Scientology Looms as Kubrick Daughter Scraps Shelley Duvall Crowdfunding Campaign
Vivian Kubrick disconnected from her director father and the rest of her family decades ago, according to relatives; now observers are questioning why she attempted to raise $100,000 to help the mentally ill actress when her religion forbids all forms of psychiatric treatment.
Jennifer Tilly gave $500, just one of 660 concerned fans who donated to a GoFundMe campaign that aimed to raise $100,000 for Shelley Duvall, the quirky, Minnie Mouse-voiced star of films like Stanley Kubrick's The Shining and Robert Altman's Nashville and Popeye. Now Tilly will be getting her donation back — and be left wondering, no doubt, exactly what happened.
The campaign was a direct response to a shocking and much-criticized Nov. 18 interview with Duvall by talk-show therapist Phil McGraw on his syndicated Dr. Phil. In it, the 67-year-old Duvall, practically unrecognizable from her doe-eyed younger self, demonstrated signs of severe psychosis accompanied by hallucinations. Appearing dazed and exhausted, she made erratic references to the Bermuda Triangle, yellow jacket wasps and a "no-kill policy" before eventually conceding, "I'm very sick. I need help." In the episode, McGraw does attempt to bring Duvall to a Los Angeles clinic for treatment; she refused care and medication and flew back home to Texas. McGraw goes on to explain that the show is keeping up with Duvall in Texas and attempting "alternative" treatment methods. The controversial episode has since disappeared from the Dr. Phil online episode guide.
Stunned at what she characterized as the brazen exploitation of the woman her father once directed in what is now considered a masterpiece of modern horror, Stanley Kubrick's daughter, Vivian Kubrick, launched the GoFundMe in Duvall's name on Nov. 18, telling THR, "I just think she deserves a great deal more respect."
(Her father, it's worth mentioning, famously subjected Duvall to very real psychological torture techniques to elicit the performance he was looking for in The Shining; they regularly left Duvall emotionally shattered, sobbing alone in a room for upwards of 12 hours at a time.)
Vivian says she does not know Duvall personally and was not aware of the Dr. Phil appearance until she was alerted to a promo for it by Pixar director Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3). (Unkrich is writing a book about The Shining and has been in touch with Vivian for it.) “Neither Lee nor myself, had any idea how severe Shelley’s state of health was until Lee texted me a link to the Dr. Phil trailer 2 nights ago. We were both horrified. That’s when I fired off my 2 Tweets to Dr. Phil,” Kubrick wrote in an update message on the GoFundMe page. She also referenced a "sad group of haters" who questioned her motives.
But Kubrick abruptly pulled the plug Nov. 22. Many Twitter users and GoFundMe commenters are now questioning if Vivian's deep ties to the Church of Scientology, an organization that vilifies all forms of psychiatry and mental-health treatment, had something to do with it.
Kubrick released a statement of explanation on Twitter. "I spoke today with Shelley's mother Bobbie," she wrote, who "explained that after her discussion with SAG-AFTRA and the fact that Shelley is on government benefits, they can't afford to accept any large donations at this time."
But THR contacted several Hollywood labor experts who said Duvall's SAG-AFTRA benefits like pension and health insurance are not means-tested and therefore would be unaffected by the GoFundMe campaign. There are, however, emergency assistance programs from the SAG-AFTRA Foundation and The Actors Fund that are only available to people in dire economic straits. (Duvall's current financial situation is unclear.)
Kubrick goes on to say that GoFundMe "is presently refunding all your donations." The fundraising page disappeared from the site at approximated 12:30 p.m. PT on Tuesday, but was still accessible through Google Cache.
Vivian Kubrick, 56, is one of two children born to the directing genius and Christiane Harlan, a young German actress he met on the set of 1957's Paths of Glory. While Kubrick had been married twice before, he and Harlan never tied the knot — though they stayed together 40 years until his death in 1999. The couple's first child together, Anya, was one year older than Vivian. When Anya died in 2009 of cancer, Vivian did not attend the funeral — this despite the fact that the pair were all but inseparable growing up.
By then, however, Vivian had been deeply enmeshed in Scientology for well over a decade, according to family members who have spoken with the media. A talented musician and orchestrator, Vivian had composed the music to her father's Full Metal Jacket in 1987. Kubrick, who was grooming her to follow in his filmmaking footsteps, had wanted his daughter to compose the score to 1999's Eyes Wide Shut, too — but by then Vivian had begun the process of disconnection from her family.
"At the last moment she said she wouldn’t,” Kubrick’s widow Christiane told The Guardian in 2009, as noted by Scientology watchdog site The Underground Bunker. “They had a huge fight. He was very unhappy. He wrote her a 40-page letter trying to win her back. He begged her endlessly to come home from California. I’m glad he didn’t live to see what happened.” Kubrick died in March 1999, just months before the Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman film opened.
In 2010, Vivian's half-sister Katharina Kubrick told the Daily Beast that Vivian had cut off all communication to the family. Katharina went on to recount the time Vivian showed up to her father's 1999 funeral accompanied by a Scientology handler. "The person sat on a bed, saying nothing, while Vivian complained of back pain that she said had been caused 10,000 years ago,” according to the report.
When she failed to show up in 2009 to Anya's funeral, the family had all but lost hope. "She has completely changed as a person," Katharina said. "And it’s just very sad. We’re not allowed to contact her. Something happened to her. She has been changed forever."
To the family's shock, after years of no contact with Vivian, someone spotted her in a video of a 2013 anti-government rally held in Dallas, her hometown, led by the conspiracy-obsessed conservative radio host Alex Jones.
According to Hollywood Interrupted's Mark Ebner, Vivian was policing the GoFundMe page vigilantly since its Friday launch, "blocking anyone who simply asks if the money could possibly go to legitimate [psychiatric] health care" — practices which the organization has openly and aggressively derided as barbaric and corrupt since its founding in 1954. In Los Angeles, the church runs Psychiatry: An Industry of Death, a permanent museum devoted to the topic located on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.
Ebner also points out that the GoFundMe page was listed as emanating from Clearwater, Fla., headquarters of the Church of Scientology.
"That raised a red flag," Ebner tells THR. "I don't think Vivian even knew Shelley. It seems rather opportunistic to raise money for this very sick, if not psychotic woman, out of the spiritual mecca, Clearwater, for a woman she doesn't know. I knew there was no chance there would be any money earmarked for mental health. It's doctrine. The motives are disingenuous at best."
THR made several attempts to question Vivian about her Scientology connections following its initial interview with her. She has not responded to any of them, nor has the Church of Scientology nor GoFundMe responded to a request to comment for this story.