Study Guide

The Shining Behind the Scenes

  • Director

    Stanley Kubrick

    The director of The Shining is Stanley Kubrick. 'Nuff said.

    Just kidding—there really can't ever be enough said about Stanley Kubrick. When it comes to literature written about film directors, Kubrick is right up there with the best of them.

    Or, in the case of The Shining, the worst of them. A lot of the buzz around Kubrick's directorial style when it came to shooting the Overlook Hotel comes down to his being a harsh taskmaster. By the time he was done filming The Shining, actors Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall were either seriously ill or throwing away their scripts because Kubrick had a way of changing their lines every few hours.

    According to the lore of people who worked on The Shining, Kubrick would sometimes reshoot the same scene over a hundred times. Just think about that for a second and imagine yourself going through the same movements and lines (with minor adjustments) over a hundred freaking times.

    It'd be enough to drive anyone nuts if they weren't the kind of wacky perfectionist that Kubrick was… or the genius that Kubrick was. This guy puts the "ur" in "auteur"—he's regarded as the original original. He's the filmmaker's filmmaker, the critic's filmmaker, and the difficult-rogue-genius' filmmaker.

    List off any of Kubrick's films in an auditorium full of film students, and you're bound to elicit cries of pure pleasure and admiration. This is the guy who, before setting his sights on creepy twins and cinematic Colorado landscapes, helmed such controversial and lauded movies as Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange.

    And after The Shining? Well, he directed Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut. But people have suggested that it's The Shining that reigns as Kubrick's masterpiece, and that this film channels all the obsessive, detail-oriented brilliance of this infamous director.

  • Screenwriter

    Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson, Stephen King (novel)

    Although he had a good relationship with Stephen King (author of the novel The Shining), Stanley Kubrick decided to bring in another novelist, Diane Johnson, to help him write the screenplay version of The Shining himself.

    Diane Johnson would go on to write a short article about her experience working with Stanley Kubrick after Kubrick's death in 1999, and in it she basically tells fans what many of them already know: Stanley Kubrick was a charming and interesting man to write with, but also insanely demanding on people's time and energy.

    Apparently, actress Shelley Duvall's hair even started falling out during the filming of The Shining because she was so stressed out and sleep deprived. (To be fair, that probably helped her harried and freaked-out performance.)

  • Production Studio

    Peregrine Productions and Hawk Films

    The production companies associated with this movie are called Peregrine Productions and Hawk Films, probably because their founder Stanley Kubrick had a thing for birds of prey.

    And yes, Stanley Kubrick was a bit of a lone wolf—lone hawk?—when it came to having control over his movies. That's why he created his own production companies to make his movies. He used the Peregrine and Hawk labels on famous films like Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, and Barry Lyndon.

  • Production Design

    New Horrifying Cuts for Horror

    We know that it's probably a little insulting to refer to something as "textbook Kubrick," since Stanley Kubrick is considered one of the most unique directors ever to lay hands on a camera.

    But if you watch this movie closely, you'll find a few of his common calling cards. For starters, Kubrick loves to have long shots that cover large spaces. This is a fascinating take on horror, since it's the exact opposite of all the quick cuts and claustrophobic spaces that other horror directors use to create suspense.

    While traditional horror techniques have the effect of making you feel trapped and closed in, Kubrick's make you feel exposed and out in the open, which is a totally different kind of fear. That's one of the many things that make his production style so effective at creating uneasiness and suspense.

    Kubrick also uses something called one-point perspective, a technique that's front and center in The Shining:

    "He places the camera so that there is a "horizon" that spans the middle of the screen. He uses the very center of the picture as a point of perspective, with everything else in the shot leading to that singular point. This is not unlike the technique of creating perspective in a painting, where an artist creates a horizon and several lines to draw the viewer's eyes to the center." (Source)

    So what's the big deal with this one-point perspective? Well, it not only gives the audience a single point to focus on, but makes the character's perspective of the shot that much more immediate. In The Shining, Kubrick uses this one-point perspective when Danny is riding his Big Wheels down the hotel corridors.

    The viewer is immediately afraid for Danny, because we're suddenly put uncomfortably into his perspective. If anything were to appear in front of Danny—say, a pair of completely frightening ghost twins—we'd encounter them from the same perspective as an innocent kiddo.

  • Fandoms

    Shiningests?

    You know how a bunch of crows is called a "murder" and a bunch of chickens is called a "brood"? Well, there's no mass noun for a bunch of superfans of The Shining… but there should be.

    There are a ton of them.

    Aspiring film students? Check. People who love horror movies? Check. General fans of Jack Nicholson or Shelley Duvall? Checkity check check.

    But the spooky thing is that we're just scratching the fandom surface. The main group of Shining superfans are way odder than your run-of-the-mill film geek. In fact the majority of them are conspiracy theorists.

    The 2012 documentary Room 237 covers a few of the most popular theories about The Shining. (Yes, The Shining has enough intense fans/speculators than an entire other movie was made about them.) So what are these theories? Well, they range from the hypothesis that The Shining is about the genocide of Native Americans to the hypothesis that The Shining is about the Holocaustto the hypothesis that The Shining contains proof that the Apollo 11 moon landings were fake.

    And although you might not buy into the conspiracy theories surrounding The Shining, we're willing to bet you—oh, let's say a winter trip to a remote mountain lodge?—that you'll be a fan after you finish watching this film.

  • Music

    Creepy

    The score of The Shining is likely to be one of the creepiest pieces of music you'll ever hear. In fact, be sure to throw it on next time you throw a Halloween party and see how people react. (They'll run out the door screaming.) And the score isn't written by just one person, but is like a Greatest Hits album for all of the composers who were really great at creating fear with their music.

    For a really great sense of how this movie uses music to create insane suspense, just watch the opening drive that Jack Torrance makes up to the Overlook. Now mute that scene and play some classic road trip music—like maybe something from the Easy Rider soundtrack. Suddenly, a trip through the Rocky Mountains sounds kind of carefree… instead of like a certain death sentence.

    Unfortunately, it's tough to track down a copy of the movie's soundtrack because Kubrick had some issues with licensing a lot of the music for sale. But that's the beauty of YouTube, folks. You can almost always find what you're looking for.