AFI Movie Club: THE SHINING – American Film Institute
The Shining Film Still - Jack Nicholson



THE SHINING features the talents of Shelley Duvall and AFI Life Achievement Award winner Jack Nicholson and appears on three of the American Film Institute’s lists, including recognition of Nicholson’s terrifying Jack Torrance as one of the screen’s greatest villains. 

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THE SHINING – Reelgood

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Movie Trivia About Today’s Film

DID YOU KNOW? Stephen King’s novel “The Shining” was acquired for screen rights when it was still in galley form, even before its publication in 1977. 

DID YOU KNOW? Stephen King wrote an early screen adaptation of his novel, but writer/director Stanley Kubrick decided to work on the script himself, collaborating with Diane Johnson – who made her theatrical screenwriting debut with THE SHINING. Kubrick initially connected with Johnson after considering an adaptation of her psychological novel, “The Shadow Knows,” instead of “The Shining.” The script was written in 11 weeks on an Adler typewriter – the same model used by Jack Nicholson in the movie.  

DID YOU KNOW? According to screenwriter Diane Johnson, the original script for THE SHINING contained much more dialogue for the character Wendy, but lines were cut during production. Other major edits included the removal of a scene from Stephen King’s novel and the script in which Jack finds a scrapbook in the Overlook Hotel boiler room. He uses its contents as the plot of his writing project throughout the picture. Johnson described the sequence as evidence of Jack selling his soul to the Devil and as essential to explaining his psychological transformation.   

DID YOU KNOW? Although Jack Nicholson was Stanley Kubrick’s first choice for the character of Jack Torrance, other actors were considered, including Harrison Ford, Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. 

DID YOU KNOW? Filming began in early May of 1978 at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, England, using four stages. The Overlook Hotel was the largest set ever built at Elstree at that time. During production, a fire destroyed one of the sets at a cost of $2.5 million, adding three weeks to the shooting schedule. Principal photography took place for roughly one year. 

DID YOU KNOW? Exteriors were filmed by a second unit directed by Jan Harlan, the brother of Stanley Kubrick’s wife Christiane. The opening sequence was shot at the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana’s Glacier National Park and establishing shots of the Overlook Hotel were photographed at the Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood, Oregon. 

DID YOU KNOW?  THE SHINING was one of the first feature films to use the Steadicam. Its inventor, Garrett Brown, was credited onscreen as the Steadicam operator. A Steadicam was used for the famous sequences in which Danny pedals through the Overlook Hotel on his Big Wheel. 

DID YOU KNOW? Stephen King makes a cameo appearance in the Gold Room ballroom party sequence. 

DID YOU KNOW? Following press screenings, Hollywood trade magazines and critics predicted that THE SHINING would fail at the box office. Despite mixed reviews, THE SHINING broke house records in 10 theaters on its opening weekend, marking Warner Bros.’ biggest release to date in New York and Los Angeles and surpassing both THE EXORCIST (1973) and SUPERMAN (1978). 

DID YOU KNOW? Director Stanley Kubrick removed an epilogue from the picture before its national release, so the widely viewed film differed from the premiere version. The scene saw Danny and Wendy Torrance in a hospital, recovering from the horrific events of the film. 

DID YOU KNOW?  Stephen King followed the film’s release with a television miniseries which aired on NBC in spring 1997. The show matched the novel more closely – reflecting the author’s own critical reaction to the liberties of Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation. 

DID YOU KNOW? THE SHINING was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2018. 

DID YOU KNOW? A sequel to THE SHINING was released in 2019, titled DOCTOR SLEEP. 

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

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-Stanley Kubrick’s use of symbolic imagery and coded language has prompted many different interpretations of THE SHINING’s implied meanings, from feminist readings to Freudian analyses. Choose one recurring theme or motif you see in THE SHINING and explain what its greater connotation might be. 

-THE SHINING has been hailed as one of the scariest movies ever made. What makes the film so frightening? 

-Take a closer look at one of the scenes you found particularly distressing and describe the cinematic devices used to establish its mounting suspense. 

-THE SHINING has been interpreted as a conflict between fatalism and free will, contrasting Jack’s seemingly calculated descent into madness with his possession by evil supernatural forces embodied by the Overlook Hotel. But the story also focuses on the struggles of its female protagonist, Wendy, and her desperate attempts at dealing with an abusive husband. How does the troubled relationship between Jack and Wendy inform the narrative, and who do you think has the lead role? 

-THE SHINING depicts the negative impact isolation can have on the human psyche, and how it can inflict harm on familial relationships. However, Jack feels that seclusion is necessary for him to express his creative spirit through his writing and becomes increasingly incensed by any disruption. Explain how THE SHINING shows the effects of isolation on its characters. 

-How does THE SHINING represent socio-economic issues of wealth and class distinction? How does Jack reveal his anxiety about his blue-collar position in the world, and his ambition to become a successful writer? What is he willing to sacrifice to transcend his social standing, and what does he see as a threat to getting what he wants? How does his character transform? 

-There are numerous visual references to Native American culture throughout the film, and some critics have cited these as evidence of Stanley Kubrick’s fascination with genocide, including the colonialism of America and the Holocaust. Describe how the film could be an allegory for this dark side of human existence. 

-In THE SHINING, the Torrance family represents the archetypal nuclear family in America, with Jack as a working-class breadwinner and Wendy as a homemaker. How is this idealized version of domestic life broken down and disputed throughout the film?  

-THE SHINING makes many allusions to fairy tales, literature and popular culture. Recall one of these references and explain its significance to the story. 

-Describe Danny’s relationship with his mother. Why is she so concerned and protective? How does THE SHINING depict their survival in a troubled marriage, and a harsh environment? 

-What is “the Shine?” How does Danny’s discovery change his character, and how is this evidenced in the film’s central point of view? 

-Stephen King has called the movie adaptation “misogynistic” and Shelley Duvall was by all accounts pushed to her breaking point by Kubrick on the set of the film. Do you see the film as problematic in terms of its gender dynamics? Do you believe that directors should be allowed to go to extreme lengths to get a performance out of their actors or do you see this as abusive behavior?   

-How would you rate THE SHINING? 

In this exclusive video from the AFI Archive, Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall talk about working with Stanley Kubrick.

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