Stanley Kubrick’s most enigmatic film was released 35 years ago in the UK.
Three and a half decades down the line, The Shining is not only still considered one of the best horror movies ever, but also one of the best films of any genre ever made. Jack Nicholson’s iconic “here’s Johnny” is still instantly recognisable to film fans of all ages, to this day.
From shifting props to on-set tension to taking six months (!) to record that ‘blood out of the elevator scene’, here are 27 things you (probably) didn’t know about The Shining.
1. Kubrick didn’t even read Stephen King’s screenplay
King apparently wrote a whole draft screenplay for the movie version of his novel – which Kubrick refused to read. According to The Complete Kubrick, the director referred to King’s writing as being “weak”. Instead, Kubrick worked with Diane Johnson on the screenplay, which took eleven weeks to write.
2. The Shining almost wasn’t Kubrick’s first horror movie
In the early ’70s Kubrick was in consideration to direct The Exorcist, but refused to do it unless he was allowed to produce it as well. He wasn’t.
3. There is a rather surprising conspiracy theory connected to it
While it might sound a little far fetched, there are a number of odd little ‘clues’ littered throughout the film, which some have suggested point to Kubrick admitting he helped fake the moon landings! Like when Danny wears the knitted Apollo 11 jumper, the imagery of eagles (like the NASA eagle) and bears (like their space rivals, the Russians) throughout, as well as room 237, which was originally 217 in King’s novel. Kubrick changed it to 237. And the distance between the moon and the earth is 237,000 miles. There was also the pre-existing relationship between Kubrick and NASA which has garnered much speculation. Unlikely, but it’s fun to speculate.
4. Oh, wait. Room 217 was changed to 237 at the request of the hotel location…
There goes the conspiracy theory.The Timberline Lodge, which starred as the Overlook, requested that room 217 be changed to 237 as they had no such room in their hotel and they didn’t want to put guests off staying in the room. Ironically, the hotel reports that 237 is now their most requested room.
5. There is no evidence of electricity in the film
Throughout the film, nothing is plugged in. To anything. The eagle eyed of you may have noticed before, but if you pay attention you’ll see that the TV has no cable coming out of it, nor do any lamps or other electrical items. Kubrick had holes drilled to run the cables through, in order to bolster the feeling of stangeness and eerieness that the Overlook creates.
6. Acting scared isn’t enough for Kubrick
Apparently, he created real terror and upset in Shelley Duvall throughout filming to make sure that she was suitably on edge and scared at all times. He was rude and horrible to her, while being nice and friendly to Nicholson. Rumour has it that he had the hot water turned off in her room at one point. Duvall has said it was the hardest film role of her life, losing hair and suffering from mental and physical exhaustion throughout. Nicholson agreed it was the hardest role he had seen any actor take on. Ever.
7. Danny Lloyd thought he was starring in a drama
Danny – who played, well, Danny – had no idea he was filming a horror movie, and didn’t actually watch the film until he was 17 years old. This was to prevent him from overacting, and becoming terrified in real life.
8. It took 127 takes of Wendy going up the stairs swinging the bat at Jack
Apparently. The steadicam operator claims it was only 30. Still, the scene made it into the Guinness World Book of Records for most takes of any scene with spoken dialogue.
9. Another scene took a grand total of 60 takes…
Scatman Crothers also claims that they did over 60 takes of him watching TV in bed. Apparently Crothers broke down and begged Kubrick to stop.
10. Jack’s scene chopping down the bathroom door with an axe took three days…
Apparently, Nicholson was a volunteer fireman and was far too good at chopping the door down. The props department kept having to remake the door, with different kinds of wood to make it look more of a challenge to get through. Nicholson chopped around 60 doors in total… and his “here’s Johnny” was improvised.
11. It took SIX MONTHS to compile the right shots of blood flowing out of the elevator
The blood was filmed for numerous hours each day, with the crew having to clean the area between takes. This went on for six months to get the blood to flow the way Kubrick wanted it. Think it’s safe to say the man was a perfectionist?
12. Stephen King didn’t like the film
The author told Playboy Magazine in 1983, “I’d admired Kubrick for a long time and had great expectations for the project, but I was deeply disappointed in the end result. Parts of the film are chilling, charged with a relentlessly claustrophobic terror, but others fell flat.” Oh dear.
