When people mentioned Kubrick’s “The Shining”, you can be sure it’ll be followed with a remark on Jack Nicholson outstanding performance. It seems that everyone’s forgetting the phenomenal performance of Shelly Devall, as iconic Wendy Torrance. Movie-savvies will claim that the movie wouldn’t be as successful and appreciated if Duvall’s performance was cut out of it.
So how Wendy Torrance did came to life in such vivid way?
Stanley Kubrick, the director of “The Shining” insisted on Duvall, although many were against it, including Stephen King himself (the book’s author), who once said that he thought of the character as a blonde cheerleader. Even today King dislikes the director’s interpretation of the characters, saying it’s ”One of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film. She’s basically just there to scream and be stupid and that’s not the woman that I wrote about.”
Jack Nicholson said in the documentary “Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures”, that while Kubrick was a great director, he was different when it came to Duvall. Kubrick kept her isolated while being warm and close to the cast and crew, canceled many of her lines, and not to speak of the 127 (!!!) takes of the famous ‘baseball bat’ scene. Her crying, puffy eyes were very much genuine. Duvall admitted once “From May until October I was really in and out of ill health because the stress of the role was so great. Stanley pushed me and prodded me further than I’ve ever been pushed before. It’s the most difficult role I’ve ever had to play”.
Furthermore, Kubrick’s daughter said she once heard him say on the set “Don’t sympathize with Shelley”. While keeps telling her she keeps wasting everyone’s time on the set, crew member were directed to ignore her and not to praise her work. The production took 500 days, with Duvall crying 12 hours on a daily basis for her role they had to keep water bottles at hand to keep her hydrated.
Nicholson commented on Duvall’s performance, saying: “the toughest job any actor that I’ve seen”.