All us "Shiners" know that horror master Stephen King had some strong issues against Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of his 1977 novel, The Shining and that one of the main differences in the book vs. the movie is that the Overlook Hotel burns to the ground in King's version, but freezes over in the film.
Kubrick's supernatural opus is a Rorschach Test of eerie imagery, penetrating music, disturbing performances and more than a few psychological labyrinths to explore if you dare. An entire documentary, Room 237, was released documenting the myriad fan conspiracy theories and interpretations surrounding how the genius filmmaker presented this tale of one man's madness in a haunted hotel in the dead of winter.
I've spent many Sunday brunches sipping Mimosas at the actual Stanley Hotel in Colorado where King's ghost story first germinated and the white-pillared Georgian landmark perched in Rocky Mountain National Park is spooky just to look at when the sun goes behind the peaks.
Like any major Hollywood movie attached to a hot property like The Shining, its screenplay will go through dozens of variations and arrangements before the final shooting draft is signed off on, and Kubrick, being a bit of a perfectionist, had a number of suggestions for his screenwriters along the way.
In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, co-writer Diane Johnson and producer Jan Harlan discussed several of the different endings the creative team explored before settling on the finale we all know, with Jack freezing to death in the hedge maze and Wendy and Danny escaping in the snow cat.
Here's what Johnson and Harlan had to say about some of the never-used narrative notions, such as Wendy murdering Jack, or Jack killing his son, Danny, or having Dick Hallorann revealed as the real villain, and why Kubrick decided to alter them:
The ending was changed almost entirely because Kubrick found it a cliche to just blow everything up. He thought there might be something else that would be metaphorically and visually more interesting. In the book, nobody gets killed except Jack. And Kubrick really thought somebody should get killed — because it was a horror movie. So we weighed the dramatic possibilities of killing off various characters and did different treatments. We actually talked it over in detail the possibility of having different people getting killed.
Danny’s relationship with his father was the thing that most interested Kubrick. He was emotionally involved with the point of view of a little boy who is afraid of his father. I remember Kubrick saying that visually he could imagine a small yellow chalk outline on the floor like that they put around the bodies of victims. And Kubrick liked that image. But he was too tender-hearted for that ending and thought it would be too terrible to do.
The photograph was always in the ending. The maze chase grew out of the topiary animal hedges that move around in the book. Kubrick thought topiary animals might be too goofy and cute, but he always liked the idea of a maze … [For Hallorann’s death] Kubrick didn’t want it to be too gory, he thought a lot of blood was vulgar. He wanted it to be mostly psychological. Of course, there’s the image of the blood coming out of the elevators, but that was more ornamental and metaphorical — it’s different than seeing people get stabbed. The elevator opening was an image he had in mind all along and had even prepared it by the time we were writing. So there was some discussion about trying to find a way of ending it without a lot of blood.
Are you satisfied with The Shining's frosty ending filmed by Kubrick and does it linger in the air like burnt toast or are you married to Stephen King's finale in his novel with Jack dying inside the burning hotel and Hallorann fleeing with Wendy and Danny?