Dr. Phil blasted for exploiting mentally ill actress Shelley Duvall

I think we can all agree that Dr. Phil has done some really questionable, arguably unethical, shows with average people and celebrities, although we mostly notice the celebrities. He recently interviewed JonBenet Ramsey’s maniacally grinning brother, he had on Bobby Kristina Brown’s grieving addict boyfriend, Nick Brown, (who was incidentally just ordered to pay $36 million to her dad, Bobby Brown) and he regularly interviews families dealing with addiction, molestation and abuse, all while focusing on the most sensational aspects of their stories. He may have topped himself in this instance. Phil features an interview with Shelley Duvall, 67, who is clearly in the throes of addiction, mental illness or both. In the preview for the show a disheveled-looking Duvall asks for help and makes nonsense claims like believing there is a foreign object in her leg and that Robin Williams, her costar in Popeye, is still alive. In case you can’t watch the video, which you can see here, (it’s autoplay or I would embed it) here’s what was said.

Duvall: I loved Robin Williams, I don’t think he’s dead.
Dr. Phil: Where do you think he is?
Duvall: Shape shifting.
Dr. Phil: Do you see him?
Duvall: Have yes. [Other scenes] The man who is threatening me is the Sheriff of Nottingham. I think there’s a whirring disc inside me [Shows leg]
Duvall: I’m very sick, I need help.
Dr. Phil: Well that’s why I’m here.

That’s not why Dr. Phil is there. Of course he will get her help though – after he milks this interview for every bit of publicity he can get. Duvall might be helped with an email chain reaching out to her old colleagues and friends like Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Paul Simon and Carrie Fisher. Someone could raise enough money to foot the cost of psychiatric inpatient treatment if Duvall could be convinced to go. Plus she probably has SAG health insurance which I’ve heard is very good. Instead Dr. Phil decided to air this which is pretty despicable. How much do you want to bet that he stretches it out into at least two episodes?

The daughter of the late director Stanley Kubrick, who directed Duvall in The Shining, has written an open letter to Dr. Phil urging people to boycott this show and calling it “appallingly cruel”:

Yes I agree. If you’d like to know more about Duvall, The Telegraph has a comprehensive article on her relationships and her career including her mistreatment by Kubrick on the set of The Shining and the live action children’s television show she produced and starred in during the 80s called Faerie Tale Theater. She deserves better than to have Dr. Phil showcasing her illness on TV.


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77 Responses to “Dr. Phil blasted for exploiting mentally ill actress Shelley Duvall”

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  1. Stacey says:

    Whether Phil McGraw is or was a talented psychologist or not, I can’t say. But he lost his way ethically a long, long time ago. From barging into Britney Spears’ psychiatric hospital room, to exploiting the clearly ill Shelly Duvall, he really is the worst of the worst now. Ego, thy name is Phil.

    • Lipreng says:

      “Dr” Phil never renewed his license and therefore has not been licensed to practice for many years.

      • WeAreAllMadeOfStars says:

        “Doctor” Phil was hauled in by the ethics board in the 80s and found guilty of sexually and otherwise inappropriate conduct after presumably utilizing his therapy sessions to groom an underage teen for sex. He later hired the girl to work in his office, and she eventually turned him in. He was put on a year’s probation by the board and after that wisely decided not to renew his license when it was over. Why and how an individual who meets the modern definition of a rapist got a TV show and has actually been taken seriously for 16 years now is absolutely beyond my range of comprehension.

      • Amelie says:

        It may be the case that his license was not renewed as he moved to California for his show. The odd thing is that I went to the Texas site for professional license information and couldn’t find any listing for him–not renewed or otherwise.

        In any case, Shelly is clearly delusional and what he has done is not just inappropriate professionally; it’s just unkind.

      • Sabrine says:

        I was disgusted by this “interview.” He kept encouraging her to talk even though she is obviously suffering from a mental illness. He took advantage of her vulnerability, his only agenda being how the viewing audience might get a kick out of seeing the interview and in the meantime lining his pockets. It was just so sad and pitiful and I felt sorry for Ms. Duvall being manipulated by this cruel quack.

      • Louisa says:

        Why does OprAh still support this loser? I feel for Shelly…doesn’t she have anyone to stop him from showing this ep.People need to boycott it,only way networks listen,when they lose $$$$.

