Both Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall have expressed open resentment against the reception of this film, feeling that critics and audiences credited Stanley Kubrick solely for the film's success without considering the efforts of the actors, crew or the strength of Stephen King's underlying material. Both Nicholson and Duvall have said that the film was one of the hardest of their careers; in fact, Nicholson considers Duvall's performance the most difficult role he's ever seen an actor take on. Duvall also considers her performance the hardest of her life.
Because Danny Lloyd was so young and since it was his first acting job, Stanley Kubrick was highly protective of the child. During the shooting of the movie, Lloyd was under the impression that the film he was making was a drama, not a horror movie. In fact, when Wendy carries Danny away while shouting at Jack in the Colorado Lounge, she is actually carrying a lifesize dummy so Lloyd would not have to be in the scene. He only realized the truth several years later, when he was shown a heavily edited version of the film. He did not see the uncut version of the film until he was 17 - eleven years after he had made it.
Tony Burton, who had a brief role as Larry Durkin the garage owner, arrived on set one day carrying a chess set in hopes of getting in a game with someone during a break from filming. Stanley Kubrick, an avid chess player who had in his youth played for money, noticed the chess set. Despite production being behind schedule, Kubrick proceeded to call off filming for the day and engage in a set of games with Burton. Burton only managed to win one game, but nevertheless the director thanked him, since it had been some time that he'd played against a challenging opponent.
For the scene in which Jack breaks down the bathroom door, the props department built a door that could be easily broken. However, Jack Nicholson had worked as a volunteer fire marshal and tore it apart far too easily. The props department were then forced to build a stronger door.
All of the interior rooms of the Overlook Hotel were filmed at Elstree Studios in England, including the Colorado Lounge, where Jack does his typing. Because of the intense heat generated from the lighting used to recreate window sunlight (the room took 700,000 watts of light per window to make it look like a snowy day outside), the lounge set caught fire. Fortunately all of the scenes had been completed there, so the set was rebuilt with a higher ceiling, and the same area was eventually used by Steven Spielberg as the snake-filled Well of the Souls tomb in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
Despite Stanley Kubrick's fierce demands on everyone, Jack Nicholson admitted to having a good working relationship with him. It was with Shelley Duvall that he was a completely different director. He allegedly picked on her more than anyone else, as seen in the documentaries Making 'The Shining' (1980) and Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001). He would really lose his temper with her, even going so far as to say that she was wasting the time of everyone on the set. She later reflected that he was probably pushing her to her limits to get the best out of her, and that she wouldn't trade the experience for anything - but it was not something she ever wished to repeat.
At the time of release, it was the policy of the MPAA to not allow the portrayal of blood in trailers that would be approved for all audiences. Bizarrely, the trailer for The Shining consists entirely of the shot of blood pouring out of the elevator. Stanley Kubrick had convinced the board the blood flooding out of the elevator was actually rusty water.
Stanley Kubrick, known for his compulsiveness and numerous retakes, got the difficult shot of blood pouring from the elevators in only three takes. This would be remarkable if it weren't for the fact that the shot took nine days to set up; every time the doors opened and the blood poured out, Kubrick would say, "It doesn't look like blood." In the end, the shot took approximately a year to get right.
Anjelica Huston lived with Jack Nicholson during the time of the shooting. She recalled that, due to the long hours on the set and Stanley Kubrick's trademark style of repetitive takes, Nicholson would often return from a day's shooting, walk straight to the bed, collapse onto it and would immediately fall asleep.
Stephen King, the author of the book on which the movie was based, was quite disappointed in the final film. While admitting that Stanley Kubrick's visuals were stunning, he said that was surface and not substance. He often described the film as "A fancy car without an engine."
On the DVD commentary track for Making 'The Shining' (1980), Vivian Kubrick reveals that Shelley Duvall received "no sympathy at all" from anyone on the set. This was apparently Stanley Kubrick's tactic in making her feel utterly hopeless. This is most evident in the documentary when he tells Vivian, "Don't sympathize with Shelley." Kubrick then goes on to tell Duvall, "It doesn't help you.".
Stanley Kubrick considered both Robert De Niro and Robin Williams for the role of Jack Torrance but decided against both of them. Kubrick did not think De Niro would suit the role after watching his performance in Taxi Driver (1976), as he deemed De Niro not psychotic enough for the role. He did not think Williams would suit the role after watching his performance on Mork & Mindy (1978), as he deemed him too psychotic for the role. According to Stephen King, Kubrick also briefly considered Harrison Ford.
