The Shining – the layers in this Stanley Kubrick classic are a visual feast for the eyes, full of blatant and sometimes subtle iconography. The sets, scenery, and graphic elements really lock you in. And the multitude of modern mythology & conspiracy theories that have been created by Kubrick fans, history nuts, and film buffs alike are enough to make a movie about that alone– oh wait, it’s called Room 237! (An interesting watch for fans of the film and those wanting to know more about Kubrick– but a lot of it smacks of beautiful coincidences, and some theories seem just too far out to me.)
It’s well known that Stephen King has never cared for the film adaption of The Shining, dismissing it as, “a fancy car without an engine.” In essence King is saying that Kubrick blew his wad on the film visually and stylistically, at the detriment of the story– style over substance. But Kubrick certainly didn’t give a shit. He made it HIS film– fuck Stephen King and the critics who originally panned it. And to show for it, The Shining has a rabid cult following that not many films can claim. The behind-the-scenes photographs and stories (personal, trivial, and technical) are arguably as legendary as the film itself.
Jack Nicholson’s original copy of The Shining script.
“The script was constantly changing on set, sometimes several times a day. The cast got very irritated by this, especially Jack Nicholson. Whenever the production team would give the cast copies of the script to memorize, Jack Nicholson would throw his away without even looking at it, as he knew that it was only going to change again. Anjelica Huston lived with Jack Nicholson during the time of the shooting. She recalled that, due to the long hours on the set and Stanley Kubrick’s trademark style of repetitive takes, Nicholson would often return from a day’s shooting, walk straight to the bed, collapse onto it and would immediately fall asleep.” via
For all you baseball fans– The Louisville Slugger baseball bat that (Shelley Duvall) Wendy Torrance bludgeons Jack with is signed by Carl Yastrzemski, Hall of Fame Red Sox player. Author Stephen King is a huge Boston Red Sox fan.
“Both Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall have expressed open resentment against the reception of this film, feeling that critics and audiences credited Stanley Kubrick solely for the film’s success without considering the efforts of the actors, crew or the strength of Stephen King’s underlying material. Both Nicholson and Duvall have said that the film was one of the hardest of their careers; in fact, Nicholson considers Duvall’s performance the most difficult role he’s ever seen an actress take on. Duvall also considers her performance the hardest of her life. She suffered from nervous exhaustion throughout filming, including physical illness and hair loss.” via
THE OVERLOOK HOTEL “The exterior of the hotel was filmed at the Timberline Lodge, near Mount Hood, in Oregon. It had a room 217 but no room 237, so the hotel management asked me to change the room number because they were afraid their guests might not want to stay in room 217 after seeing the film. There is, however, a genuinely frightening thing about this hotel which nestles high up on the slopes of Mount Hood. Mount Hood, as it happens, is a dormant volcano, but it has quite recently experienced pre-eruption seismic rumbles similar to the ones that a few months earlier preceded the gigantic eruption of Mount St. Helens, less than sixty miles away. If Mount Hood should ever erupt like Mount St. Helens, then the Timberline Hotel may indeed share the fiery fate of the novel’s Overlook Hotel.” ~ Stanley Kubrick interview (Michel Ciment)
The Overlook Hotel facade created for Stanley Kubrick’s film, The Shining.
“The first step was for Roy to go around America photographing hotels which might be suitable for the story. Then we spent weeks going through his photographs making selections for the different rooms. Using the details in the photographs, our draughtsmen did proper working drawings. From these, small models of all the sets were built. We wanted the hotel to look authentic rather than like a traditionally spooky movie hotel. The hotel’s labyrinthine layout and huge rooms, I believed, would alone provide an eerie enough atmosphere. This realistic approach was also followed in the lighting, and in every aspect of the decor it seemed to me that the perfect guide for this approach could be found in Kafka’s writing style. His stories are fantastic and allegorical, but his writing is simple and straightforward, almost journalistic. On the other hand, all the films that have been made of his work seem to have ignored this completely, making everything look as weird and dreamlike as possible. The final details for the different rooms of the hotel came from a number of different hotels. The red men’s room, for example, where Jack meets Grady, the ghost of the former caretaker, was inspired by a Frank Lloyd Wright men’s room in a hotel in Arizona. The models of the different sets were lit, photographed, tinkered with and revised. This process continued, altering and adding elements to each room, until we were all happy with what we had.” ~ Stanley Kubrick interview (Michel Ciment)
Garrett Brown with a couple of his Steadicam inventions.
