Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is simultaneously one of the most respected and criticized, one of the most loved and hated movie adaptations of all time. Hated by Stephen King and critics at the time of its release, it’s generally regarded a masterpiece today and included in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. Even so, fans still continue to debate today as to whether or not The Shining is an actual horror movie.
Regardless of where you stand in your feelings about Kubrick’s film, it’s undeniable that The Shining has had an impactful legacy, a cultural and stylistic influence that’s been parodied and referenced in countless pieces of pop culture.
Forty years after its release, The Shining is hitting theaters again in a limited event. To celebrate its return to theaters, let’s revisit just how crazy the set of The Shining was with this list of fascinating trivia about the movie.
1. Danny Lloyd, who played Danny Torrance, had no idea they were shooting a horror movie until years later.
Stanley Kubrick was incredibly protective of child actor Danny Lloyd as Lloyd was so young and it was the first movie he’d ever shot and buffered Lloyd from the more gruesome or intense scenes. For example, in the scene in which Wendy Torrance carries Danny away from the Colorado Lounge while shouting at Jack, actress Shelley Duvall carried a dummy – Lloyd wasn’t on set for that scene. As a result, Lloyd thought for years that what they had shot was a drama. He didn’t see a full, unedited cut of the film until he was 17 years old, 11 years after he’d shot it.
2. It was the hardest shoot of Shelley Duvall’s life and she almost had a nervous breakdown while filming.
For as kind and respectful as Kubrick was with Danny Lloyd, he was the opposite of that with his adult actors, especially Duvall, who Kubrick regularly drove to tears on set, even going so far as to tell the entire crew not to sympathize with her or help her. It was ostensibly to get a better performance out of her but today is recognized as having been an abusive environment for the fragile Duvall. She was so stressed-out she was on the brink of a nervous breakdown during filming, sick, not sleeping, and even losing hair. She has often said it was the hardest acting experience of her life and Jack Nicholson has said it’s the most difficult role he ever saw an actress take on.
3. The infamous “Here’s Johnny!” scene used 60 doors.
The most iconic scene of a crazed Jack Torrance breaking through the bathroom door with an ax to get to the terrified Wendy is the most well-known of the movie. It took three days to shoot and they went through a total of 60 prop doors. Originally, the props department created a thin door with wood that was easily broken. But Nicholson had once been a volunteer fire marshal and so he tore through the door too easily, forcing them to rebuild the prop doors with stronger materials.
4. Kubrick used an interesting trick to get Nicholson in the right mood.
Trapped in a remote location and slowly going insane isn’t exactly a role that calls for a calm and rational performance from an actor. To always keep Nicholson on edge and get him in the right agitated frame of mind, Nicholson was fed nothing for two weeks straight but cheese sandwiches, which he hates.
5. The snow-filled hedge maze in the climax of the movie isn’t made of snow at all.
Instead, the snow-like effect was achieved using a mixture of salt and crushed Styrofoam to get a similar consistency and the crunchy, squeaky effect of snow. Nine hundred tons were used in total, much of it recycled from the snow planet Hoth scenes in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
6. Crew members regularly got lost in the hedge maze set.
The hedges in the hedge maze weren’t actually as tall as they appear in the movie and their height is achieved using camera tricks. But the set was still big enough to require a map. Crew members would regularly get lost and have to radio someone on their walkie-talkies to find their way out of the maze or to the correct shooting location. For this reason and others, the hedge maze scene took an entire month to shoot.
7. Despite looking cold, the hedge maze set was actually stifling.
There was no air-conditioning on the set, so the sets were often very hot. With the lighting reflecting off the snow mix, it made the hedge maze scene absolutely stifling. After ever shot was finished, Nicholson, Duvall and the crew would strip off their heavy clothes as quickly as possible the minute a shot was finished to try to cool off a tiny bit.
8. Seriously, stifling – the lounge set even caught fire.
All the interior scenes of The Overlook were shot at Elstree Studios in England, including the Colorado Lounge set. The only problem was that being shot on a soundstage, it was difficult to get the lighting right. To achieve the look of midwinter light reflecting off snow coming through the windows, a whopping 7,000 watts of bright light were used outside each window. But this generated intense heat and the set accidentally caught fire. Luckily, all the scenes in the Colorado Lounge had already been shot so they simply rebuilt the set with a higher ceiling and Steven Spielberg later reappropriated the set for the Well of the Souls tomb in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
9. It uses clever auditory tricks and sound effects to unsettle the audience.
The Shining is one of the most famous horror films to incorporate the music of composer Krzysztof Penderecki, whose compositions often included animal screams and distorted, nonlinear sounds, which can cause a number of unsettling psychological effects when a person hears it.