One of Stanley Kubrick's favorite films was Eraserhead (1977), directed by David Lynch. Kubrick cited the film as a creative influence during the making of The Shining and screened Eraserhead to put the cast and crew in the mood he wanted to achieve for the film.
Stephen King was first approached by Stanley Kubrick about making a film version of The Shining via an early morning phone call (England is five hours ahead of Maine in time zones). King, suffering from a hangover, shaving and at first thinking one of his kids was injured, was shocked when his wife told him Kubrick was really on the phone. King recalled that the first thing Kubrick did was to immediately start talking about how optimistic ghost stories are, because they suggest that humans survive death. "What about hell?" King asked. Kubrick paused for several moments before finally replying, "I don't believe in hell.".
For the scenes when we can hear Jack typing but we cannot see what he is typing, Stanley Kubrick recorded the sound of a typist actually typing the words "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". Some people argue that each key on a typewriter sounds slightly different, and Kubrick wanted to ensure authenticity, so he insisted that the actual words be typed.
The script was constantly changing on set, sometimes several times a day. The cast got very irritated by this, especially Jack Nicholson. Whenever the production team would give the cast copies of the script to memorize, Jack Nicholson would throw his away without even looking at it, as he knew that it was only going to change again.
Stanley Kubrick had envisioned Shelley Duvall as his more timid, dependent version of Wendy Torrance from the very beginning. However, Jack Nicholson after reading the novel, wanted Jessica Lange for the role of Wendy, and even recommended her to Kubrick, as he felt she fit Stephen King's version of the character. After explaining the changes he had made, Kubrick convinced him that Duvall was the correct choice, as she best suited the emotionally fragile Wendy he had in mind. Many years later, Nicholson told Empire magazine he thought Duvall was fantastic and called her work in the film, "the toughest job that any actor that I've seen had".
The 1921 photograph at the end of the film was a genuine 1920s photo, with Jack Nicholson's head airbrushed onto the body of another man. Stanley Kubrick originally planned to use extras and shoot the photo himself, but he realized he couldn't make it look any better than the real thing.
Every time Jack talks to a "ghost", there's a mirror in the scene, except in the food locker scene. This is because in the food locker scene he only talks to Grady through the door. We never see Grady in this scene.
Much like the casting of the character Jack, Stephen King also disliked the casting of Shelley Duvall as Wendy. King said that he envisioned Wendy as being a blond former cheerleader type who never had to deal with any true problems in her life making her experience in the Overlook all the more terrifying. He felt that Duvall was too emotionally vulnerable and appeared to have gone through a lot in her life, basically the exact opposite of how he pictured the character.
There is a great deal of confusion regarding this film and the number of retakes of certain scenes. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the scene where Wendy is backing up the stairs swinging the baseball bat was shot 127 times, which is a record for the most takes of a single scene. However, both Steadicam operator Garrett Brown and assistant editor Gordon Stainforth say this is inaccurate - the scene was shot about 35-45 times. Brown does say however that the scene where Hallorann explains to Danny what shining is was shot 148 times, which is a world record.
During the scene where Wendy brings Jack breakfast in bed, it can be seen in the reflection of the mirror that Jack's T-shirt says "Stovington" on it. While not mentioned in the film, this is the name of the school that Jack used to teach at in the Stephen King novel.
The Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon was used for the front exterior, but all the interiors as well as the back of the hotel were specially built at Elstree Studios in London, England. The management of the Timberline requested that Stanley Kubrick not use 217 for a room number (as specified in the book), fearing that nobody would want to stay in that room ever again. Kubrick changed the script to use the nonexistent room number 237.
Stephen King got the idea for The Shining while his family were staying at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. They were the last guests before it shut down for the Winter. He saw a group of nuns leaving the hotel, and it got him thinking that the place had suddenly become godless. The King family stayed in Room 217, the haunted room in the novel but Room 237 in the film; a fire hose also resembled a snake (which doesn't appear in the film but does in The Shining (1997) TV mini-series), and King had already been playing around with a story idea about a boy with ESP, so he combined the two plotlines.