Once Stanley Kubrick became aware of Garrett Brown’s Steadicam invention in 1974, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on one and play with it. While the opening sequence of Halloween was the first horror film to utilize the Steadicam, The Shining took it even further, smoothly gliding the viewer through the halls and the treacherous hedge maze of the Overlook Hotel. Kubrick even got Brown to operate the Steadicam for the film, which was an honor and a major education for the Steadi inventor. “I would have been happy to be on any of his movies,” Brown says. “Stanley moved the camera well and purposely. The Shining was an opportunity to bear down on technique that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. That’s where I really learned to control the damn thing.” via
Stanley Kubrick and Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown on the set of The Shining, in the famous hedge maze.
“To date it cannot be said with complete conviction that the Steadicam has revolutionized the way films are shot. (Maybe it really should have slowly-moving parts underneath!) However, it certainly had a considerable effect on the way The Shining was shot. Many of Kubrick’s tremendously convoluted sets were designed with the Steadicam’s possibilities in mind and were not, therefore, necessarily provided with either flyaway walls or dolly-smooth floors. One set in particular, the giant Hedge Maze, could not have been photographed as Kubrick intended by any other means.” ~ Garrett Brown Steadicam inventor / operator
Stanley Kubrick & Jack Nicholson on the set of The Shining, in a lively conversation and seated by a model of the famous hedge maze.
.“I worked on The Shining in England at the EMI Studios in Borehamwood for the better part of a year. I had daily opportunities to test the Steadicam and my operating against the most meticulous possible requirements as to framing accuracy, the ability to hit marks and precision repeatability. I began the picture with years of Steadicam use behind me and with the assumption that I could do with it whatever anyone could reasonably demand. I realized by the afternoon of the first day’s work that here was a whole new ball game, and that the word ‘reasonable’ was not in Kubrick’s lexicon.” ~ Garrett Brown Steadicam inventor / operator
“Opening day at the Steadicam Olympics consisted of thirty-or-so takes of an elaborate traveling shot in the lobby set, interspersed with ballockings for the air conditioning man (because it was 110 degrees in the artificial daylight produced by 700,000 watts of light outside the windows) and complaints about the quality of the remote TV image.
Although I had provided a crude video transmitter so that Kubrick could get an idea of the framing, I quickly realized that when Stanley said the crosshairs were to be on someone’s left nostril, that no other nostril would do. And I further realized that the crudeness of the transmitted image simply prolonged the arguments as to the location of the dread cross-hairs. Had I known on that first day that we would still be debating questions of framing a year later, long after the air-conditioning worked, I might have wished to become an air-conditioning man or a caterer…” ~ Garrett Brown Steadicam inventor / operator
On the set of The Shining– Stanley Kubrick, Jack Nicholson, Steadicam inventor and operator Garrett Brown, Kubrick’s daughter Vivian (center), continuity Supervisor June Randall, and crew members. Stanley Kubrick allowed his then-17-year-old daughter to make a documentary, “Making the Shining.” Created originally for the BBC television show Arena, it’s 35 minutes long and offers rare insight into the shooting process of a Kubrick film. via
“Stanley Kubrick brought you into spaces in a really interesting way. His storytelling shots walked you in, and moved you into places that were memorably beautiful, beautifully lit, or strikingly presented in some way. But there are no ordinary spaces in his films.” ~ Garrett Brown Steadicam inventor / operator
“I made a ‘stairs’ shot which is my all-time favorite. We are moving ahead of Wendy up three flights of stairs, starting rapidly, and smoothly slowing down until we are just barely moving ahead of her as she comes upon Harry Derwent and his strange doggy companion doing the unspeakable! A fabulous shot, despite the fact that we did it 36 times – multiplied by three flights equals climbing the Empire State Building with camera… When I finally saw it on the silver screen I was glad to have made the climb, if for no other reason than… ‘Because it was there!'” ~ Garrett Brown Steadicam inventor / operator
“The giant Hedge Maze set must be one of the most intriguing creations in the history of motion pictures. It must also be one of the most pernicious sets ever to work on. And folks, every frame was shot with the Steadicam. In its benign ‘summer’ form, the Maze was constructed on the old MGM lot outdoors at Borehamwood. It was beautiful.
