‘The Shining’: Shelley Duvall Said One of the ‘Worst Days’ of Her Life Was While Shooting This One Scene

Shelley Duvall is pretty vocal about how challenging her experience was in The Shining. Because Stanley Kubrick was a perfectionist when it came to his movies, he was willing to push his actors to the point of exhaustion to get the best shot. And during one particular scene, Duvall was forced to go through 127 takes until they mastered it. Unfortunately for Duvall, she considered the experience to be “one of the worst days” of her life.

Stanley Kubrick on the set of 'The Shining'
Stanley Kubrick on the set of ‘The Shining’ | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Shelley Duvall reveals she had an ‘anxiety attack’ while filming ‘The Shining’

Sadly, Duvall reveals that she dealt with an “anxiety attack” while filming the movie. In Vivian Kubrick’s documentary, The Making of The Shining, the actor can be seen lying on the floor as she works to find her breath. Production assistants can be seen trying to aid Duvall, giving her bottled water and cushioned pillows to lie down on.

“I had a really bad anxiety attack on set,” she tells comingsoon.net. “And I believe that was what is shown in the documentary. As most people are aware, the shoot was very hard on me, and I got to the point where I couldn’t take anymore. I needed a break, but taking a break costs money and people need the shot done, so I had a little breakdown.”

Shelley Duvall nearly walked off the set due to the stress of the scene

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When an actor walks off the set in the middle of a scene, you know they mean business. The actors are aware that extended time costs money, and any breaks will cost the company a lot. But Duvall was so distraught while filming the scene, that she was ready to walk. The particular moment in the film that they kept having to reshoot was when Wendy swings the bat multiple times at her husband, Jack.

Duvall says she was so exhausted and aggravated that she could no longer speak. She says the tears in her eyes are real. Because they kept reshooting the scene 127 times, they stayed up until 5 am to perfect it. 

She reveals to comingsoon.net,

“That scene was exhausting. I remember nearly running out of breath because I couldn’t speak anymore. The tears are real in the movie! I was so tired and getting fed up with the numerous takes. I nearly walked off the set. And I remember Take 99 specifically. The guy came up with the clapper board, said Take 99, and I said to Jack, ‘You’ve got to be f***ing kidding me?’

“I couldn’t believe it was that many takes already,” she continues. “And I thought I’d only done it 10 or 11 times at that point. I just tuned out. Stanley was getting annoyed with me, yelling at me, the crew was tired, we had all been on the set since 5 am shooting this ONE scene, and eventually, I did it right! It was one of the worst days of my life while shooting a movie. It looked so much easier in the script! But look at what Stanley got out of me. People love that scene!” 

Shelley Duvall thinks all the hard work was worth it in the end

Duvall says that despite how gruesome things could be during the making of Kubrick’s film, it’s all worth it in the end. Why? Because the fact that people are still obsessing over the movie years later amazes the actor. “Even though the atmosphere on set was sometimes unpleasant, I’m now remembered for a film that’s become a horror classic,” she says. “The fact that people are still watching and talking about it 31 years later amazes me.”