      • SpecialK says:

        I didn’t watch the show (I saw a quick video) and I’m not really sure what his intentions were, but I have a severely mentally ill mother. She is currently in a mental institution and very ill. The things that our family has gone through to try to protect her from herself and from everyone else has been a battle that I can’t even type-it’s too long. The publics perception of mental illness as embarrassment and anger for them but we will get absolutely nowhere in this country in helping them and saving lives if it’s not addressed. What I saw in that video of Shelly is very similar to what I see all the time with my mother.
        We had to give up our rights to her and turn her over to the state because centers will keep releasing them into your care even though you are not able or even know how to care for them. If they are in the state’s hands, a center can’t say no. They have to take them. When the state releases a 71 year old woman into the streets who thinks she’s pregnant, has a two inch man living in her closet, an adopted boy who lives on her ceiling and sleeps with a knife under her pillow that she pulled on a fireman who busted down her door to see if she was still alive…..people want to blame parents and family when a mentally ill person kills or attacks someone but trust me, it’s not as easy as you think it is to help them. They have rights that keep you from forcing their medication on them unless a doctor sees with their own eyes them being violent.
        Maybe if people see what Shelly is going through a conversation will open up about this and things can be done? I don’t know. I’m not saying what he did was right or he had good intentions, I’m not a fan of his. But if she had cancer no one would say anything. When I tell people about my mother, I get uncomfortable glances and end up feeling self conscious. I hate feeling like that.

      • Pandy says:

        Don’t feel self-conscious SpecialK. I know very few people who don’t have family members suffering from mental health/addiction issues. Bringing it out into the light will only help end the stigma. I’m hoping that was Dr. Phil’s motivation for Shelley Duvall as well. Sending you hugs. xx

      • SpecialK says:

        Thank you, Pandy. The longer I thought about it, I absolutely would let someone on tv film my mother. I don’t care what his intentions were. It’s worth it if it helps get the conversation started.

        If I had video of her choking me and forcing me lay on the floor next to her bed at night and her scooping a chunk of skin out of my brother when we were kids, I’d let them see that too. Is it unpleasant? Of course. But if something isn’t done for the mentally ill, we all suffer. Is it her fault she is that way? No, not really. I’m angry at her because if she had seeked help earlier, she probably wouldn’t be this bad now. Decades of untreated illness makes your brain just deteriorate. I begged her to get help for a long time until I just walked away. Now she’s in an institution and I can’t visit her because she thinks I’m satan. lol My kids haven’t seen her in 7 years.

      • paranormalgirl says:

        There’s opening a dialogue and then there’s exploitation. “Dr” Phil engages in the latter.

      • SpecialK says:

        Exploitation opens the dialogue. I don’t agree that it’s bad and I don’t care about motives. So what if he benefits from this? Look at us here all discussing it. Negatively, but this is always the reaction when people are faced with things like this at first. Then after you see it a few times the discomfort wears off and you see people open their minds to helping. I just care that it happens. No one else out there wants to open dialogue so maybe this will snowball into that.

        The first time I went to visit my mother and she asked me to feel the baby kick and told me about her new job as a foot model, I wanted to run away and not face it. I was horrified. Now I say, yep, and sit down trying to think of ways for her to take her pills. She won’t take them because they will harm the “baby” and by law I can’t force her to or hide them in her food.

        I’m shameless when it comes to getting awareness for this. Spend a weekend with my mom, then spend years watching her go in and out of mental institutions, getting picked up walking down the street naked and then tell me I’m wrong.

      • paranormalgirl says:

        As a psychiatrist, I would NEVER recommend this as a way to open up the dialogue.

    • Giddy says:

      Dr. Phil is not a psychologist, he just plays one on tv. He is not a medical doctor either, he has a PhD in clinical psychology. But he is not licensed as a psychologist and therefore is not supposed to act as one.

      • Lipreng says:

        He does have a doctorate in Forensic Psychology so he technically is a doctor. He did not renew his license though.

      • Tiny Martian says:

        A doctor of psychology is not an MD though. Psychiatrists are medical doctors, and can write prescriptions. Psychologists aren’t and can’t.

        Regardless, he is unlicensed, so he is really neither. Beyond that, he has no wisdom. I can’t imagine why anyone would ever seek his help, they’d have to be absolutely desperate to do so. And that is truly sad, because he exploits those who feel they are completely out of options. He’s a nasty leech.

      • Amelie says:

        “Psychiatrists are medical doctors, and can write prescriptions. Psychologists aren’t and can’t.”

        Psychologists are able to write scripts in certain states.

      • Tiny Martian says:

        @Amelie: Really? I didn’t know that, so I stand corrected!

        I do find it to be a bit alarming though, as psychologists haven’t attended medical school. They are PhD’s, not MD’s, so they don’t have the same understanding of neurochemistry, nor would they necessarily recognize symptoms of illnesses outside of the realm of mental health, so I imagine it would be easy for them to mis-prescribe.