This is quite an amusing watch…
13. Kubrick hired his family members for the production
Kubrick’s brother-in-law, Jan Harlan, was the executive producer on the film, while his wife Christiane and his daughter Vivian Kubrick both worked on the design and the music of the film. They were definitely a talented team.
14. Legend has it that Kubrick typed up the 500 pages of ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ himself
Nobody is certain as Kubrick never actually addressed the question before he died. However, he didn’t submit the task to the props department and his colleagues have suggested that it would be in his nature to do something like this.
15. Danny Lloyd has only ever been in this film
At five years old, it seemed like the making of a child star but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Lloyd took a part in a TV drama a couple of years later and that was it for his acting career.
16. There’s a hidden Playgirl Magazine in one scene
Which apparently contains an article about incest. There are several theories about the significance of this. Take from that what you will (shudder).
17. The interiors don’t make sense spatially
There are windows showing outside views where this would be impossible (Ullman’s office), there are hallways that don’t fit the floorplan of the building – none of it makes sense. The video above goes into detail, stating that “the hotel is full of impossible and illusionary designs used by Kubrick to disorientate the viewer and communicate the delusionary nature of the Overlook hotel.”
18. This was all intentional
Jan Harlan, the executive producer, has said that this was all intentional. “The interiors don’t make sense,” he told the Guardian. “Those huge corridors and ballrooms couldn’t fit inside. In fact, nothing makes sense.”
19. In fact, there are bizarre continuity ‘errors’ throughout
Kubrick is well known for his meticulous nature and, as we’ve seen, he doesn’t scrimp on takes to get things perfect. In that case, the many odd continuity errors that occur throughout the film are surely intentional. There are smaller ones that could be passed off as a mistake such as Ullman’s disappearing cigarette in the scene in his office. The moving hedge maze entrance, however, is another story. It would have taken time and effort to change round. There are many instances of signs flipping upside down, table and chairs disappearing out the back of shots and so on. All would have been used to create a spooky and uneasy environment for the viewers and the cast.
20. Nine hundred tonnes of salt were used in the making of this film
Remember the final scene where a psychotic Jack chases young Danny round the snow covered maze? Well, that took A LOT of salt, and styrofoam, to create.
21. The film took five years to make
Kubrick is known for his lengthy shooting periods, with Eyes Wide Shut holding a Guinness World Record for the longest constant movie shoot, being shot over 15 months. But The Shining took a whopping five years in total to make. Not surprising when you think that it took three days to film Jack chopping into the bathroom door.
22. There was originally a different ending
Which isn’t too uncommon you may think. Well, Kubrick pulled the original ending AFTER it had started playing in cinemas.
23. The Grady twins had a short lived film career…
Played by Lisa and Louise Burns, the twins were aged 12 at the time of shooting. This was their only ever film appearance and they both went on to pursue careers away from acting.
24. ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ was typed up in four different languages…
To improve the authenticity of the film in foreign language, Kubrick had different versions of his typewriter notes done (whether he typed them himself or not is a different story). The versions were as follows…
In Italian: Il mattino ha l’oro in bocca (The morning has gold in its mouth).
In German: Was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen (Never put off till tomorrow what may be done today).
In Spanish: No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano (No matter how early you get up, you can’t make the sun rise any sooner).
In French: Un Tiens vaut mieux que deux Tu l’auras (What you have is worth much more than what you will have).
All wise words. And unbelievable attention to detail.
25. Kubrick convinced the advertising authorities that the elevator blood was actually rusty water
When The Shining was released, it was the policy of the MPAA that no blood was allowed on trailers approved for all audiences. Low and behold, the trailer for The Shining consisted entirely of the shot of blood pouring out of the elevator. Kubrick apparently managed to convince them that it wasn’t blood at all, but lots of “rusty water”. Nice one Stan.
26. Jack Nicholson stopped reading his script
Kubrick implemented so many changes to the script throughout shooting that Nicholson says he stopped reading it altogether. He started to only read the new pages handed to him on the day of filming.
27. There is a Shining boardgame
The game is based on the novel, however, and was designed with the assistance of King rather than Kubrick. The board game features details of the book that were left out of the film, such as the topiary animals which Kubrick decided wouldn’t ring true in the film (!).