Steadicam operator Garrett Brown accomplished many of the ultra-low tracking corridor sequences from a wheelchair on which his invention was mounted. Grips would either pull backward or push forward the wheelchair, depending on the requirement of the shot
To construct the interiors of the Overlook Hotel, Stanley Kubrick and his production designer, Roy Walker purposely set out to make it look like an amalgamation of bits and pieces of real hotels, rather than giving it one single design ethic. Kubrick had sent many photographers around the country photographing hotel rooms and picking his favorite. For example, the red men's bathroom was modeled on a men's room in the Biltmore Hotel in Arizona designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Colorado lounge was modeled on the lounge of the Ahwanee Hotel in the Yosemite Valley. Indeed, the chandeliers, windows and fireplace are nearly identical, so much so that people entering the Ahwahnee Hotel often ask if it's "the Shining hotel".
There was no air conditioning on the sets, meaning it would often become very hot. The hedge maze set was stifling; actors and crew would often strip off as much of the heavy clothing they were wearing as quickly as they could once a shot was finished.
The only shot in the film not achieved in-camera was the slow zoom in on the model of the maze, with the tiny figures of Danny and Wendy walking around at the center. To achieve this shot, a model of the maze was shot from six feet above. Then the small central section of the maze was built to scale next to an apartment complex. Actors Shelley Duvall and Danny Lloyd then walked about in the central section whilst the camera crew filmed it from the roof of the apartment building. The two shots were then simply composited together.
Stanley Kubrick wanted to shoot the film in script order. This meant having all the relevant sets standing by at all times. In order to achieve this, every soundstage at Elstree Studios was used, with all the sets built, pre-lit and ready to go during the entire shoot at the studios.
To achieve the smoothness of the opening shots, cameraman Greg MacGillivray secured a wide angle Arriflex camera to the front of a helicopter, then balanced the blades to remove any vibrations. Even the shot where the camera comes down behind the car, passes it out, and goes over the edge is done via the helicopter.
During an interview for Britain's The 100 Greatest Scary Moments (2003), Shelley Duvall 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 hard. To overcome this, she kept bottles of water with her at all times on set to remain hydrated.
Outtakes of the shots of the Volkswagen Beetle traveling towards the Overlook Hotel at the start of the film were "plundered" by Ridley Scott (with Stanley Kubrick's permission) when he was forced to add the "happy ending" to the original release of Blade Runner (1982).
When Steadicam inventor/operator Garrett Brown was hired to work on the picture, he was assured that there was no way the shoot would run over six months, as he had to be back in the United States in six months time to shoot Rocky II (1979). Six months into the shoot, less than half the film had been shot, and for several months, Brown worked one week in London on The Shining, one week in Philadelphia on Rocky, commuting by Concorde every Sunday.
During the making of the movie, Stanley Kubrick would occasionally call Stephen King at 3:00 a.m. and ask him questions like "Do you believe in God?" Steven Spielberg had heard this story and asked Kubrick if it was true. Kubrick denied that it happened.
Jack tells Lloyd in the bar that Danny once messed around with his work papers. This mirrors an event in Stephen King's life, when his son once started playing around with his writing notes. He felt like killing him.
Prior to hiring Diane Johnson as his writing partner, director/producer Stanley Kubrick rejected a screenplay written by Stephen King himself. King's script was a much more literal adaptation of the novel, a much more traditional horror film than the film Kubrick would ultimately make. He was considering hiring Johnson because he admired her novel "The Shadow Knows," but when he found out she was a Doctor of Gothic Studies, he became convinced she was the person for the job.
When Jack uses an axe to break through the bathroom door, he shouts "Here's Johnny". This is probably a reference to the catchphrase of chat-show host Johnny Carson. However an alternative explanation is that it is a reference to an incident that occurred in the 1960s when Johnny Cash used a fire axe to break a connecting "doorway" between two motel rooms that he and his band members were using while on tour, and then broke through one of the doors from the corridor to make it look as if a thief had broken in and trashed the rooms.
This film was shot in the same film studio that was used for Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980). In fact, much of the same fake snow used for this film was used for the Hoth scenes. Stephen King visited the set of both films, and met director Irvin Kershner. This later became the basis for part of his book "It". Kirshner had been nicknamed "Kersh", and was directing the first Star Wars film to feature Yoda. In the book "It", there is a character named Mrs. Kersh, who we are told sounds like Yoda when she talks.
