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Dr. Phil Defends Controversial Shelley Duvall Interview: "I Don't Regret What I Did"

The daytime talk show was slammed for an "appallingly cruel" 2016 interview with the actor.

In 2016, fans got an unexpected update on retired actor Shelley Duvall, but the circumstances of her return to public eye were seen as exploitative by some. The star of films including Nashville and Popeye was featured on a 2016 episode of Dr. Phil entitled "A Hollywood Star's Descent Into Mental Illness: Saving The Shining's Shelley Duvall" in which she seemed confused and erratic. The interview was slammed by many, including the daughter of The Shining director Stanley Kubrick, Vivian Kubrick, who called it "appallingly cruel."

In a new interview, Dr. Phil McGraw clarified that he still does "not regret" showcasing Duvall on his talk show and even shot back at viewers who registered their anger. Read on to find out why he won't apologize for the infamous interview.

READ THIS NEXT: Loni Anderson Says This Host Manhandled Her: It Would "Never Happen Today."

There was immediate backlash to the episode.

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Duvall had been living outside of the public eye for many years when Dr. Phil interviewed her in 2016. In the sit-down, she said some bizarre things, including that she believed her late Popeye co-star Robin Williams was not deceased but "shapeshifting." She also said that she thought people, who she did not name, might hurt her. "I'm very sick. I need help," she said.

As reported by Deadline, the episode ended with a title card stating that Duvall left a treatment facility the show had checked her into after three days, refused to sign paperwork, and did not want to take medication.

After the episode aired, people were quick to share their discomfort with the show putting Duvall on television in what appeared to be a vulnerable state. Vivian Kubrick took to social media with statement that says, in part, "Unquestionably, this is purely a form of lurid and exploitative entertainment…"

McGraw only has one regret about it.

During an appearance on Who's Talking to Chris Wallace on June 2, McGraw was shown a preview for the 2016 episode, which played up the concerning statements Duvall had made. Asked if he regretted the interview, the host said, "I don't regret what I did. I regret that it was promoted in a way that people thought was unbecoming."

He also said that he and the production made attempts to help Duvall that were not a part of the episode. "There are parts of that story that I haven't talked about and won't talk about in specific, but I can say generally that we worked with her family," he continued. "We worked with her for over a year off-camera after the fact, providing her opportunities for inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care. I can't tell you the extent we went to."

He also had a direct message for those who didn't approve of the interview: "And the people that were critical of it, nobody ever asked them what they ever did to try and help her. And the answer is not a damn thing."

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Duvall claimed that Dr. Phil harassed her mother to get another interview.

Shelley Duvall photographed in Los Angeles circa 1991
Bart Sherkow / Shutterstock

In 2021, Duvall gave another rare interview, this time to The Hollywood Reporter. Journalist Seth Abramovitch noted that, as she spoke about her career and her life after leaving the spotlight, the former actor's "mood ebbed and flowed throughout the day," but that he "found her memories to be sharp and her stories engrossing."

She also addressed the poorly received interview.

"I found out the kind of person he is the hard way," Duvall told THR of McGraw. "My mother didn't like him, either. A lot of people, like Dan [Gilroy, her partner], said, 'You shouldn't have done that, Shelley.'"

Duvall said that McGraw continued trying to contact her after the show aired, which she said was unwanted. "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," she claimed.

A spokesperson claimed the show's intentions were good.

Phil McGraw at Steve Harvey's Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony in 2013
Joe Seer / Shutterstock

In response to Duvall's words about the show, a spokesperson for DrPhil defended the episode to The Hollywood Reporter. In a statement, they said that the interview was "an opportunity to share relatable, useful information and perspective with our audiences."

"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," the statement continued. "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."

Duvall just took on her first acting role in two decades.

Shelley Duvall behind the scenes of "The Forest Hills"
Scott Hansen / Digital Thunderdome

Duvall retired from acting for 20 years following the 2002 movie Manna From Heaven. But, in 2022, it was announced that she would be returning to film with the 2023 indie horror movie The Forest Hills. She plays the main character's mother.

"Acting again—it's so much fun. It enriches your life," the 73-year-old told People in February. She also talked to the magazine about coming across some of her past roles on TV. "On one channel there is Popeye and another one The Shining. Boy, those are two different films," she said. "But in a way it's like, 'Gosh, I was great.'"

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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