Stanley Kubrick is considered by many to be the greatest filmmaker in history but his legacy is also complicated by the reports of his behaviour with his actors. At the centre of this conversation is the production of The Shining where Kubrick repeatedly traumatised Shelley Duvall while trying to achieve his cinematic vision.
An adaptation of Stephen King’s book, The Shining might be one of the finest horror films ever made but its production process is just as scary. According to Duvall, Kubrick constantly demanded more from the actress because she failed to meet his expectations which is he subjected her to emotional and psychological torture.
King criticised Kubrick’s portrayal of Duvall’s character as a misogynistic one, but the director actually had a lot of disagreements about the actress’ interpretation of the role. She later clarified that the script was too ambiguous for her to know what Kubrick really wanted but at the time, she had a very specific idea.
Duvall explained that Kubrick “wanted a tough, strong, independent woman” but she didn’t see it that way which led to a lot of conflicts. The actress claimed that she had lighter moments of joking with Kubrick on the set but she could not handle how the director kept pushing her and battering her to get what he wanted.
“For a person so charming and lovable (as Kubrick,) he can do some pretty cruel things when you’re filming,” she revealed in an interview. “It was a very difficult role. It was a long shoot, 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.”
Despite these horrifying memories, Duvall later claimed that her work on The Shining made her a better artist and that she admired the film while also expressing respect for Kubrick. However, she also stated that she would always resent the auteur for what he put her through which traumatised her permanently.
Duvall’s relationship with The Shining is a complex one since she also believes that Kubrick made her a “smarter” artist. She said: “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.”