Razzie Awards Founder Reveals The One Nomination They Regret

By Michileen Martin | 3 months ago

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To some the Golden Raspberry Awards — better known as the Razzies — may seem cruel. Every year, usually the day before the Academy Awards, the Razzies celebrate the worst in cinema by nominating what they deem the worst performances from actors and directors. Certain actors tend to take the brunt of the Razzies’ attention. For example, for this year’s nominations the Razzies announced a special category just for Bruce Willis films — “Worst Performance By Bruce Willis In A 2021 Movie.” But as mean as they might seem from the outside, the founders of the annual ceremony say there is at least one nomination they regret from their very first year of operation — Shelley Duvall for her performance in the Stanley Kubrick classic The Shining.

Razzie founders John J.B. Wilson and Maureen Murphy spoke to Vulture in an interview published this week and among other things were asked if they regret any of their more controversial nominations. Murphy spoke up first, immediately naming Shelley Duvall’s nomination: “Knowing the backstory and the way that Stanley Kubrick kind of pulverized her, I would take that back.”

While little was known about it at the time, the abuse Shelley Duvall and Jack Nicholson suffered at Stanley Kubrick’s hands during the production of The Shining has since become the stuff of legend. According to The Express, for example, Kubrick force-fed Nicholson cheese sandwiches because the actor hated them, and the director wanted to get him in a bad mood. But Duvall bore the worst abuse by far, something which Nicholson himself has acknowledged. One of the most disturbing scenes in the film — when Nicholson’s character threatens Duvall until the latter is forced to knock Nicholson out with a baseball bat — went through an absurd 127 takes. Duvall was forced to cry and scream all day for the shoots, for days and eventually weeks at a time, dragging the actress through unthinkable, exhausting trauma.

shelley duvall shining
Shelley Duvall in The Shining (1980)

The first Razzie Awards ceremony took place in 1980, and — to the continued consternation of many film buffs — The Shining earned two Razzie nominations. Shelley Duvall was one of 10 women nominated for Worst Actress while Stanley Kubrick was tapped for Worst Director. Thankfully or regretfully, depending on who you talk to, both Duvall and Kubrick lost. Brooke Shields got the Worst Actress award for The Blue Lagoon and Robert Greenwald proved bad enough to win the Worst Director Award for his musical fantasy Xanadu.

Wilson clarified that a lot of the hate toward The Shining came from both the comparatively small crop of Razzies voters in their founding year, and their high expectations for a faithful adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. “[T]he voting membership the very first year were largely people that Maureen and I worked with at a trailer company,” Wilson clarified. “A group of us who had read Stephen King’s novel went to see The Shining the night it opened… and we didn’t care for what Kubrick had done with the novel.” Among other things, Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining is known for removing almost all references to events that could only be explained through supernatural means. With the exception of the psychic abilities displayed by Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd) and Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), there is nothing in Kubrick’s film that could not be explained away as nothing more than the product of Jack Torrance’s (Jack Nicholson) insanity. Wilson refers to the novel being much more “visually astounding” than the film, pointing out the example of hedge sculptures coming to life and attacking characters.

In all fairness to the Razzies, they were hardly the only ones to attack Duvall’s performance without knowing what she’d gone through. The Express notes that Stephen King himself compared her performance to that of a “screaming dishrag.” We can only hope the Razzies do justice this year and, at the bare minimum, make sure Bruce Willis wins the Bruce Willis award.