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Shelley Duvall Opens Up About Controversial 'Dr. Phil' Interview

Shelley Duvall Opens Up About Controversial 'Dr. Phil' Interview
February 12, 2021 - 15:55 / Anna Valenzuela Rosas

The '70s actress Shelley Duvall was a guest of Dr. Phil after a long hiatus away from the public eye. Her Dr. Phill episode became famously controversial as it appeared that the beloved host was exploiting her serious mental health issues. Now finally almost 5 years later she is opening up about her experience.

The now 71-year-old actress Shelley Duvall was incredibly popular in the '70s but has been intentionally living out of the public eye for decades now. Then in 2016 she had her highly criticized interview with Dr. Phil on his show the same name.

Shelley Duvall on Dr. Phil

Shelley opened up to The Hollywood Reporter about her time in Hollywood and the long-lasting effects of filming Stanley Kubricks critically acclaimed The Shining. After a while, Shelley began having serious mental health issues and stepped back from the public eye in the '90s. Then her return to the screen was on Dr. Phil.

Shelley Duvall in 'Nashville'.

Many criticized the episode as exploitative and Dr. Phil took a lot of heat for his poking and prodding of the visibly unstable Duvall. Stanley Kubrick's daughter Vivian even wrote to Dr. Phil via Twitter saying, "Unquestionably, this is purely a form of lurid and exploitive entertainment — it's appallingly cruel."

Dr. Phil McGraw and his crew visited her in her small town and aired footage of her babbling and "paranoid fantasies" such as believing that her former Popeye co-star Robing Williams was not, in fact, dead but was instead a "shapeshifter." Apparently, she "found out the kind of person he is the hard way," and that "My mother didn't like him either."

Shelley told The Hollywood Reporter that after the extremely popular episode aired, "He started calling my mother. She told him, 'Don't call my daughter anymore.' But he started calling my mother all the time trying to get her to let me talk to him again."

Shelley Duvall in 'The Shining'.

Shelley feels nothing but regret for agreeing to be a part of the hit show and her friends had told her, "You shouldn't have done that, Shelley.'" 

A representative of the Dr. Phil show wrote to The Hollywood Reporter saying, "We view every Dr. Phil episode, including Miss Duvall and her struggle with mental illness, as an opportunity to share relatable, useful information and perspective with our audience."

"We don't attach the stigma associated with mental illness which many do. With no one else offering help, our goal was to document the struggle and bring amazing resources to change her trajectory as we have for so many over 19 years. Unfortunately, she declined our initial offer for inpatient treatment that would have included full physical and mental evaluations, giving her a chance to privately manage her challenges. After many months of follow-up, in collaboration with her mother, she ultimately refused assistance. We were of course very disappointed, but those offers for help remain open today."

Dr. Phil McGraw testifies before the House Education and Labor Committee on Ensuring Student Cyber Safety. 

The Hollywood Reporter interviewer Seth Abramovith felt compelled to publish his interview with Shelley saying, "I only knew that it didn't feel right for McGraw's insensitive sideshow to be the final word on her legacy. Her mood ebbed and flowed throughout the day, but, like [another THR reporter], I found her memory to be sharp and her stories engrossing."