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Why Shelley Duvall disappeared from Hollywood for 20 years

“The Shining” star Shelley Duvall has revealed the heartbreaking reason she stepped away from Hollywood: her family.

The actress, 73, moved back to Texas in 2002 after her brother was diagnosed with spinal cancer and acting roles began to dry out.

“It’s the longest sabbatical I ever took but it was for really important reasons — to get in touch with my family again,” she told People — who described her as “sharp, earthy, a bit eccentric and sometimes emotional” — in an interview published on Wednesday.

Duvall began acting after being discovered by legendary director Robert Altman who cast her in the 1970 black comedy “Brewster McCloud.” More Altman movies followed including “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” “Thieves Like Us, “Nashville” and “3 Women,” which garnered her a Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress.

Shelley Duvall in "3 Women."
Duvall appeared in many of Robert Altman’s movies.
©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

She then had a memorable part in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” and even hosted “SNL.”

In the 1980s, Duvall won acclaim for her role opposite Jack Nicholson in the Stanley Kubrick horror flick “The Shining” and played Olive Oyl in the live-action feature version of “Popeye.”

But when work began to peter out, Duvall made the decision to move back to Texas and keep a low public profile.

Shelley Duvall in "The Shining."
Duvall’s most famous role is Wendy Torrance in “The Shining.”
Courtesy Everett Collection

Shelley Duvall and Jack Nicholson in "The Shining."
Duvall starred opposite Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.”
©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection


She did, however, make a brief comeback during a 2016 appearance on the “Dr. Phil” show, which was criticized for being exploitative of Duvall’s fragile mental state.

During the interview, Duvall insisted her “Popeye” co-star Robin Williams, who died by suicide two years prior, was still alive and “a shapeshifter.”

Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall in "Popeye."
Duvall starred opposite Robin Williams in “Popeye.”
©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

She also proclaimed in one of her more lucid moments, “I need to get the Bermuda Triangle off of me because I do not want a hairy chest. I’m not a Chia Pet.”

In 2021, she criticized Dr. Phil for allegedly taking advantage of her mental state at the time, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “I found out the kind of person he is the hard way.”

Shelley Duvall in "The Forest Hills."
“The Forest Hills” marks Duvall’s first screen appearance in 20 years.
Dreznick Goldberg Productions

Now she’s back in an upcoming horror film entitled “The Forest Hills” and is hopeful about her career.

“[Jessica Tandy] won an Oscar when she was 80. I can still win,” she noted with a laugh.

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