Stephen King talks Kubrick’s The Shining; he’s still not a fan


We all know that Stephen King has never been a big fan of Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror film adaptation of The Shiningit’s something he’s been vocal about for years now. But with his upcoming sequel Doctor Sleep gearing up to hit shelves this Tuesday, September 24th, King dished out a little more on exactly why he’s never been much of a fan of Kubrick’s version. Here’s what he had to say:

[It’s] cold, I’m not a cold guy. I think one of the things people relate to in my books is this warmth, there’s a reaching out and saying to the reader, ‘I want you to be a part of this.’ With Kubrick’s The Shining I felt that it was very cold, very ‘We’re looking at these people, but they’re like ants in an anthill, aren’t they doing interesting things, these little insects.

He then goes on to talk about why he doesn’t particularly like Jack Nicholson’s performance in the film. Saying that he made it too obvious that Jack Torrance was crazy from the start.

Jack Torrance in the movie, seems crazy from the jump. Jack Nicholson, I’d seen all his biker pictures in the ’50s and ’60s and I thought, he’s just channeling The Wild Angels here.

He didn’t stop there though as he dished out even more criticism against Jack’s wife Wendy, who was played by Shelley Duvall.

Shelley Duvall as Wendy is really one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film, she’s basically just there to scream and be stupid and that’s not the woman that I wrote about.

So there you have it… Stephen King still isn’t a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining. You may or may not agree with his reasoning behind it, but at the end of the day he’s aloud to have an opinion too. Whether you prefer the novel or the film version, you’re getting one hell of a horror story either way.

Do you guys agree with King and which do you prefer? The novel or the film?


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38 thoughts on “Stephen King talks Kubrick’s The Shining; he’s still not a fan

  1. I can see why King would not appreciate what Kubrick did to his characters, but that’s how the business goes. And in this case, the film is way better.

  2. Am reading the novel right now… Am a huge King fan but this is one I actually had not read before. And I think maybe seeing the movie first was a disadvantage because, as King said, you now know from the start Torrence is crazy. Honestly though, he didn’t make much of a sympathetic character in the book either. He was kinda of a whiny, selfish dick.

    1. I’m a huge fan of King and I’ve read a ton of his novels but I have yet to read The Shining because Kubrick’s version is so engraved into my mind so I totally get what you’re saying about it being a disadvantage. Do you plan on reading Doctor Sleep?

  3. I never liked any of King’s books. Too much stalling and too much ghosts and unnatural conclusions. I’ve enjoyed Kubrick’s interpretation more than once, and I think he took a small book and turned it into an interesting movie.

    1. There’s no denying that Kubrick brought King’s novel to life in a brilliant way. I see where King is coming from when he says these things but at the end of the day, both stories are great.

  4. For a time, after staying several nights at the Stanley Hotel, I was obsessed. I read the novel and watched King’s mini series filmed at the hotel. I’d always heard that it was his chance to make it right. I wasn’t a big fan. I still like the old movie. I like to watch it on snow days stuck at home. 🙂

  5. I love a lot of Kings early work… but he’s wrong about The Shining. Yes he wrote a great book (one of his best) but his book was made into an incredible film by a director who’s considered one of the best ever. As good as King was (he’s not been great for decades now), he’s not as good an author as Kubrick is a filmmaker. Get over it.

    1. I agree with you on the film, but ‘not been great for decades?’ Have you read, ‘Full Dark, No Stars’? it is brutal. ‘The Cell’ was also an outstanding book, ‘Four Past Midnight’ another great collection of horror short stories. Black House with Peter Straub was fantastic horror, too. He has branched out from horror but, The Green Mile, Shawshank, Duma Key, 11/22/63, are all GREAT books even though they’re not for the diehard horror fan. The only one I really didn’t like was Hearts in Atlantis. You’re entitled to your opinion but I’m thinking that you probably haven’t even read most of the books I’ve just mentioned. Try ‘In the Tall Grass’ written with his son, Joe Hill. 🙂

      1. I agree with you Parlor. His new stuff, while different than his earlier work, is still pretty damn great. I’m sort of going through his work backwards but I’ve read some of his older stuff (Carrie, The Stand) and it’s all great!

      2. Fair point, I haven’t read much of King’s work for a long time… I started reading him in the late 70’s through early 80’s and loved each book throughout that period. For me, he then started to slip badly at the end of that decade and through the 90’s… it was always more of the same so I stopped reading his books (although I read some of Joe Hill’s work and found it refreshing).
        I’ve heard good things about ‘Cell’ so should give him a chance.
        To be honest my reply to the story was more of a response to King’s constant dislike of the Kubrick film. He’s wrong.

    2. It’s definitely an incredible flick and honestly one of the best adaptations of King’s work which is weird that he’s never been a big fan because a lot of the other adaptations out there are just terrible. I just recently started reading King a few years ago and I started with his new stuff and quite honestly, I think a lot of it is pretty damn amazing. 11/22/63 is fun as hell and Under the Dome has one of the most evil villains I’ve ever read.

