the making of The Shining

Stanley Kubrick allowed his then-17-year-old daughter, Vivian, to make a documentary about the production of The Shining. Created originally for the BBC television show Arena, this documentary offers rare insight into the shooting process of a Kubrick film. This version of the documentary has commentary by Vivian Kubrick.

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Staircases to Nowhere: Making Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. The most in-depth exploration into the making of The Shining on film, from the perspective of those who actually worked on the production.shining2

Hannibal

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The new NBC television program, Hannibal, contains many subtle and not-so-subtle references to the films of Stanley Kubrick. The Shining is particularly well-represented, as evidenced by this still from the show.

in an Entertainment Weekly article, Showrunner Bryan Fuller discusses the influence The Shining had on him as a child, and why he’s chosen to pay homage to the film in Hannibal.

the shining twins

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Lisa and Louise Burns were twelve years old when they played the Grady Twins in The Shining. It was the only film appearance for the sisters.

In a June, 2002 issue of JANE magazine, the twins, then 35, recalled running around in the Hedge Maze set, getting lost and forcing crew members to remove panels to let them out. They discussed still owning a pair of the dresses they wore in the film, and Louise recalled, “I got to keep a jar of fake blood. I stored it in the fridge until it congealed.”

Cinefantastique

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Two years before its release, Stephen King discusses The Shining, Jack Nicholson and Stanley Kubrick: Interview with Stephen King, Cinefantastique, 1978 [pdf].

I want to share with you a fascinating piece I found in a 1978 issue of the science-fiction/horror movie magazine Cinefantastique. The feature reports partly on news of the film’s then-ongoing production at EMI Elstree Studios, where it had been shooting for six months: the journalist, Jim Albertson, informs readers that Kubrick “is adding a shock sequence involving Danny in the resort’s computer game room, as the machines come alive, threateningly, on their own. Kubrick has selected and gathered at EMI Elstree some two dozen of the most sophisticated electronic games by the world’s leading manufacturers for the scene.” If it was shot at all, that sequence never made it into the finished film.

“It is undecided at this point,” Albertson continues, “whether the Overlook will, or will not, explode (as it does in the book) at the film’s conclusion. One ending under consideration has Jack freeze to death in the hedge maze… Kubrick has abandoned the concept of the hedge animals, which come to life in the King book, in favour of a hedge maze… The make-up for the ghost of the dead woman in room 217—which may be changed to room 237 for legal reasons—promises to be incredibly grisly… The Shining could prove to be the most viscerally powerful horror film experience an audience was ever subjected to. It will be Kubrick’s challenge to make it a great film as well.”

Let me say, Jim, that I think he did okay.

The feature on The Shining also contains an interview with King, who expressed some ambivalence about the project even at that early stage. (It’s well known that he was not enamoured of Kubrick’s version, and even wrote his own television adaptation which aired in 1997.) He begins by casting aspersions on directors as a species:

“As a movie-goer, I don’t give a tin whistle what a director thinks; I want to know what he sees. Most directors have good visual and dramatic instincts (most good directors, anyway), but in intellectual terms they are pinheads, by and large. Nothing wrong in that; who wants a film director who’s a utility infielder? Let them do their job, enjoy their work, but for Christ’s sake, let’s not see Freudianisms in the work of any film director. The only director who seems to have any psychological point of view at all is Ingmar Bergman, and his is Jungian, which is the next thing to saying ‘intellectual.’ Can you imagine Bergman doing The Shining? That would be interesting.”

He then moves on to discuss Kubrick’s take on The Shining:

“From the beginning, when I first talked to Kubrick some months ago, he wanted to change the ending. He asked me for my opinion on Halloran [the hotel cook played in Kubrick’s film by Scatman Crothers] becoming possessed, and then finishing the job that Torrance started, killing Danny, Wendy and lastly himself. Then, the scene would shift to the spring, with a new caretaker and his family arriving. However, the audience would see Jack, Wendy and Danny in an idyllic family scene—as ghosts—sitting together, laughing and talking. And I saw a parallel between this peaceful setting at the end of the picture and the end of 2001 where the astronaut is transported to the Louis XIV bedroom. To me, the two endings seemed to tie together.

“The impression I got from our conversation is that Kubrick does not believe in life after death. Yet, he thought that any vein of the supernatural story (whether it is horrifying, or whether it is pleasant) is inherently optimistic because it points towards the possible survival of the spirit. And I told him that’s all very good as a philosophy, but when an audience is brought face to face with the slaughter of characters that they care about, then they cry for your head once they go out of the theatre. But Kubrick has modified his original ideas extensively, so I don’t expect to see this ending in the final film.

On the omission in the film of the topiary animals springing to life:

“I never really thought that the topiary animals would make it to the film, anyway. The director would face a dual risk, the first being that the effect would not look real. The second risk is that even if the effect does look real, the audience might laugh. These are problems facing the filmmaker, problems I didn’t have to contend with writing the novel.”

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On violence:

“It’s a dangerous package to handle. It is all to easy to let violence dominate. A lot of good directors have floundered on that particular rock. And that’s one of the reasons I like Don Siegel, because he handles violence well. I would have preferred Siegel to direct The Shining…”

On the casting of The Shining:

“I’m a little afraid of Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in that context because he is not an ordinary man. So far as I know, he’s never played an ordinary man and I’m not sure he can. I would have rather seen Michael Moriarty or Martin Sheen portray Torrance. But these actors are not supposed to be ‘bankable’—Hollywood loves that word. [Shelley Duvall as Wendy] is an example of absolutely grotesque casting.”

On Brian De Palma’s film of King’s novel Carrie:

“I liked De Palma’s film of Carrie quite a bit. The attitude of the film was different from my book; I tended to view the events straight-on, humourlessly, in a straight point-to-point progression (you have to remember that the genesis of Carrie was no more than a short story idea), while I think De Palma saw a chance to make a movie that was a satirical view of high-school life in general and high-school peer groups in particular. A perfectly viable point of view. Sissy Spacek was excellent, but right behind her—in a smaller part than it should have been—was John Travolta. He played the part of Billy Nolan the way I wish I’d written it, half-funny and half-crazy.

On Kubrick:

“He is one of the three or four greatest directors of our day, maybe of all time. However, I think he is indulgent, terribly indulgent. A Clockwork Orange just doesn’t hold up today. Some of his other films do… I think Dr Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey do. And Barry Lyndon will. But even if his film of The Shining is an artistic failure it will probably be a commercial success… And even if it’s a failure, it will be an interesting failure… Anyway, you have to realise I’m only talking as an interested observer. I’m not a participant.

 

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Krzysztof Penderecki – Polymorphia for 48 String Instruments (The Exorcist: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Polymorphia was originally composed in 1961 by the avant-garde Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. It was also later used, in addition to several other Penderecki compositions, in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

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At the end of The Shining, the character of Jack Torrance appears in a 1921 photograph. Actor Jack Nicholson was composited into an existing vintage photograph, his head, collar and bow tie replacing that of an anonymous man.
 
Of the two images seen here, the blurrier one is from the very end of the long tracking shot which glides down the hall toward the framed photo. The second, sharper image is from the subsequent close-up to which Kubrick dissolves.
 
Nicholson’s head was composited into photographic prints enlarged to different sizes. This presumably afforded Kubrick the ability to film an extreme close-up of the photo from a much larger print than the framed image, thus ensuring maximum sharpness with minimum film grain
 
This animation reveals the fact that two different photographs were used: Nicholson’s head rotates counter-clockwise from one image to the other, and his screen-right shoulder has had much more retouching done in one photo than in the other, partially obscuring the woman’s hand holding the cigarette.