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SYFY WIRE The Shining

Director reveals axed Overlook prequel film was 'epic,' but studio wanted a 'Shining universe'

By Josh Weiss
The Shining

In the early 2010s, there was some real momentum on a Shining prequel film that would have adapted "Before the Play," Stephen King's unused prologue for the 1977 novel. It chronicled the construction and opening of the Overlook Hotel by Robert T. Watson in the early 1900s. 

Titled Overlook Hotel, the movie was being produced by James Vanderbilt (Murder Mystery) and Brad Fischer (Zodiac). Mark Romanek (Tales from the Loop) was attached to direct and there was even a script from The Walking Dead's Glen Mazzara. Obviously, the film never entered physical production, although a follow-up movie was eventually in the form of Mike Flanagan's Doctor Sleep (2019).

Recently speaking with, Romanek opened up about the unmade prequel, stating, "We weren't trying to milk this classic genre movie for just 'Let's milk it for something.'" He went on to say that once they "got the blessing from Stephen King," the script was written (presumably by Mazzara) before Romanek decided to "elaborately rewrite" it himself.

"And what it finally got down to was, really, an origin story. It was more like a wilderness tale set in the very early 20th century," the filmmaker continued. "[It was about] the desecration of the Indian burial ground and the construction of the Overlook Hotel in the deep wilderness in 1910, and it builds to the grand opening of the hotel. It was epic."

Jack Nicholson The Shining

What really axed the movie (axed? get it?), Romanek revealed, was a combination of budget concerns and the studio's ambition to build a shared cinematic universe.

"They weren't confident enough that there was going to be this, what the studios would call a 'Shining Universe' that they were going to start building, to justify the cost," he explained. "And the film is just, by nature of the story building, this massive hotel and creating a period piece, and it seemed too costly to them. And that was really the thing that sort of killed it, unfortunately."

Warner Bros. will still get its wish for a burgeoning Overlook mythos because J.J. Abrams is developing a TV show about the hotel's horrific history for HBO Max. Shortly after the project (entitled Overlook) was announced, SYFY WIRE took a look at the possible stories the show could tell.