Director Robert Altman discovered the gifted, gangly Shelley Duvall while she was attending college in Houston, TX and promptly cast her in her debut film "Brewster McCloud" (1970). She went on to make seven movies in all with Altman, from the sublimely brilliant "Nashville" (1975) and "3 Women" (1977), for which she won both a Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award and an L.A. Film Critic's Association Award, to the ridiculous big screen cartoon bomb "Popeye" (1980), in which she starred as Olive Oyl opposite Robin Williams. Duvall showed herself particularly adept at playing kooky waifs and characters for whom everything goes wrong, like the trusting wife of Jack Nicholson's deteriorating writer in Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" (1980). Among her many fine performances for television was her role in Joan Micklin Silver's "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" for PBS' "Great American Short Story" series, considered by many the best adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald to the screen.
Duvall's work as a TV producer of children's shows has nearly eclipsed her fine acting career. During the production of "Popeye", she showed Robin Williams some of her collection of antique illustrated children's books, and, picturing Williams as the perfect "Frog Prince", approached Showtime with her idea for a series based on fairy tales. She formed her own company, Platypus Productions, in 1982 and proceeded to create and executive produce two award-winning series for the cable network: "Faerie Tale Theater", comprised of 26 star-studded episodes, and "Shelley Duvall's Tall Tales and Legends", nine tales of American folk heroes. In 1988, she founded Think Entertainment, a groundbreaking cable production company that produced in conjunction with Platypus her "Nightmare Classics", a one-hour anthology series adapting the works of such authors as Edgar Alan Poe, and then later "Shelly Duvall's Bedtime Stories", both again for Showtime. In addition to her long-standing relationship with Showtime, Duvall has also produced for PBS, TNT, The Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and the three major networks.
Duvall has somehow managed to step-up her acting career, which had never become completely extinguished but had certainly languished in the face of her producing responsibilities. The mid-90s have seen her as a guest on NBC's "Frasier" (1994) as well as in Showtime's "Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle" (1994) and ABC's "Aliens for Breakfast" (1995), the latter two also produced by her. As for her big screen efforts, starting with Steven Soderbergh's "The Underneath" (1995), Duvall cranked out in rapid succession Lynn Roth's "Changing Habits"(1996), Jane Campion's highly evocative "The Portrait of a Lady" (1996), Guy Maddin's "Twilight of the Ice Nymphs" (1997) and Stuart Gillard's "Rocket Man" (1997). Her love of music added a further dimension to her career. Not only did she record records for children, she also pioneered a new concept in music video programming for TV: "Nick Jr. Rocks", which debuted on Nickelodeon in 1991 and targeted children aged 2 to 6.