It’s been well documented that author Stephen King was not a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece, and adaptation of his novel, The Shining. Which begs the question; how must he feel about the forthcoming sequel? As Mike Flanagan is bringing Doctor Sleep to the big screen, and Hot Corn were lucky participants at an exclusive London event, in a small audience watching the film’s trailer before anybody else in the world – completely with a Q&A with both Flanagan, and producer Trevor Macy.
The big challenge is to imbue the essence of Kubrick’s vision of this universe, while creating something new and original, and from the trailer – which you can view below – it looks rather promising. Starring Ewan McGregor in the lead role, with Rebecca Ferguson on hand as the film’s primary villain, not to mention a breakthrough role for young actress Kyliegh Curran, this very appears as a modern horror, but as you’ll see, there are vital and exciting references to the original 1980 production. Just seeing the corridors of the Overlook Hotel; the iconic carpets, as well as the sequence at the elevators with the blood spill, this is an incredible journey into a cinematic property so romanticised and treasured in the world of film. Oh, and it looks pretty darn scary too. Another essential quality.
Flanagan discussed how he navigated his way around bringing the King and Kubrick worlds together, in a way that would keep both parties happy.
“Stephen King famously hated the Kubrick film, it wasn’t that he wasn’t a fan, he actively disliked it, to this day,” he said, via a satellite connection. “What he said at the time was that he admired and respected the filmmaking technique that was on display but really resented the changes that were made to the characters, and to the ending. He described it at the time as being a big beautiful Cadillac without the engine. On the other side of that coin you have the fact that Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a masterpiece of cinema, that is unequalled and unrivalled within the genre. Film geeks like me have studied it frame by frame to learn what was possible with filmmaking. Reconciling those two things, my God, was a scary proposition.”
Promisingly, it sounds like Flanagan may well have succeeded. “We pitched Stephen a couple of things and told him we wanted to honour and acknowledge The Overlook – and when we finished explaining to him how we were going to approach it, to our great relief he was very excited about it. The most nervous I’ve ever been in my career was when we sent the script to Stephen for the first time and that was a sleepless night, but he loved it. Also when the film went out to Stephen and the Kubrick estate and I still have ulcers from that particular moment. But they both loved it, and part of bringing those two visions back in line to continue this story, that was what this was about for me, as an apostle of both of these giants of these wonderful storytellers.”
Producer Macy highlighted the importance of their established relationship with King, as both he and Flanagan have already brought King’s Gerald’s Game to the big screen.
“We have a previous relationship with Stephen that we value very highly,” he said. “We reached out to him early and asked what he thought, and pitched ideas. Similarly on the Kubrick side of things we’re lucky to be at Warner Bros which has a long term relationship with the Kubrick estate and they were essential in facilitating that relationship. Both camps engaged early and were very generous with their input and materials.”
“We’re standing on the shoulders of two giants, and it was something we wanted to be respectful of, and inclusive of both visions,” he finished.
So what exactly is this adaptation? Is it of the novel? Or is it a direct cinematic sequel to The Shining? Flanagan, explains he took inspirations from both difference sources to help craft and hone his vision for this picture.
“Doctor Sleep is about a lot more than the source material. The novel itself I was a big fan of the day it came out, but when you’re talking about getting into the universe of The Hhining, it’s not just about that novel it’s about Kubrick’s film and the novel of The Shining itself, we had three different sources to look at when putting the script together. We had to have robust conversations throughout about what it meant to have to step into a universe that both king and Kubrick had created.”
“There’s something about saying it’s the sequel to The Shining that is enormously intimidating, and also doesn’t represent what we’re doing. We were really careful from the beginning not to identify it as a straight sequel to the film, even though it absolutely honours and celebrates his vision of that world. This is an adaptation of the novel Doctor Sleep that takes place within the cinematic universe that Kubrick established.”
Flanagan is a self-confessed fan, so we also wanted to know what it must’ve been like to have walked onto the sets in this film, that were recreated to look just like those from Kubrick’s film.
“Walking onto the sets was breathtaking,” he smiled. “I think the first time we toured the fully dressed sets, we had an adult sized big wheel created for the crew and cast to ride around. Ewan and Rebecca were riding around, peddling through The Overlook. That’s an experience unlike anything I’ve ever had in my life. It’s humbling and overwhelming. You feel so intrinsically familiar with everything you’re seeing. A lot of these images have been burned into my mind since I was kid, and walking through them was like walking through your own dreams. It was really strange and wonderful.”
But there is one shot in the trailer – of the famous elevator shot with the blood – that he admits they couldn’t recreate, and so had to use original footage.
“We could’ve spent months trying to perfectly recreate the fluid dynamics of that blood coming out of the elevator doors, but it’s impossible to do.”
Doctor Sleep is a film that will be open to much scrutiny, but all we can ask is that it’s been treated with respect and with affection, and given it’s fallen into the laps of such enthusiastic fans, we’re feeling pretty confident. We’re sure when you watch the trailer, you may well be too. Now for the hard part – waiting for it come out.