According to Variety magazine, the film took almost 200 days to shoot. However, according to assistant editor Gordon Stainforth, it took much more, nearly a year. The film was originally supposed to take 17 weeks, but it ultimately took 51. Because the film ran so long, Warren Beatty's Reds (1981) and Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) were both delayed as they were both waiting to shoot in Elstree Studios.
Despite receiving generally unfavorable reviews upon its initial release, the film is today regarded as one of the best horror movies ever made. In 2001, it was ranked 29th on AFI's '100 Years...100 Thrills' list. In 2003, Jack Torrance was named the 25th greatest villain on the AFI's '100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains' list. The film was named the scariest film of all time by Channel 4 in 2003, and Total Film had it as the 5th greatest horror film in 2004. Bravo TV placed it 6th on their list of the 100 Scariest Movie Moments in 2005. In addition, film critics Kim Newman and Jonathan Romney both placed it in their all-time top ten lists for the 2002 Sight and Sound poll.
The making-of documentary shot by Vivian Kubrick shows that the hedge maze set, while nowhere near as large as the maze in the film (which was mostly a matte painting), was still large and complex enough to require a detailed map. In the commentary for her documentary, she notes that many crew members really got lost in the maze, dryly noting that it now reminds her of the lost-backstage scene in This Is Spinal Tap (1984).
The famous opening scene was shot in Glacier National Park in Montana just north of St. Mary's Lake. The road seen in the scene, Going-to-the-Sun Road, does actually close down during winter and is only negotiable by snowcat. Kubrick initially sent a second unit to the Rockies in Colorado, but they reported back that the area wasn't very interesting. When Stanley Kubrick saw the footage they had shot, he was furious, and fired the entire unit. He then sent Greg MacGillivray, a noted helicopter cameraman, to Montana and it was McGillivray who shot the scene.
One of the shots in the part where Jack is bouncing a ball against a wall took several days to film. This was because the shot entailed the ball bouncing from the wall onto the camera lens as it filmed. As Stanley Kubrick was so determined to get this precise shot, the camera kept rolling while the ball was continually hit against the wall in the hope of it bouncing back and hitting the lens. It took everyone on the entire unit having a go at it in between other shots before the shot was finally achieved after several days.
The maze was constructed on an airfield near Elstree Studios, by weaving branches to chicken wire mounted on empty plywood boxes. The maze was shot using an extremely short lens (a 9.8mm, which gives a horizontal viewing angle of 90 degrees) which was kept dead level at all times, to make the hedges seem much bigger and more imposing than they were in reality.
Shelley Duvall is the only actor/actress playing a member of the Torrance family whose character name is not the same as his/her real life name - Jack Nicholson plays a character named Jack and Danny Lloyd plays a character named Danny.
The two Ray Noble and His Orchestra songs used were not actually from the 1920s: "Midnight, the Stars and You" (played in the ballroom) was recorded February 16, 1934, and "It's All Forgotten Now" (heard faintly when Grady is talking to Jack in the bathroom) was recorded July 11, 1934.
Most of the elaborate urban legends and conspiracy theories surrounding this film (ranging from it serving as a Holocaust metaphor to a confession that Kubrick helped fake the moon landings) were refuted by Stanley Kubrick during his lifetime or later by the surviving cast and crew. For example, the famous "impossible corridors" are a result of set logistics, Kubrick wanted to shoot Danny on his big wheel in unbroken takes, so the hallways had to connect and they only way the crew could construct them to fit Kubrick's vision meant mirroring the set to fit available sound stage space. The shadow of the helicopter in the opening shot was the result of a framing error. Other hidden meanings, as reported by viewers, are often the result of aphasia, the system by which the brain collates and sorts information into patterns. At times, the brain sees patterns in random coincidences in a way similar to seeing shapes in clouds, figures in constellations, etc. This, rather than a hidden agenda, accounts for the majority of the film's so-called "hidden messages."
Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind wrote and performed a full electronic score for the film, but Stanley Kubrick discarded most of it and used a soundtrack of mostly classical music. Only the adaptation of the "Dies Irae" ("Day of Wrath") melody (from the traditional requiem mass) during the opening credits, the music during the family's drive to the hotel, and a few other brief moments (such as Halloran's plane trip) survive in the final version. Wendy Carlos once noted that she'd like to see the original score released on CD, but there were too many legal snags at the time. As of 2005, Carlos' score for the film has been remastered, and is a part of "Rediscovering Lost Scores Volumes 1 and 2".
