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‘The Shining’ Producer Explains the Changed Ending

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Stephen King has never held back his disdain for Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of his classic horror novel—particularly because of the ending.

Well, over 35 years after the movie’s release, producer Jan Harlan gave us some insight into why Kubrick deviated from the source material so greatly.

Harlan told Entertainment Weekly that the reclusive filmmaker was “fundamentally not interested in a horror film.”

“Stanley was fundamentally not interested in a horror film,” Harlan said. “He doesn’t believe in ghosts. When the book was offered to him by Warner Bros., he said, ‘Well, alright, it might be challenging to do this, but I must have the freedom to change whatever I like.’ Stephen king was perfectly happy with that [at the time], it’s obviously a prerequisite to making a film. And Stanley certainly changed it drastically.”

Screenwriter Diane Johnson added that Kubrick found King’s ending cliché.

“The ending was changed almost entirely because Kubrick found it a cliché to just blow everything up,” Johnson said. “He thought there might be something else that would be metaphorically and visually more interesting… The talkiness [of the book] was also discussed. A lot of the script was pared down during filming, too—especially for Wendy, who had many more things to say in the script than she did in the film.”

Johnson also said: “Kubrick didn’t want it to be too gory, he thought a lot of blood was vulgar. He wanted it to be mostly psychological. Of course, there’s the image of blood coming out of the elevators, but that was more ornamental and metaphorical—it’s different than seeing people get stabbed… So there was some discussion about trying to find a way of ending it without a lot of blood.”

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King gave an in-depth criticism of the classic horror film during an interview with Rolling Stone back in 2014.

“The book is hot, and the movie is cold; the book ends in fire, and the movie ends in ice,” the Master of Horror said. “In the book, there’s an actual arc where you see this guy, Jack Torrance, trying to be good, and little by little he moves over to this place where he’s crazy. And as far as I was concerned, when I saw the movie, Jack was crazy from the first scene. I had to keep my mouth shut at the time. It was a screening, and Nicholson was there. But I’m thinking to myself the minute he’s on the screen, ‘Oh, I know this guy. I’ve seen him in five motorcycle movies, where Jack Nicholson played the same part.’ And it’s misogynistic. Wendy Torrance is just presented as this sort of screaming dishrag.”

Over the years, some of Kubrick’s films have been linked to numerous conspiracy theories, but none so much as The Shining, which Room 237 points out.

One of the theories posed in Rodney Ascher’s documentary is that the horror classic is an allegory for the genocide of Native Americans. Another theory insists that Kubrick had directed the footage disseminated by NASA to publicize the Apollo 11 moon landing, and that The Shining acts as his confession for the supposed con job.

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