Movie producer from Virginia Beach coaxes Hollywood icon Shelley Duvall out of retirement for his film

·3 min read

Ghosts, demons or psychotic killers, it doesn’t matter. Virginia Beach native Scott Hansen is a horror buff who loves watching spooky flicks in his time off and now makes them as part of his job. One of his favorites: Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 “The Shining,” starring Jack Nicholson.

So when Hansen, now an Atlanta-based film producer, needed an actress for his upcoming horror movie, he started daydreaming about Shelley Duvall. Duvall co-starred with Nicholson as the terrified wife, Wendy, in “The Shining.”

Hansen knew he wanted to cast Duvall but he also knew she’d retired from acting in 2002 and would be impossible to get.

Still, he made “hundreds and hundreds of calls” — and succeeded. Duvall is returning to the big screen after 20 years.

Hansen recently wrapped up filming in Texas, where she lives. “The Forest Hills” will be released next year.

“I kept telling her what the project was about and what we were trying to do and what her role would be and that we would really love for her to be a part of it,” he said.

Duvall will play Mama, whose son believes himself to be a werewolf.

Duvall made her film debut in 1970 in Robert Altman’s “Brewster McCloud.” She also had a noteworthy supporting role in Woody Allen’s 1977 “Annie Hall” and co-starred in “Popeye” in 1980 with Robin Williams. But she retired and retreated into private life after a 2016 appearance on “Dr. Phil.”

A preview for the episode promoted its content as “a star’s descent into mental illness.” Viewers and fans, including Hansen, thought the show exploited Duvall.

When he reached out to her last year, he said, he only wanted to work with her and give her the chance to appear on-screen on her own terms.

“Really, it was simple,” Hansen said. “I’m a huge fan.”

As a teenager, and a quarterback at Kempsville High School, Hansen had no intention of going into the movie business. In 2000, he enrolled at Savannah College of Art and Design to study comic book production. One day he agreed to help his roommate with some homework on a short film for a moviemaking class. It was terrible, Hansen said.

“But, I thought, ‘Oh man, I can do better than that.’ I was hooked. I was like, this is comic books in motion.”

Hansen moved to Los Angeles after college and got gigs in movie production before coming back home, where he founded Digital Thunderdome in 2010.

“It was a goal of mine to start a studio in Virginia,” he said.

Digital Thunderdome prospered in Virginia until Hansen moved the company to Atlanta for Georgia’s tax incentives. He has directed more than 700 commercials, as well as music videos for artists including Willie Nelson, and has produced five films in the past five years including the 2019 comedy “Bully,” which featured Danny Trejo.

While Hansen has directed projects such as the 2015 Navy SEALs documentary “Until It Hurts,” he shot and produced his latest.

And found the star. Through extensive research and calls to contacts in the industry, Hansen finally connected with Duvall’s partner, Dan Gilroy, who introduced the two.

The bulk of the movie was filmed over 18 days in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York. The plot centers on Rico, played by Chiko Mendez, who suffers terrifying visions after sustaining a head injury on a hike in the Catskills. He begins to believe that he is a werewolf.

Hansen characterizes the movie as a thriller and horror film that will prompt audiences to consider the protagonist’s mental health.

“He could or could not be a werewolf?” Hansen said. “We won’t know until the end of the film.”

The film crew traveled to Texas the last week of November to do the last bit of filming with Duvall at her farm.

“To be in front of a camera, it was pretty fun for her,” Hansen said. “I think she had fun again.”

Colin Warren-Hicks, 919-818-8138,