Behind The Scenes The Making Of 'The Shining' Was A Bigger Nightmare Than The Film's Story  

Mike McGranaghan
7.7k views 14 items

All kinds of horrific events occur in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, but the madness didn't end when the cameras stopped rolling. In fact, the horrors that took place behind the scenes may have helped to make the on-screen insanity feel more palpable for viewers. 

Adapting Stephen King's story took a toll on all involved, and there are plenty of stories about making The Shining that sound absolutely excruciating. Combine a notoriously obsessive director, a major star tackling a challenging role, and some complex visual imagery, and you're in for a remarkably taxing year of filming. Kubrick, Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, and the rest of the cast and crew survived a real-life nightmare to deliver one of the best horror movies ever made.

Kubrick Required An Insane Number Of Takes

Kubrick Required An Insane Num... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Making Of 'The Shining' Was A Bigger Nightmare Than The Film's Story
Photo: Warner Bros.

Stanley Kubrick knew what he wanted, and he didn't stop until he got it. Doing multiple takes of scenes is common on movie sets, but Kubrick took things to a whole new level. The shot of Shelley Duvall waving a baseball bat in front of Jack Nicholson required 127 tries for the director to feel satisfied. Another shot, in which Scatman Crothers explains his character's ability to "shine" to child actor Danny Lloyd, was done 148 times.

Jack Nicholson Slept On The Floor In Between Scenes

Jack Nicholson Slept On The Fl... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Making Of 'The Shining' Was A Bigger Nightmare Than The Film's Story
Photo:  Warner Bros.

Pretending to slowly descend into lunacy can be tiring, and Jack Nicholson expended a lot of energy conveying his character's unraveling. In 2015, Louise Burns, who plays one of the Grady daughters, told The Independent that Nicholson was so exhausted, he would fall asleep on the floor in between scenes. According to Burns: 

They were extremely long days and I think Stanley would have had Jack work until the matchsticks fell out of his eyes, so he needed to nap between scenes.

Kubrick Changed The Ending After The Film Was Already In Theaters

Kubrick Changed The Ending Aft... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Making Of 'The Shining' Was A Bigger Nightmare Than The Film's Story
Photo: Warner Bros.

The Shining ends with Wendy and Danny escaping, leaving Jack behind, frozen in the snow. Back inside the Overlook Hotel, the camera slowly zooms in on a framed photograph that shows Jack at the New Year's Eve Ball in 1921. However, at one point, a slightly different ending was in the works. 

Frequent Pixar director Lee Unkrich runs a fan site dedicated to The Shining, and posted some cut pages of script that detail an alternate ending. In this extra scene, Wendy wakes up in a hospital, and is told by Jack's boss, Stuart Ullman, that no evidence of the creepy things she reported was found at the Overlook. Stuart then gives Danny a ball similar to the one Jack plays with earlier in the movie.  

One week after The Shining opened in theaters, Stanley Kubrick had a change of heart about the two-minute coda. He ordered the scene to be cut from all prints in release and destroyed, so that it could never be reinstated. 

Shelley Duvall Said Working With Kubrick Was Unbearable

Shelley Duvall Said Working Wi... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Making Of 'The Shining' Was A Bigger Nightmare Than The Film's Story
Photo: Warner Bros.

Stanley Kubrick was notoriously hard on his actors. Some tolerated his obsessive quest for perfection, but others crumbled under the weight of his expectations. Unfortunately, Shelley Duvall fell into the latter category. 

Roughly six months after the film was released in 1980, Duvall told film critic Roger Ebert that working with Kubrick was "almost unbearable," due to the excessive number of takes he required for even the most simple of shots. She added, "I had to cry 12 hours a day, all day long, the last nine months straight, five or six days a week. I was there a year and a month."

Additionally, Duvall felt that once the film was released, all the attention was focused on the director and her co-star, Jack Nicholson, and that her work was largely overlooked.