      • paranormalgirl says:

        Not every psychologist in the states that allow prescribing psychologists are able to do so. Psychologists who have appropriate training and certification are able to write prescriptions s in Louisiana, New Mexico, and Illinois. And in the military and through Native American health services. They have to do a truckload of training in psychopharmacology before being granted limited prescribing ability. Psychiatric Nurses with Advances training also have limited prescribing powers in something like 40 or 41 states. Once a psychologist is certified as a prescribing psychologist, they probably have more knowledge about psychopharmacology than a general practice physician.

    • enuff said says:

      He’s despicable…100% Hollyweird. Psychologist my *ss. I actually liked him in the beginning.

      Poor Shelly…I hope someone steps up to protect her. She was great in 3 Women with Sissy Spacek.

      Props to Kubrick for boycotting.

  2. RussianBlueCat says:

    Isn’t there an ice floe that this bald walrus in a bad suit can go retire to? He is just disgusting

  3. Green Is Good says:

    Shame on you, Dr. Philth.

  4. Jenns says:

    Is anyone surprised by Dr.Phil’s actions? We need to blast him and Dr. Oz off into space. And I remember watching the behind the scenes of The Shining and Stanley Kubrick was so hard on her.

    • LinaLamont says:

      All of Winfrey’s creations are despicable (and, often, dangerous) spotlight-seeking shams.
      Also, McGraw and his wife are f-king nut-cases in real-life. Friend told me camera/sound crew had to wear booties or take shoes off in their house, wasn’t allowed to touch dog, couldn’t talk to anyone… batshit-crazy control freaks.

      • Kimble says:

        Noone’s allowed to wear outdoor shoes in my house either. Perfectly normal in many homes. He and his wife are yuck for everything else though

      • Lipreng says:

        Nothing sounds crazy about the first 2 things you listed.

      • BJ says:

        That’s the only thing I like about him.
        Leave your shoes at the entrance,I provide booties.

      • Locke Lamora says:

        Yeah, no shoes in the house is perfectly normal. Wearing them in the house would be weird.

      • Shirleygail says:

        nobody touches my dogs without my permission. What’s crazy about that? And wearing booties, if you choose not to remove your footwear, is simply courteous.

      • Alix says:

        They keep trying to make Robin McGraw happen and it just ain’t gonna.

    • Chaine says:

      You forgot to include Dr. Drew on the rocket.

  5. KittenFarts says:

    Omg I saw this commercial & had no clue who that was!!!! Terrible! I hope she has family to help her with this mental illness. Very sad

  6. Betsy says:

    I loved Faerie Tale Theatre! We’d watch them on VHS from the library!

    Exploitation of the mentally ill ought to be illegal.

    • Shark Bait says:

      I loved that show so much. It used to air on PBS in syndication when I was a kid. This makes me so sad.

    • nicegirl says:

      I loved it, too!

      It is reprehensible of the Dr Phil Show to exploit folks in such a manner.

      I agree, exploiting those with mental illness SHOULD be illegal.

  7. Nancy says:

    He’s a pig, shame on him. I hope Ms. Duvall has someone in her corner to help her. I can’t even form sentences on how angry I am to let a human being live in such torment and not help her.

  8. BJ says:

    I won’t watch.I don’t watch him but when he puts these people struggling with mental health issues,substance abuse issues,etc does he get them treatment? How is he any different than the rehab shows,the intervention shows,etc? They all exploit “sick people” for ratings,don’t they?

  9. astrid says:

    The man is despicable

  10. Guesto says:

    How sad that she doesn’t have anyone around her to protect her from this type of sick exploitation.

    • CoKatie says:

      That’s what I was going to ask: Does she have any family; is there anyone in charge of her estate? I would think there would be residual payments for The Shining and Popeye. Shame on Dr (?) Phil. And to turn this into a whole Thanksgiving Week special for ratings. I don’t watch him, but I sure would like to know who his advertisers are. This is pure exploitation.

  11. Lindy says:

    I’m old enough to remember going with my mom and sisters to rent videos at the local video store. It was a weekend treat for us. We didn’t have cable and didn’t watch much TV. Far and away our favorite videos were Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre shows. They were funny and smart and we watched them again and again. I had no idea Duvall was in this state. How sad, and how disgusting that Dr. Phil is such an exploitative hack.

    • Cannibell says:

      We loved these. My children and I went through ALL of them when they were little. Here’s hoping someone in her family steps up and can intervene to help her. (If any of you are reading this and want resources, go to http://www.nami.org)

    • Bubbles says:

      Is that where it opens with her reading a story book and live actors played out fairy tales? I remember watching one about the three little pigs. I loved it when I was a kid.

