How 'Doctor Sleep' earned Stephen King's endorsement and still honored Stanley Kubrick

Sonaiya Kelley, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

While King's reception to the movie weighed heavily on his mind, the director's decision to use Kubrick's version of "The Shining" as the foundation for "Doctor Sleep" was established almost immediately upon reading the novel.

"I grabbed the book as soon as it was published and loved being with Dan Torrance again, but all the images in my brain were Kubrick," Flanagan said. "I wanted to make sure that Kubrick's film was canon. I didn't think we could change anything, but I wanted to protect as much as possible of the arc of Danny Torrance as King had defined it, particularly in the first half of the book."

"The pressure to stand in the shadows of Kubrick and King was really on Mike's and my mind every day," said Trevor Macy, Flanagan's longtime producing partner. "We were constantly concerned and agonizing about doing the best thing by both of them.

"We tried to use some aspect of Kubrick's cinematic language to tell King's story," he added. "Most of the movie takes place outside the Overlook hotel, but you still have to make it a visually cohesive story. And so we shot it in 1.85 aspect ratio, which was Kubrick's choice that we might not have made otherwise. We weren't trying to do an exact knockoff, but we wanted it to feel like it's familiar."

Despite his contempt for Kubrick's film, King was receptive to the way "Doctor Sleep" blended his novel and Kubrick's movie while still staying true to Dan's story.

"Mike serves both of us in a wonderful, inventive way," he wrote. "Dick Hallorann is still alive in my book but dead in Kubrick's version. Kubrick's film ends with the Overlook frozen 1/8while3/8 my book ended with it going up in flames. Once I saw he intended to give the True Knot their full due, I was onboard. I just never expected Rebecca Ferguson to be so wonderful."


Though it doesn't become a primary location until the film's third act, re-creating the Overlook hotel was equally the most daunting and enjoyable task of the whole production.

"I wanted to get everything as close as humanly possible in the Overlook," Flanagan said. "To try to make sure that every single piece of visual brilliance was achieved as close as possible while protecting the humanism and optimism that is at the heart of King's story."

"It was a game of inches and it was every day," Macy said. "You go on set with an iPad like, 'Is this the right color? Is this photo in the right place? Is that chandelier the right diameter? What color is the typewriter?' These questions are really hard to answer and so we spent a lot of time wrestling with the minutiae of that."

"What I hope fans of 'The Shining' 1/8film3/8 take out of it is that this is clearly made by a fan and meant to be a full-blown celebration of the love that so many of us have for that movie," Flanagan said. "But at the same time never trying to be that movie."


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