    3. It was frustrating at times being a horror fan and getting more drama style books for me too, so I know where your coming from. The Dark Tower series started out as horror but turned into a fantasy adventure – that took up a big chunk of his releases in the 90’s. If you have a digital reader you should download, “In the Tall Grass” and “Throttle” both co-written by King and Hill. It should renew your faith in King as a capable horror writer. Then seek out the horror titles in-between all of his more dramatic releases. 😀

  6. Me too, I wish he would stop whining about The Shining and move on. Horror fans love Kubrick’s film. Film is a different medium and should be presented differently than a book. We had seen a remake of The Shining that had adhered closer to the book, and it SUCKED! (The Shining – TV Mini- series 1997). Attacking someone with a wooden croquet hammer seems scary when reading it in a book, but for a film you need a shiny knife blade!

  7. I’m a massive fan of both the book and the film, though I consider them to be two very different entities. For what it is Kubrick’s film is superb, though it’s not The Shining. King’s book is equally superb (his TV miniseries – not so much…) and I think the comment you made above, that it should just be left at that, is spot-on.

    Great blog btw! =)

  8. I loved the film, but if you really want to compare them the book was far better. I think the reason I don’t flip out at The Shining is because I don’t watch the movie as an adaption to the book. That way it can’t irritate you too much. They weren’t that close, so it is easy for me to take it as characters and a good story instead of a reproduction of the book (though that, too, would have been great). I completely understand the reasoning of the film being colder, and a more observational event as opposed to one you become involved with. But in terms of content, the book will just always reign supreme.

    1. Those are some great points Zoe.It’s such a tough argument because I think a lot of people have not experienced both versions of the story like you have. Yes, the film is brilliant in its own right,but films are rarely better than the book and that’s just a fact.

      1. Thanks Ryan. Very seldom does a movie match up quite the same as a book, and there are even fewer instances where you can appreciate the differences, such as you can with The Shining.

  9. I love King’s novels. Just finished Joyland, recently been working my way through most of them (Misery, Carrie, The Stand) and read loads when I was a teenager (‘Salem’s Lot and Cell come to mind.) The Shining was one I read more recently, saw the film after and really not impressed. I have to agree with King. Jack in the novel is much more subtle, goes through more of a journey and you see the madness slowly seeping in. In the film, it’s all a kind of in your face madness. And yeah, all Wendy did was run and scream. It felt like a lot of the deeper parts of the story were just lost. Though the scenery and some of the scenes were good, Maybe I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I hadn’t read The Shining so soon before seeing it.

    1. Yea that seems to be a recurring theme with this story. Depending on which one you see/read first, is the one people are going to lean towards. The Shining is a pretty big book and I know a lot of people would rather just sit through a couple of hours of a film than read the novel. Characters are everything and in a book we get a lot more out of them than we do a film so I totally agree with King here.

      1. Yeah. I do try to see books and films separate, but like I said I read the book just before seeing the film. Some of his books can be a little daunting, but King has a way of totally pulling you and not letting you go until the end. I felt like that with The Stand, too. Personally, I’d love to see a remake of The Shining, to see if someone could stick closer to the book. (Didn’t realise there was a mini-series until I read some of the other comments, though.)

  10. King didn’t (and still doesn’t) understand how to translate horror from the page to the screen; Kubrick did. What works in a book doesn’t always necessarily work onscreen. Simple as that.

    I’ve also heard that King doesn’t like Tobe Hooper’s run at “Salem’s Lot” either and yet to my mind it’s still one of the most supremely creepy films ever made. Personally, I’ll take those two films over the books any day of the week.

    1. If you can find a copy of “Cronenberg On Cronenberg”, DC describes the absolutely dreadful first draft of a screenplay that King turned in for “The Dead Zone” – which Cronenberg threw out in favour of a screenplay adapted from the novel by Jeffrey Boam.

    2. Considering that there are some truly terrible adaptations of his work out there, it’s weird that he’s so vocal about a classic like Kubrick’s version of The Shining.

      1. Yeah, some of which were written by King himself (“Maximum Overdrive”). 😉

        I often get the impression with King that it’s sour grapes on his part due to the fact that someone (other than him) turned one of his works into an iconic piece of modern cinema.

  11. I just finished the book last week, and I was surprised by how some characters are different. I expected there to be story differences of course, because that’s just what they do to make a film coherent and visually pleasing and to its time limit I guess. Hmm, I preferred the book. I fell asleep during The Shining…. both times I tried to watch haha. But I couldn’t put the book down.

    1. You fell asleep! Yea, it does take a while to get going in the film. I need to read the book, it’s one of the few King novels I have yet to read.

      1. Haha might have been the decision to watch it at midnight… I always wake up to see them climbing out of the window. Never know what happens in the middle though haha.

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