‘Dr. Phil’ Shelley Duvall Interview Prompts Criticism for ‘Exploitive Entertainment’

Shelley Duvall
Courtesy of Dr. Phil

Friday’s episode of top-rated syndicated talk show “Dr. Phil” was devoted to an interview with Shelley Duvall, prompting a discussion about whether the show was exploiting the actress’ mental health problems.

Host Phil McGraw interviewed Duvall at length for the episode, dubbed “From Hollywood Star to Near Isolation.”

Duvall is best known for her starring roles in two movies from 1980: Stanley Kubrick’s classic “The Shining” and Robert Altman’s “Popeye,” Duvall has been out of the public eye for over a decade and lives in Texas where the interview took place.

A rep for “Dr. Phil” declined to comment on criticism of the show. The session was taped last month, a source said. Since then, the show has coordinated with Duvall’s family and has been providing free resources to help the actress at her home.

The conversation between McGraw and Duvall took up first 45 minutes of the show. The rest followed Duvall as she was escorted to the Creative Care mental health treatment center in Malibu where, according to McGraw, she stayed for three days but refused traditional medication.

During the interview, McGraw asked Duvall questions ranging from where she lives, what makes her happy to whether she would like to return to acting. When McGraw asked which of her movies is her favorite, Duvall responded, “I had a great time on ‘Popeye.’ It was so much fun.”

Duvall then stated that she believes Robin Williams, her late co-star in the film, is not dead and has become a “shape-shifter.” She also said she believes someone is trying to attack her, among other rambling claims.

The conversation between McGraw and Duvall was intercut with clips of the actress in films and interviews before her mental state declined. “During our interview, Shelley was either avoiding all of the questions or was in and out of contact with reality,” McGraw said in between segments.

McGraw cited the assistance of Duvall’s mother and boyfriend in bringing her situation to his attention. At the episode’s conclusion, McGraw stated that the show will “keep you updated on her progress,” and that he hopes there is “a happy ending to this story.”

The loudest critic of “Dr. Phil’s” focus on Duvall has been Vivian Kubrick, the daughter of the late director. Duvall has been on record as saying that the intense experience of working with Kubrick and co-star Jack Nicholson on the film in England left her emotionally scarred.

Vivian Kubrick slammed “Dr. Phil” via Twitter on Wednesday, calling the show “purely a form of lurid and exploitive entertainment — it’s appallingly cruel.” She has also launched a GoFundMe campaign on behalf of Duvall in an effort to “start her back on the road to independence and perhaps back to health.”

Ronan Farrow tweeted seven times about the interview, calling the interview “exploitation” and “shameless.” He encouraged viewers to not tune into “Dr. Phil” and instead watch a clip of Duvall’s acting instead.