Top 10 Trivia: “The Shining”

Interesting factoids to enhance your appreciation of horror’s greatest films.

Horror fans can be obsessive about the films we love, re-watching our favorites until we know every line of dialog and every member of the cast and crew by heart. Certain films are so captivating, so visually arresting and/or packed with subtext, that they practically demand repeat viewings. And while plenty of films tell a compelling story, some have a behind-the-scenes history that’s just as interesting as the fiction.

Sometimes knowing too much about what happened during a film’s production can ruin the magic, making future suspension of disbelief difficult or impossible. But other times, knowing the trials and tribulations that went into making our favorites only enhances our appreciation of the final product; one such film is The Shining.

Below are 10 of the most interesting and infamous factoids I could find about The Shining. Enjoy!

 

Danny Didn’t Know it was a Horror Movie

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Director Stanley Kubrick’s first choice for the role of Danny Torrance was Cary Guffrey, the boy from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) but the young actor’s parents turned down the offer due to the film’s terrifying subject matter. This may explain why Kubrick was highly protective of Danny Lloyd, who eventually got the job. During filming, Lloyd was under the impression that he was making a drama, not a horror movie. In fact, the scene where Wendy (Shelley Duvall) carries Danny while shouting at Jack (Jack Nicholson) in the Colorado Lounge was actually shot using a life-sized dummy so the child wouldn’t even have to be on set at the time. In interviews, Lloyd says he didn’t realize the truth until several years after filming, and that he didn’t see an uncut version of the film until he was 17—11 years after the film’s release. It’s also worth noting that Lloyd came up with the idea for moving his finger when talking to “Tony” by himself, spontaneously making the movements during his very first audition.

 

Shelley Went Through Hell

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While Kubrick already had a reputation as a demanding director before making The Shining, story of his obsessive filming style (often demanding over 100 takes of each shot) are well documented in this case. And while all of the actors and crew appear to have suffered to some extent, Shelley Duvall seems to have borne the brunt of Kubrick’s creative fury. In the documentaries Making the Shining (1980) and Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001) he is seen loosing his temper with the actress, even going so far as to say she was wasting everyone’s time on set. On the DVD commentary for Making The Shining, Vivian Kubrick reveals that Duvall received “no sympathy at all” from anyone on set, as this was apparently part of her husband’s plan to make the actress feel hopeless—and it worked.

Duvall suffered nervous exhaustion throughout the filming, resulting in physical illness and hair loss. During an interview for Britain’s The 100 Greatest Scary Moments (2003) the actress revealed that due to her role requiring her to be in an almost constant state of hysteria, she eventually ran out of tears from crying so often; she kept bottles of water at her side at all times to combat this chronic dehydration. But far from holding a grudge, Duvall has since stated that Kubrick’s tactics pushed her to her limits and elicited a better performance than she might have otherwise given—but was clear it’s not an experience she’s anxious to repeat. And while Duvall has taken a lot of criticism for her portrayal of Wendy Torrance, both Jack Nicholson and Stanley Kubrick has since heaped praises on her for her intense, one-of-a-kind performance.

 

Stephen Doesn’t Like It

Stephen King

Stephen King’s distaste with Kubrick’s treatment of his novel is legendary. After seeing the film for the first time, he famously opined: “I think [Kubrick] set out to make a film that hurts people.”  While he would eventually concede that the film is visually stunning, the author often describes The Shining as “A fancy car without an engine”. In other words: Lots of style, little substance. King believed that since Jack Nicholson had already played intense/menacing characters in film, he was the wrong choice to play Jack Torrance (who needed to be more of an “Every Man”). He also felt Shelley Duvall was the wrong choice to play Wendy who should have been a blonde former cheerleader-type without a care in the world. Most significant: King was hugely disappointed that the themes of “the evils of alcoholism” and “the disintegration of the family unit” were relatively unimportant in the film; this aspect of the novel was deeply important and personal to the author due to his own battle with alcoholism. It’s worth noting as well that Kubrick flat out rejected a King-penned screenplay for The Shining early in the pre-production process. Ouch.

 

Hee-rres… Robin?

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Stephen King tried desperately to convince Kubrick not to cast Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance—obviously to no avail. The author had suggested either Michael Moriarty or Jon Voight, as he felt watching either of these normal-looking-average-Joes gradually descend into madness would have been much more terrifying, and an improvement to the “dramatic thrust” of the storyline. Kubrick is said to have considered Harrison Ford, Christopher Reeves, Leslie Nielsen, and Robert De Nero for the role. But most interesting to me personally is that Kubrick considered Robin Williams. I’m not even a huge Robin Williams fan, but I would love to visit an alternate universe where he played Jack Torrance in Kubrick’s Shinning. I can just imagine how the actor, famous for his ad-libs and improvisation, would have made use of Kubrick’s practice of filming scenes up to 100+ times. Speaking of ad-libs: It’s a known fact that Nicholson came up with the infamous, “Hee-rres Johnny!”, one of the most quoted lines in cinematic history. Had Williams played Jack Torrance, that line would not exist—but, oh the possibilities! Another interesting would-have-been fact: If Williams had played Jack Torrance, it would have been a reunion for he and Duvall who started in the live action Popeye film earlier that same year.

