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Shelley Duvall Reflects On "Very Hard" Time Making Stanley Kubrick's The Shining

The reclusive actress opened up about her experiences making the classic 1980 horror film "To wake and realise that you had to cry all day, I don’t know how I did it."

Shelley Duvall thought Stanley Kubrick had a cruel "streak".

The 71-year-old actress endured a tough shoot under the late director when they made The Shining and though she insisted the filmmaker was always "very warm and friendly" to her and co-star Jack Nicholson, she also understood why he could be difficult.

In the 1980 film, Duvall played Wendy Torrance, the wife of Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), the former teacher who accepted a position as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. 

Asked if she thought Kubrick had been unusually cruel or abusive towards her to drive her performance, Duvall told The Hollywood Reporter: "He's got that streak in him. He definitely has that. But I think mostly because people have been that way to him at some time in the past. His first two films were Killer's Kiss and The Killing...

"He was very warm and friendly to me. He spent a lot of time with Jack [Nicholson] and me. He just wanted to sit down and talk for hours while the crew waited. And the crew would say, 'Stanley, we have about 60 people waiting.' But it was very important work."

Duvall — who retreated from the spotlight in the 1990s — admitted making the 1980 horror classic was hard because the director insisted on multiple takes every time, and she eventually reached a point where she broke down in tears just at the thought of the day ahead.

She said: "[Kubrick] doesn't print anything until at least the 35th take. Thirty-five takes, running and crying and carrying a little boy, it gets hard. And full performance from the first rehearsal. That's difficult...

"[Before a take I would] listen to sad songs. Or you just think about something very sad in your life or how much you miss your family or friends.

"But 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 realise 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.' "

Later, the interviewer showed Duvall a sequence from The Shining — the staircase scene where she was fending off Nicholson with a baseball bat — which took 127 takes to film.

“It was a difficult scene, but it turned out to be one of the best scenes in the film,” Duvall said. “I'd like to watch the movie again. I haven't seen it in a long time.”

Duvall started tearing after she saw the clip. Asked why she cried, she said, “Because we filmed that for about three weeks. Every day. It was very hard. Jack was so good — so damn scary. I can only imagine how many women go through this kind of thing.”

Elsewhere, Anjelica Huston, who was Nicholson's girlfriend at the time, recalled how Duvall seemed "tortured" throughout the gruelling shoot and hailed the actress as "incredibly brave" for seeing the project through.

Huston, 69, said: "I got the feeling, certainly through what Jack was saying at the time, that Shelley was having a hard time just dealing with the emotional content of the piece.

"And they didn't seem to be all that sympathetic. It seemed to be a little bit like the boys were ganging up. That might have been completely my misread on the situation, but I just felt it.

"And when I saw her during those days, she seemed a generally a bit tortured, shook up. I don't think anyone was being particularly careful of her...

"She actually carried the movie on her back if you look at it. Jack wavers between sort of comedic and terrifying, and Kubrick was Kubrick at his most mysterious, interesting and powerful. But it must have been something for her to be in the middle of that mix. And she took it on. She was, I think, incredibly brave." — BANG


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