    • Shark Bait says:

      I absolutely loved Faerie Tale Theatre! When I was a teen thought I had dreamed them all up because no one else seemed to remember them. Jeff Goldblum as the Big Bad Wolf was the best. I also loved her in Popeye (I actually love that movie, even to this day).
      Poor Shelley, to drag her out in front of a camera to exploit her is so sick. I remember hearing stories about her several years ago and it made me sad.

    • MB says:

      Oh wow, same here.
      Trips to the video store with mum to pick out a Faerie Tale Theater video is a really fond memory of mine.

  12. really says:

    you would hope as a doctor their first priority is to think of the welfare of the patient. you can be put under the mental health act if you endanger of causing harm to yourself which includes embarrassing yourself , so being put in tv interview and saying things like that could section you. all dr Phil care for is $$$$$$ that poor woman and her family she need care and love.

    • S says:

      Yeah, but he’s not a medical doctor, he’s a PhD. A PhD who, while practicing, was investigated, and formally reprimanded, by the state board for ethical violations, was sued by a former employer and no longer even has a license to practice psychology and has repeatedly said he doesn’t need one because what he does is “entertainment,” not treatment. So, yeah, I don’t think welfare of others is now, or perhaps ever was, at the top of “Dr Phil’s” folksy, homespun priority list.

      • Lipreng says:

        He does have a doctorate in forensic psychology as well. It’s pathetic he was approved to spout his “therapy” on national tv. He’s horrible.

      • S says:

        According to his own bio he only has one doctorate, and it’s in clinical psychology. He also has a Master of Arts (MA) in “experimental psychology” which sounds like a big, fat Not a Thing. His bachelors was in psychology. He does not have an MD.

    • kimbers says:

      He doesnt have a license to practice in CA, so i dobt consider him a doctor anymore.

      He’s just an arrogant A, trying to remain famous when no one under the age of 40 watches him. He’s pathetic.

  13. S says:

    Shouldn’t the headline on this and the Kayne West story be something more along the lines of “Known D-Bag Acts Like D-Bag We Knew They Were”?

    Just sayin’ …

    • JulP says:

      Agreed, Dr. Phil has been awful for a long time. Is anyone actually surprised that he chose to exploit someone’s mental illness for entertainment purposes? I feel horrible for Shelly. I hope she is able to get the help she needs.

  14. Granger says:

    Bravo, Vivian Kubrick. I have no idea what Duvall’s relationship with Jack Nicholson or any of the other people she’s worked with is today, but for decency’s sake, I hope ONE of them comes forward to condemn “Dr.” Phil and support Duvall.

  15. Sage says:

    I blame Oprah.

  16. Lovisa_L says:

    What an awful man.

    I always thought she was beautiful, even though people usually disagree. She had such a striking and magnetic screen presence. She, alongside Anjelica Huston, were two of my favourite actresses of that era. This makes me so sad, and I hope that she is able to find recovery or remission.

    • Sally J. Freedman says:

      Me too! At first I just thought that she was sorta weird looking, but the more you look at her, you really start to realize just how beautiful she is! Just such a delicate and unique beauty.

  17. JudyK says:

    Dr. Phil’s show is only one step above a Jerry Springer or Maury Povich show, and that’s probably giving him too much credit. I’ve quit watching, because all of his shows are just self-promotion for him, his wife, and his two sons.

    • Alix says:

      Both sons married Playboy models, I believe (correct me if I’m wrong). I find that… interesting.

      • JudyK says:

        The one who produces The Doctors married a Playboy model, but I’m not sure about the rocker son…is he married?

      • JudyK says:

        Alix, the rocker son dated Crystal Harris, former Playboy model, who married Hugh Hefner.

    • pinetree13 says:

      I was just going to say this Dr. Phil has been on the slow march to replace Jerry Springer for several years.

  18. Brittney B. says:

    I won’t watch any of this or give him any clicks, but I do hope *something* good comes from exposing her pain, like colleagues coming together to get her help. NONE of us are immune to mental illness, and sometimes it strikes quickly and suddenly. We should talk about it and spread awareness, because we need to stop distancing ourselves from a very real and common and ugly fact of life… but not like this, Jesus.

    I’m glad people are rushing to defend her and condemn him, but money rules all. He’ll keep his show and keep exploiting people for ratings.

  19. QQ says:

    This poor poor lady, what a sad f*cking situation… I hope at the very very least this hack gets shamed into providing some health screening/treatment services for her

  20. Linda says:

    I thought he was nothing anymore but a supposed lifestyle expert. And his airhead, bobble head shaking wife, who has a totally fake face but says it is all natural need to go away. But first he should do a show about liars with his wife as his first and only guest. That would be a 3 day show.

