‘The Shining’: Stanley Kubrick Told the Cast and Crew Not To ‘Sympathize’ With Shelley Duvall

Shelley Duvall wouldn’t exactly consider her experience in The Shining to be a walk in the park. The star of the horror movie famously struggled on set because of Stanley Kubrick’s demanding nature. And during one grueling shoot, Duvall was forced to retake a scene 127 times. Her participation in the movie was so stressful that she began losing hair. And despite how much she struggled, Kubrick told the rest of the cast and crew not to “sympathize” with her.        

Shelley Duvall in the film '3 Women', 1977
Shelley Duvall in the film ‘3 Women’, 1977 | 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images

Jack Nicholson says Stanley Kubrick was a ‘different director’ with Shelley Duvall

In the documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, Nicholson points out that Kubrick was a different director with him than he was with Duvall. When it came to Nicholson, he’d continuously praise him on his excellent work. But according to the actors, he never said one word of appreciation for Duvall.

In an interview with Empire Magazine via Vocal Media, Nicholson states that Duvall had “the toughest job of any actor I’ve seen.” 

He and his fellow co-star may have been trying to kill each other in the film, but they remained good friends in real life. Duvall says that she and Nicholson used to crack up on set and share a scotch at the end of a long workday.

As Duvall puts it, her co-star was her “rock” throughout the filming process. This is partly because he was the only one who was nice to her, considering Kubrick’s bullying tactics for Duvall. Nicholson even went so far as to call the director “brutal” to the people he has worked with, during the documentary.

Stanley Kubrick bullied Shelley Duvall on the set of ‘The Shining’

In Vivian Kubrick’s documentary, The Making of The Shining, we can see the full extent of the torment that the director put Duvall through. He purposefully isolated the actor from the rest of the crew because he wanted to perfect her role as the frightened Wendy Torrance.

And as seen in the behind the scenes documentary, Kubrick tells the cast and crew not to “sympathize with Shelley.” He says this after she admits to losing hair from the stress of the role. Later in the documentary, Kubrick tells Duvall that she’s “wasting everybody’s time” on the film. 

Shelley Duvall says her experience with Stanley Kubrick made her ‘smarter’

RELATED: What Is Stephen King’s Favorite Movie Adaptation of One of His Books?

As difficult as the experience was for Duvall, she admits that working with Kubrick made her a smarter individual. And although she has stated multiple times that The Shining was the most challenging film she’s ever been involved in, she wouldn’t trade her experience for the world. In Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures, Duvall reflects on her experience with the director. 

“For a person as charming and lovable (as Kubrick,) he can do some pretty cruel things when you’re filming. It was a very difficult role,” she says of playing Wendy Torrance.

“It was a long shoot,” she says, “and I had to cry and hyperventilate and carry a little boy for most of the time we shot. And that was about a little over a year. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Why? Because of Stanley. It was such a fascinating experience. It was such intense work that I think it makes you smarter… But I wouldn’t want to go through it again.”