Dr. Phil says he doesn’t regret his ‘exploitative’ interview with mentally ill Shelley Duvall

Over the course of its long run, talk show Dr. Phil has been one of the most-watched shows in syndication and made host Phil McGraw into a household name.

The show has also had its detractors, and McGraw has been the subject of controversies ranging from allegations of a toxic work environment to the questionable ethics of some of his advice segments.

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But as Dr. Phil comes to an end, the host says he has no regrets about one of his most controversial interviews.

Shelley Duvall: controversial interview

In 2016, McGraw interviewed Shelley Duvall, the actress known for her roles as Wendy Torrance in The Shining and Olive Oyl in Popeye.

Actress Shelley Duvall attends the Starstruck Beverly Hills Premiere on January 25, 1983 at Mann Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills, California. (Getty Images)

Years after her successes in Hollywood, Duvall had largely disappeared from the public eye and was suffering from mental health issues.

A promo for the Dr. Phil segment, which showed Duvall saying to the camera ““I am very sick. I need help,” drew immediate interest and controversy.

Over the course of the hour-long interview, Duvall, then 67, was clearly unwell: she claimed her Popeye co-star Robin Williams, who died by suicide in 2014, was still alive and “shapeshifting,” according to a USA Today recap. She also talked about alien implants in her leg and her fear of “the Sheriff of Nottingham.”

The segment reportedly ended with Duvall apparently refusing help: “After three days at the treatment center, Shelley still refused to take any medications and she would not sign the paperwork required to treat her,” McGraw said at the end of the segment, per Deadline.

The interview was immediately criticized as exploitative. Vivian Kubrick, who worked with Duvall on The Shining, called the interview “appallingly cruel.”

“[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,” Kubrick wrote on Twitter. “I recoil in complete disgust,” she wrote, calling for a boycott.

Kubrick was far from alone: many critics questioned the ethics of the segment, wondering if Duvall was even well enough to consent to the interview. Years later, it remains the most controversial Dr. Phil segment.

“I don’t regret what I did”

As his show is set to come to an end, McGraw was asked about the controversial interview by CNN’s Chris Wallace… and the host stands by the interview.

“I don’t regret what I did,” McGraw told Wallace. “I regret that it was promoted in a way that people thought was unbecoming.”

“We worked with her family. We worked with her for over a year, off-camera, after that fact, providing her opportunities for inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care. I can’t tell you the extent we went through.”

McGraw also accused people of being hypocritical by not trying to help Duvall: “The people that were critical of it, nobody ever asked them what they ever did to try and help her,” he said. “And the answer is not a damn thing.”

“I found out the kind of person he is the hard way.”

Duvall, however, does have regrets about the interview.

“I found out the kind of person he is the hard way,” Duvall said of Phil McGraw during a 2021 interview with the Hollywood Reporter. “My mother didn’t like him, either. A lot of people, like Dan, said, ‘You shouldn’t have done that, Shelley.’”

“He started calling my mother. She told him, ‘Don’t call my daughter anymore.’ But he started calling my mother all the time trying to get her to let me talk to him again,” Duvall added.

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Years after the “exploitative” interview showed her at her worst, Duvall, now 73, is making a return to acting in the horror film The Forest Hills, ending her 20-year hiatus. She said she enjoyed the experience and plans to continue acting — and to maybe even win an Oscar.

“[Jessica Tandy] won an Oscar when she was 80,” she joked to People earlier this year. “I can still win.”

Dr. Phil will end this year after a 21-season run, though McGraw is expected to announce upcoming projects soon.

The 2016 Shelley Duvall interview remains the most infamous and controversial Dr. Phil segment, and it’s clear the host and subject have two very different feelings about it.

What do you think about Dr. Phil and his interview with Shelley Duvall? Please share this story with your opinion.


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The post Dr. Phil says he doesn’t regret his ‘exploitative’ interview with mentally ill Shelley Duvall appeared first on Happy Santa.

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