scene from 'The Shining', directed by Stanley Kubrick, 1980© Getty
She played a tormented wife in The Shining, and her director's own harrowing on-set practices became infamous in later years

Speaking with People last year about her two decades of seclusion, Duvall recalled how she was first discovered in her native Texas aged 21, and asked to audition for her seven-time hallowed director's 1970 comedy Brewster McCloud; "acting on screen came naturally," she said.

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She went on to star in another seven Altman films, and remembered: "After Thieves Like Us, Robert [Altman] looked at me and said, 'I knew you were good, but I didn't know you were great."

Actress Shelley Duvall in dress of quilt-patterned squares by Robert-David Morton of Qiana nylon fabric; Accessocraft necklace; belt by Margo's M?nage; boots by Golo and Hanes tights.© Getty
Duvall in 1971

"It's the reason I stuck with it and became an actress," she further recalled. And while she said she never felt "beautiful" at the peak of her fame, Duvall was always aware of her gifts and instincts. To play Olive Oyl, for example, she said: "All it took was to put on the costume, and I knew exactly how to play Olive."

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Pictured is Shelley Duvall who plays Lily Miniver, an eccentric, intrepid young woman whose job as associate curator at the prestigious Jeffersonian Museum in Washington, D.C., takes her around the globe, in the made for television movie, LILY. Originally broadcast June 14, 1986.© Getty
She left Hollywood in 1994

Not long after, however, the job offers began to dwindle. When one of her three brothers got diagnosed with spinal cancer, she packed up her things, moved to Texas, and retired in 1994, when she was 45.

"It's the longest sabbatical I ever took," she said of her decision, adding: "But it was for really important reasons — to get in touch with my family again."

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