Shelley Duvall

Active - 1970 - 2002  |   Born - Jul 7, 1949 in Forth Worth, Texas, United States  |   Genres - Children's/Family, Comedy, Fantasy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Wide-eyed, toothy, pencil-thin leading lady Shelley Duvall is the daughter of prominent Houston attorney Robert Duvall (not to be confused with Robert Duvall, the actor). While attending a party in 1970, Duvall was spotted by director Robert Altman, who cast her as a Superdome tour guide in his Texas-filmed Brewster McCloud (1970). She went on to play eccentric secondary roles in Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) and Nashville (1975), and co-starred opposite another Altman "regular," Keith Carradine, in Thieves Like Us (1974). She earned the Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival for her portrayal of a garrulous, self-involved senior-citizen-center worker in 3 Women (1977), then wrapped up the Altman phase of her career as Olive Oyl (a role she was surely born to play) in Popeye (1980). Of her non-Altman film assignments, her best included Kubrick's The Shining (1980) -- in which she was cast against type as the only thoroughly normal person in the picture -- and Woody Allen's Annie Hall (1977); she was also perfection-plus as the protagonist in the made-for-PBS adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Bernice Bobs Her Hair (1976). From 1982 onward, Duvall cut down on her acting appearances, concentrating instead on her behind-the-scenes responsibilities as producer of such superlative Showtime Cable Network projects as Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre (1982-1987), Shelley Duvall's Tall Tales and Legends (1985-1988), and Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories (1992). These and other star-studded, family oriented endeavors have been assembled by one or all of Duvall's three production companies: Amarillo Productions, Platypus Productions, and Think! Entertainment. Shelley Duvall has also functioned as executive producer of the 1989 TV remake of Dinner at Eight, and has served on the board of governors of the National Association of Cable Programming.

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  • Studied science and nutrition in college.
  • Was discovered by a location agent while throwing a party for then-fiancé Bernard Sampson.
  • Began smoking while filming Thieves Like Us (1974).
  • Was initially reluctant to accept the role of Olive Oyl in Popeye (1980), because she'd been taunted with the name as a child.
  • Formed her own production company, Platypus Productions, in 1982.
  • Recorded an album of children's music, Hello, I'm Shelley Duvall, in 1991.