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Shelley Duvall Reveals Why She Quit Acting 20 Years Ago

The star of The Shining opens up about leaving Hollywood and her return to the big screen.

Shelley Duvall made her film debut at 21 and went on to star in movies including The Shining, Popeye, and Nashville. But in the early 2000s, she walked away from Hollywood. Now, 21 years after her last movie, Duvall is returning to the big screen in the independent horror movie The Forest Hills. She's looking forward to her comeback, but some fans may still be wondering why Duvall quit acting in the first place.

In a new interview with People, Duvall revealed why she stepped away and moved back to her home state of Texas. She also shared that she hopes her return to acting doesn't end with her soon-to-be-released movie. Read on to find out what the 73-year-old had to say in a rare interview.

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Duvall's last movie came out in 2002.

Shelley Duvall photographed in Los Angeles circa 1990
Vicki L. Miller / Shutterstock

After getting her start in the early '70s and starring in many movies, including seven with director Robert Altman, who discovered her, Duvall made her last movie appearance in 2002's Manna From Heaven. The film also features Cloris Leachman and Jerry Orbach.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, prior to that, she had already moved back to Texas—she's from Fort Worth—in the mid '90s. This was around the time that she filmed the movie The Underneath in Austin, Texas.

Duvall shared why she stopped acting.

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

As reported by People, the offers coming to Duvall started to dry up. And she had already moved to Texas to be with her family. Her brother had been diagnosed with spinal cancer, and Duvall made it her priority to be there.

"It's the longest sabbatical I ever took," Duvall said, "but it was for really important reasons—to get in touch with my family again."

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She's dealt with other struggles, as well.

Shelley Duvall on "Dr. Phil"
CBS Media Ventures

In 2021, Duvall gave an interview to The Hollywood Reporter in which she opened up about her controversial Dr. Phil interview from 2016, as well as her life and career. The profile explained that there was a rumor that the 1994 Northridge earthquake in California, which damaged the actor's home, was the reason she left Hollywood.

"Yeah. They wear you out, man," Duvall responded. Asked to clarify whether she meant the earthquakes, she said, "No, the people. Afterwards, it's like FEMA, then the next guys, and the next guys. Engineers one day, insurance people the next. Sometimes at the same time…"

She also hinted at some financial issues but didn't go into detail. "It's not just owning something that makes money. You have to also control it. You have to make sure it's a good deal," she said. Duvall explained that thought she would film The Underneath and then see her mother in Houston, "because my mother said she might be able to help me." She continued, "She said, 'You know, you do so many things, why don't … you do some art?' And I kept thinking, 'Yeah, Joni Mitchell gets $40,000 a painting. I might as well try.'" According to THR, she didn't end up painting but remained in Texas where she lives with her partner.

She's thrilled to be acting again.

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

In October 2022, news broke that Duvall would appear in The Forest Hills. The horror film from director Scott Goldberg is about a man (Chiko Mendez) who starts having disturbing vision following a head trauma. Duvall plays the character's mother, and The Forest Hills will have its premiere at a New Jersey theater owned by director Kevin Smith on March 10.

"Acting again—it's so much fun. It enriches your life," Duvall told People.

She also reflected on some of her previous roles, which she sometimes comes across 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.'"

People reports that she added with a laugh and a wink, "[Jessica Tandy] won an Oscar when she was 80. I can still win."

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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