  21. ZombieLover says:

    The problem is he has an audience. Plain and simple. Blame the people who watch it.

  22. Sayrah says:

    Disgraceful. Remember when he took cameras to “help” Brittany Spears during the height of her MI and she completely ignored him?

  23. Triple Cardinal says:

    This is not at all surprising. November is a sweeps month. Time to line up those advertisers. 

  24. I Choose Me says:

    I’m glad so many people are calling out this self-righteous POS. The day he goes off the air can’t come a minute too soon. His exploitation of Duvall is sickening.

    Add me to those feeling nostalgic about Faerie Tale Theatre. I freaking love that series.

  25. SpecialK says:

    If someone on tv wanted to do a segment on mental illness and wanted to bring my mother on, I wouldn’t even think twice. I’d absolutely do it. I’ll do anything to being awareness to this disease. If it makes people uncomfortable or think I’m exploiting her, so be it. If it opens up the conversation and helps protect the mentally ill and others from harm than it’s worth it.

    I remember the horror when people used to film people on the brink of death from lung cancer or AIDS and now because of it, we have better understanding . Sign me up.

  26. Sidra says:

    I truly think that the worst thing Dr. Phil can do is put Sshelly Duvall on his show when she has severe mental illness. People have many ways to learn about mental illness. This is so sad. Why have someone that is not in her right mind be put on TV and not able to have a normal conversation. What is he trying to do? He doesn’t deserve a TV show. He has no empathy at all.

    • SpecialK says:

      Sure there’s way to learn…. if you care. When you battle the state and hospital nonstop because they have no business being released on to the streets but they are too dangerous to be around your kids and you get met time after time with closed doors and nothing….exploitation might work to bring awareness to this issue. Shelly probably shouldn’t be out on the streets and someone should be monitoring to report if she takes her medication or not and then possibly go into an institution. But until someone gets hurt or she does something illegal, there’s nothing to help these people or their families. I know because this is my family for the last 5 years.

  27. JudyK says:

    I turned it on out of curiosity, felt like a voyeur after 3-4 minutes, and decided to make some potato soup and just listen for a while. She is clearly suffering from dementia at the least and/or full-blown Alzheimer’s, and, if neither of those, serious mental illness. He was not able to help her even be evaluated because she refused to sign releases for prescription meds, and so she left (after a flight and a long car ride), as she came, and returned to her same situation with her “boyfriend.” Phil stated at the end of the show they were trying “alternative methods” with local professionals, whatever that means, and he’d keep us informed.

    Sad, sad, sad situation, and it should never have been filmed. Exploitive as hell. I feel dirty for having watched it.

  28. Sandy says:

    I think Dr Phil has crossed a line with Shelly Duvall. Why not help someone like her and air her after she received the help she needs. Sometimes he does great things, sometimes it’s seems to be all about him

  29. Solan says:

    While I think what Dr. Phil is doing is unethical, I do think good will come of this. I think Shelley will finally get some support.

    Reportedly, people had turned their backs on her after she got mentally ill. And she has no kids or husband. There had been rumors about her for years, but nobody helped her. People might finally help her now.


    This article talks about how Terry Gilliam jumped on her head through a roof, causing her recurring pains. While we can never know, it’s possible this is what damaged her and she degraded over time. Quote:

    “Even then she complained about a pain – caused, she claimed, by Terry Gilliam jumping on her head through a roof on the set of The Time Bandits (1981) – which “comes through my ears to my eye, and then goes away.””

  30. LoveIsBlynd says:

    I have a standing invitation to go on his show. I self-extricated from a cult after “sister wife” and her daughter extricated. Our family (sister wife, her two kids and my daughter) decided that to go on Dr Phil would expose the children to present or future ridicule- so far we have declined but legal and medical bills make the deal appealing. Do you want to know something funny? The producers asked for a close up of my teeth- I guess if I have nice chompers it puts the show above Jerry Springer!

  31. peace says:

    I love Shelley Duvall I’m such a fan she has incredible talent I’m sad to see her dealing with mental illness……. I loved her in the shining and Popeye what a beautiful talented loving lady….. Shelley gets an actors pension and royalty checks but because her mental illness makes her vulnerable the people around her are spending her money and leave her broke……. Really sad I hope she gets better I would love to see her in the movies again….. Love you Shelley and praying for you hugs

  32. Lisa says:

    I’d heard about this on instagram but forgot to look it up. This is so sad. This is not the kind of exposure she needs. Airing this was in poor taste. Is there anything people won’t exploit for fame now?