 

A David Lynch Mindset

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Kubrick was a huge fan of David Lynch, citing his film Eraserhead (1977) as a major creative influence while making The Shining. He insisted that the entire cast and crew watch Lynch’s surrealist nightmare in order to get into the proper mindset for filming. Other films Kubrick insisted his cast familiarize themselves with included The Exorcist (1973) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968).

 

Conspiracy Theories

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One of the most interesting documentaries about The Shining is 2012’s Room 237, directed by Rodney Ascher. While the facts presented are interesting, the most entertaining aspects of the film are the completely outlandish theories it espouses. Some of the best:

  • The Shining is Kubrick’s admission that he faked the Apollo moon landings on a soundstage in England.
  • The Shining is a metaphor for the Holocaust.
  • The Shining is a metaphor for the American Indian genocide.
  • You can see Stanley Kubrick’s face in the clouds during the opening sequence, which follows the Torrance’s car on its way to The Overlook.
  • The corridors of The Overlook Hotel defy the laws of physics.

Kubrick himself has refuted most (if not all) of these creative interpretations, but seeing patterns in The Shining can be explained by a phenomenon called aphasia. It’s the same mental tendency that causes us to see shapes in clouds and constellations. This, rather than a hidden agenda, accounts for the majority of the film’s so-called “hidden messages.”

 

Unusual Reading Material

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The magazine that Jack is reading I the lobby of The Overlook before his interview is the January 1978 issue of Playgirl.

 

Snow from Planet Hoth

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The Shining was filmed in the same studio (Elstree Studios) that was used for Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. In fact, much of the fake snow used in Kubrick’s film was first used to film scenes on Planet Hoth. Over 900 tons of fake snow was used for the maze scene at the film’s climax. The snow was a combination of salt and crushed Styrofoam.

 

Raiders Will Have to Wait

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According to Variety, The Shining took almost 200 days to shoot. Assistant editor Gordon Stainforth, however, claims it took closer to a year. The shoot was originally supposed to take 17 weeks, but ultimately took 51 weeks. Because Kubrick’s film ran so long, Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) was delayed, as that production was waiting to shoot at Elstree Studios.

 

Bizarre Couplings

Strange Couplings

According to IMDB:

The scene where Wendy is running and sees a room where a man in a bear costume is having sex with the former hotel manager was never explained in the movie, leaving the audience very confused as to why it was there. In the book, during a year at the hotel the manager had a secret homosexual affair with a party guest dressed in a dog costume, which is the closest explanation.

 

Bonus: Alternate Ending

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According to IMDB:

When first released, the film had an alternate ending: after the shot of Jack’s body, the film dissolves to a scene of policemen outside the hotel. It then cuts to a scene in a hospital, where Wendy is resting in a bed and Danny is playing in a waiting room. Ullman arrives and tells her that they have been unable to locate her husband’s body anywhere on the property. On his way out, Ullman gives Danny a ball – the same one that mysteriously rolled into a hallway earlier in the film, before Danny was attacked in room 237. Ullman laughs and walks away and the film dissolves to the move through the corridors towards the photo. Stanley Kubrick had the scene removed a week after the film was released.

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Did any of these facts about The Shining surprise you? What’s your favorite piece of Shining trivia? Sound off in the comments section!

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Previous Editions of Top 10 Trivia:

The Exorcist

 

2 Comments on this post.

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  • Mike Crowley
    26 March 2015 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    Another nice new alternate reality to consider: A Robin Williams Shining. He can get scary, he could have pulled it off. I’m surprised King felt there wasn’t enough attention to alcoholism and the dissolution of the family–I thought it was pretty front and center. One of the classic, chilling lines from the movie is when Jack describes “accidentally” hurting Danny as “a momentary loss of muscular coordination, all right?” I’m also surprised to hear that people criticized Shelly Duvall’s performance–I thought it was, again, classic.

    • Josh Millican
      26 March 2015 at 12:32 pm - Reply

      I can’t stop imagining Robin Williams as Jack Torrance. I agree 100% that he could have pulled it off, and it would have been amazing. What I wonder about, though, is how it might have affected the rest of his career? Would we be able to laugh at Mrs. Doubtfire if we associated Williams with an axe wielding psychopath?

      Also, yes, you wouldn’t believe how much shit Duvall gets. Here’s my friend Jaime’s opinion, for example: “Duvall’s character is so whiny and nuetured that you don’t really care for her.” But it isn’t easy to portray that kind of vulnerability. Yes, her character was sometimes annoying, but that adds to the trapped, claustrophobic elements of the film: Not only are you trapped by snow, you’re trapped with a emotional wreck!

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