Approximately 5000 people auditioned for the role of Danny Torrance over a six-month period. The interviews were carried out in Chicago, Denver and Cincinnati by Stanley Kubrick's assistant Leon Vitali and his wife, Kersti Vitali. Aspiring actors were asked to send in photographs of themselves, and from the photographs, a list was made of the boys who looked right, who were then called in to interview. Vitali would then have the boys do some minor improvisation on camera, and Kubrick would review the footage, gradually narrowing the list down.
Delbert Grady, the waiter/butler from 1921, spills Advocaat (a yellow liqueur) on Jack in the Gold Room, one of multiple instances where the color yellow gradually becomes more symbolically prevalent as the film moves closer to Jack's madness and the Overlook Hotel's resurrection.
The outtakes link between this movie and Blade Runner (1982) was not the only element that connected the two. Actor Joe Turkel who plays Lloyd (the bartender who serves Jack), also played Dr. Eldon Tyrell in Blade Runner (1982). Outtakes aside, Turkel is the only other common cast/crew link between both films.
For a TV commercial in 2010 for Premier Inn hotels (UK), British comedian Lenny Henry reenacted Jack Nicholson's "Heeere's Johnny" scene ("Heeere's Lenny") in which he demolished a hotel bathroom door with an ax.
The two tracked vehicles in the movie are the Activ Fischer VW Powered 4 Speed Snow-Trak (referred to and labeled on the vehicle as a "SnowCat") and a Thiokol Imp Snow-Cat (this is the vehicle Wendy and Danny escape in).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
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.
Kubrick originally wanted approximately 70 takes of the scene where Halloran (Scatman Crothers) gets killed by Jack Torrance, but Jack Nicholson talked Kubrick into going easy on the 69-year-old Crothers and stopping after 40. At one point during the filming, Crothers became so exasperated with Kubrick's notorious, compulsive style of excessive retakes that he broke down and cried, asking "What do you want, Mr. Kubrick?".
Stephen King was reportedly disappointed in this film. In an interview in the June 1986 issue of American Film he said "It's like a great big beautiful Cadillac with no motor inside, you can sit in it and you can enjoy the smell of the leather upholstery - the only thing you can't do is drive it anywhere. So I would do everything different. The real problem is that Kubrick set out to make a horror picture with no apparent understanding of the genre. Everything about it screams that from beginning to end, from plot decisions to the final scene". In particular, King disliked the casting of Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance. This was because he felt that in the novel, it was pivotal that Jack is initially a good man who is slowly overcome by the forces of evil and who is fighting a losing battle against alcoholism. King was of the opinion that due to the casting of Nicholson, who was well known for playing unstable characters, Jack in the film is very much on the edge when the story begins, and the character does not possess the inner goodness so vital to Jack of the novel. King wanted to cast someone who could play the character as more genial in the early stages; apparently he was very keen on Jon Voight. He was also hugely disappointed that the themes of the evils of alcoholism and the disintegration of the family unit were relatively unimportant in the film due to his own battle with alcoholism and because of this personal investment in that aspect of the novel he was largely disheartened by the film.
The book that Jack was writing contained the one sentence ("All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy") repeated over and over. Stanley Kubrick had each page individually typed. For the Italian version of the film, Kubrick used the phrase "Il mattino ha l' oro in bocca" ("He who wakes up early meets a golden day"). For the German version, it was "Was Du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf Morgen" ("Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today"). For the Spanish version, it was "No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano" ("Rising early will not make dawn sooner."). For the French version, it was "Un 'Tiens' vaut mieux que deux 'Tu l'auras'" ("A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush").
Alcohol consumption was a federal crime between 1919 and 1933. The year Jack appears to have photographed for the last scene (1921), and the year President Warren G. Harding (in the book) ordered a case of Coors Beer from the bar (1922) would have occurred during Prohibition.
In the novel, Wendy is first attacked by Jack with a croquet mallet; in the movie, she serves the first blow to Jack with a baseball bat. Even more ironically, he never strikes her at all throughout the entire film; he becomes violent and homicidal with only one other character.