10. The famous shot of the elevator gushing blood took a year to get right.
The scene in the Overlook when the hotel’s elevator doors open and a torrent of blood rushes out like a tidal wave took only three takes to get right – a rarity considering Kubrick’s penchant for doing takes over and over again. However, this was less impressive considering that scene took an eye-popping nine days to set up. Each time, Kubrick wasn’t convinced it looked enough like blood and in the end, it took a year to finally get the scene shot to his liking.
11. Kubrick’s secretary was the first to guess he’d shoot The Shining as his next project.
After his 1975 film Barry Lyndon, Kubrick was on the hunt for his next project. He decided to read a number of recent books to see if any grabbed him. But he hated them all and his secretary, Margaret Adams, knew that another one had been a bust when she’d hear the sound of the book hitting the wall after Kubrick threw it. But when he started Stephen King’s newest book, she realized it had been hours since she’d heard a book being thrown and she knew then he’d found his next project in The Shining.
12. Margaret was also the one to type up hundreds of pages for another crucial scene.
In the scene in which Wendy discovers the book manuscript Jack had been working on is nothing but hundreds of pages of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” Kubrick wanted them all to say that, even though we only see about ten actual pages in the scene. As a result, poor Margaret spent weeks, if not months, typing up the pages for that scene, according to Kubrick’s daughter, Vivian.
13. Stephen King was so publicly vocal about hating Kubrick’s adaptation of his book that Kubrick made him sign a legal contract requiring him to stop
Stephen King famously hated and still hates Kubrick’s adaptation of his book for a number of reasons, criticizing it for being “all style and no substance,” for the movie version of Wendy Torrance being a misogynistic character, for it not being scary, and for diverging so much from his book. In 1997, a miniseries much closer to King’s book was planned but Kubrick still held the live-action adaptation rights to King’s book. In order for King to regain the rights to his own book, Kubrick made him sign a legally-binding contract saying that King would no longer be allowed to make frequent public criticism of Kubrick’s adaptation. It hasn’t exactly worked.
14. Among others, Robert De Niro and Robin Williams were both considered for the role of Jack Torrance.
Kubrick considered both of those actors for the role of Jack, but ultimately passed on them both. After watching De Niro in Taxi Driver, he decided De Niro wasn’t believably psychotic enough. After watching Williams in Mork & Mindy, he decided Williams was too psychotic.
15. Kubrick told the MPAA the blood was rusty water to get the trailer released.
At the time, the MPAA deemed blood couldn’t be shown in any trailers that might be seen by people of all ages. In order to get his preferred cut of the trailer released, Kubrick lied to the MPAA and convinced them the blood was rusty water and they allowed it to be shown in theaters.
16. The ultra-low tracking shots in the hallways sequences were accomplished with a wheelchair.
A number of shots in the movie involve following Danny on his tricycle and are shot from the height of his point-of-view, requiring ultra low-angle shots. Cinematographer Garrett Brown accomplished this by mounting a modified Steadicam rig on a wheelchair, which grips could either push forward or pull back as the scenes required.
17. The original shoot was supposed to be 17 weeks long.
It ended up being 51, one week shy of a full year. As The Shining took up every soundstage in Elstree Studios, Kubrick’s production forced the production delay of both Reds and Raiders of the Lost Ark, both of which also shot at Elstree.
18. The shot of Jack bouncing a ball against the wall took several days of continuous filming.
Always a stickler for detail, Kubrick wanted the ball to hit the camera lens in the scene where Jack is bouncing a ball off the wall. This required a camera to be set up and filming continuously with everyone on the unit switching out and taking turns bouncing the ball while other scenes were being shot in the hopes that eventually the ball would bounce just right and hit the camera lens.
19. It was only the second theatrical adaptation of one of Stephen King’s books.
The first was Carrie (1976).
20. Johnny Carson helped boost audience interest in the film.
In the movie, Jack’s “Here’s Johnny!” line was taken from late-night talk show host Johnny Carson’s famous catchphrase. At the time of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson‘s 18th-anniversary special episode, The Shining had been in theaters for about 10 weeks but most people still hadn’t seen it and only knew it was a horror film with Jack Nicholson. During the opening of the 18th-anniversary episode, the normal Tonight Show intro suddenly cut away to show Jack Nicholson running with an ax, Shelley Duvall screaming, Nicholson breaking down the door with his famous “Here’s Johnny!” line and then the Tonight Show theme music played and the show started. It got people more interested in the movie and resulted in an unexpected extended run for The Shining.
21. The scene where Wendy is running up the stairs carrying a knife did 35 takes.
It was the equivalent of Duvall running up the Empire State Building.
The Shining 40th anniversary release is in theaters this week.