The ‘hedges’ consisted of pine boughs stapled to plywood forms. It was lined with gravel paths, and contained a center section (although built to one side of the set) which was wider than the rest. It was exceedingly difficult to find one’s way in or out without reference to the map which accompanied each call sheet. Most of the crew got lost at various times and it wasn’t much use to call out ‘Stanley’ as his laughter seemed to come from everywhere! It was amusing to be lost carrying nothing more than a walkie-talkie. It was positively hilarious if you happened to be wearing the Steadicam.” ~ Garrett Brown Steadicam inventor / operator
“We determined by testing that the 9.8mm Kinoptik looked best, and that the ideal lens height was about 24 inches. This combination permitted a tremendous sense of speed and gave the correct appearance of height to the walls. The distortion was negligible when the camera was held level fore-and-aft. Much of the shooting consisted of fluid moves ahead of or behind Wendy and Danny as they learn their way through the Maze. Some of the best moments came as we followed them right into a dead end and back out again in one whirling move. I also made some tripod-type shots in the center of the maze since it would have been time-consuming to lug in the equipment to make a conventional shot.
Stanley mostly remained seated at the video screen, and we sent a wireless image from my camera out to an antenna on a ladder and thence to the recorder. For the first time I found the ritual of playback a burden, since I had to walk all the way out of the maze and back. We had made an early attempt to leave certain passages open to the outside. However, we found that we were constantly getting disoriented and a terrific shot would inadvertently wind up staring out one of the holes.” ~ Garrett Brown Steadicam inventor / operator
“The maze was then struck and re-erected on stage 1 at the EMI Studios. Roy Walker’s men proceeded to ‘snow’ it in with two feet of dendritic dairy salt and Styrofoam snow crusted on the pine boughs. The quartz outdoor-type lights were turned on and a dense oil-smoke atmosphere was pumped in for eight hours a day. Now the maze became an unpleasant place in which to work. It was hot, corrosive and a difficult spot in which to breathe. The speed of the shots stepped up, since everything now happened at nearly a run. To lighten the load we switched to the Arri IIc from Joe Dunton Cameras and constructed a special underslung cage for it.
The ‘snow’ was difficult to run on. I constantly had a fill light clattering around my legs, and I had to navigate by the sound of muffled curses ahead as the lighting and focus-pulling intrepids fell over one another in the salt. I think that the most difficult shots on the entire picture for me were the 50mm close-ups traveling ahead of Jack or Danny at high speed. Milsome deserves a lot of credit for keeping on his feet and keeping them sharp.
For a special shot of the boy’s running feet which required a lens height of three inches we made up a copy of my earliest Steadicam: no arm, just camera, battery and magazine, connected in a balanced arrangement so I could run along handheld with the lens right on the deck.” ~ Garrett Brown Steadicam operator / inventor
“I discovered that young Danny Lloyd weighed exactly as much as the Steadicam camera, so we made a chair out of webbing and he would yell with delight as he swooped along riding suspended from the Steadicam arm. (I was sorry that I hadn’t thought of that one before my own son weighed as much as a BNC!)” ~ Garrett Brown Steadicam inventor / operator
Speaking of Danny, the infamous Apollo 11 sweater he wears is probably the most talked about “clues” that leads the chain of conspiracy theories behind Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” The theory here is that Kubrick is confessing or apologizing for his involvement with NASA in the “faked” footage showing the Apollo 11 moon landing. Prior to “The Shining” Kubrick spent four years on “2001: A Space Odyssey” and the belief by many is that he filmed the fake moon landing concurrently. n 1980, the Flat Earth Society accused NASA of faking the landings, arguing that they were staged by Hollywood with Walt Disney sponsorship, based on a script by Arthur C. Clarke and directed by Stanley Kubrick.
The host of conspiracy theories are that Stanley Kubrick throughout the film Stanley Kubrick is also referencing / displaying anti-America sentiments, American Imperialism, CIA mind control, Russia. the Holocaust, atrocities committed against Native Americans, the Greek myth of the Minotaur, and sexual references alluding to Danny’s abuse.
If you wish to go down the wormhole of conspiracy theories behind The Shining, here’s a place to start… Illuminati Watcher IFC KubricksKeys