A promotional clip for Friday’s episode of “Dr. Phil” has come under fire for what critics see as exploitation of an apparently mentally ill Shelley Duvall, a star of “The Shining” and other films.
Duvall, 67, virtually unrecognizable from her 1970s heyday, says in a 30-second promotional clip for the syndicated advice show that the late comedy icon Robin Williams is alive and “shape-shifting,” that she is being threatened by the fictional Sheriff of Nottingham and that a “whirring disc” is inside her. She concludes by telling psychologist-host Dr. Phil McGraw, “I’m very sick. I need help.”
Vivian Kubrick, daughter of “The Shining” director Stanley Kubrick, called for a boycott of the program, tweeting, “You are putting Shelley Duvall ‘on show’ while she is suffering from a pitiable state of ill health. Unquestionably, this is purely a form of lurid and exploitative entertainment — it’s appallingly cruel.”
Kubrick, who composed the score for her father’s “Full Metal Jacket” and directed documentaries on that film and “The Shining,” added, “Shelley Duvall was a movie star . . . whatever dignity a mere unfortunate creature might have in this world, is denied her by your displaying her in this way. I recoil in complete disgust. I hope others will join me in boycotting your utterly heartless form of entertainment, because it has nothing to do with compassionate healing.”
In a second tweet she wrote, “Surely it’s a dubious legal position 2get Shelley’s legal consent to be on Dr.Phil if she’s mentally unfit?”
Some on social media also criticized “Dr. Phil.” One person on Twitter said the show is “exploiting poor #shelleyduvall ! She is clearly ill and deserves real help and love away from the cameras! Disgusting!” Another wrote, “Exploitation television at its worst. Hopefully someone who watches can offer her the help she deserves.”
Representatives for the show did not immediately respond to Newsday requests for comment. Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of the advocacy group Mental Health America, told Newsday in a statement that Duvall “may offer valid experiences from the perspective of a person with a serious mental-health condition. Because she has been a respected actress admired by many, this could help others to talk about their own mental health conditions.”
In addition to “The Shining,” where she starred as Jack Nicholson’s wife, Duvall appeared in numerous Robert Altman movies, with leading roles in his “Thieves Like Us” (1974), “Nashville” (1975), “3 Women” (1977) and “Popeye” (1980). She had prominent roles in “Annie Hall” (1977) and other films through 2002, and served as executive producer of numerous TV shows.