Shelley Duvall On ‘Dr. Phil’ – Did TV Doc Exploit The Mentally Ill Star For Ratings? [Video]

On November 19, 1980’s celebrity mainstay Shelley Duvall appeared on The Dr. Phil Show, and the interview between Duvall and the TV psychiatrist was disturbing, to say the least. Shelley Duvall, now 67-years-old, was nearly unrecognizable when she sat down with Dr. Phil, and what was even more off-putting than the star’s physical decline was her apparent loss of mental faculties.

As USWeekly reports, when Shelley Duvall spoke to Dr. Phil, she was clearly eager for the opportunity to share her story. She talked about what has been happening in her life and in her head in recent years. Her words were shocking, and many (celebrities and Dr. Phil viewers alike) felt that the decision of Dr. Phil McGraw to actually air the interview crossed a lot of ethical lines.


In understanding Shelley Duvall’s current mental state, it’s important to realize that the actress leads an incredibly isolated life today. She told Dr. Phil that she has been long suffering from persecution from an unknown male, someone whose name she doesn’t know, but who she claims wants to harm her. In fact, according to Duvall, she believed that the man who is torturing her might even murder her for talking to Dr. Phil about his “abuse.” When she was asked the name of her assailant, Shelley Duvall got incredibly upset and emotional.

“I don’t know. If I did know, I would tell you his name, and I would tell you to kill him. He’s horrible.”

While on The Dr. Phil Show, Ms. Duvall also spoke of frequent and debilitating physical problems that have kept her to herself. It is unclear whether or not her physical ailments are the result of an apparent psychological condition. Either way, her paranoia was apparent for all to see. As was her confusion and lack of touch with reality with regard to many questions she was asked by the doctor.

While talking to Dr. Phil, Shelley Duvall also displayed moments of lucidity and clarity, recalling her life as a successful actress of the 1980s. She spoke of ex co-stars, including Robin Williams and Jack Nicholson. However, her grasp on reality was quickly revealed to be tenuous at best.

For example, when Robin Williams’ recent death was spoken of by Dr. Phil, Shelley Duvall gave a disturbing response. As Daily Mail reports, she doesn’t seem to believe that Robin is dead, but something else altogether.

“Shapeshifting. He looks real good in some forms and in other forms he doesn’t.”

Duvall also told the TV shrink that she see’s Robin, at least half of him.


At some moments during the Dr. Phil interview, Shelley Duvall seemed heartrendingly aware of the tragic turn her life has taken.

“I was a pretty girl. I was beautiful. This is grotesque to me.”

During one incredibly poignant moment of her Dr. Phil interview, a seemingly lucid and cognizant moment, looked directly into the camera and begged for someone to help her.

“I need help.”


And that help is precisely what Dr. Phil promised, but did he deliver? To answer that question, one must look into Shelley Duvall’s experience after her interview with the TV personality.

After a segment in which he treated Shelley as something as a clinical case study (rather than a clearly suffering human in desperate need of compassion and professional intervention), Dr. Phil talked Ms. Duvall into heading to Texas from So. Cal. for mental health treatment. Along the way, there was some drama, and many who saw the show felt that Dr. Phil was needlessly exploiting the fragile Shelley Duvall with his proposed treatment plan. Could he have not found a psychiatric facility in all of California?

Apparently not.

At at least one point in Ms. Duvall’s trip from California to Texas, which required an airplane flight, police intervention was even needed due to her mental state. Ultimately, she did make it to the treatment facility, but nothing came from her time, efforts and stress.

While at the facility, arranged by Dr. Phil, Shelley Duvall refused treatment and was released without making any headway toward recovery.


Following her aborted stay at the psychiatric center, Dr. Phil has offered to further help Ms. Duvall on her path to mental recovery. In the aftermath of his controversial (some say exploitative) show featuring Shelley Duvall, however, it appears increasingly unlikely that McGraw will have anything to do with the actress’s future treatment.

In fact, a GoFundMe account has been set up for Shelley by the daughter of Stanley Kubrick (the mind behind the film adaptation of The Shining, a movie that featured Duvall in one of her most iconic roles). The campaign has raised over $22,000 in just three days. However, it is unclear how the funds would be used to help restore Duvall’s independence and mental health.


Deadline is also reporting the The Actors Fund is also reaching out to Duvall, and that approach may be more successful than Dr. Phil and GoFundMe combined. The organization provides a full range of assistance for members of the entertainment industry, from cash to medical support and virtually everything in between.

“We often reach out to people when we hear in the press that they’ve fallen on hard times, and we’d be happy to help her in any way that we can.”

The organization doesn’t speak out about clients due to confidentiality policies. However, Duvall is not yet receiving assistance from the social services organization, so they have mentioned reaching out to Shelley Duvall since her appearance on The Dr. Phil Show.

[Featured Image by Stock Photo/AP Photo]