The Shining producer, Jan Harlan, and screenwriter Diane Johnson finally addressed why Stanley Kubrick changed the ending of 1980 film. The ending has been something Stephen King fans have debated for decades.
King’s novel came to an end with a confrontation between Danny and his father Jack against the advice of the Overlock Hotel. Danny barely escaped with his mother Wendy and the hotel’s cook, Dick Halloran, while Jack dies when the hotel goes up in flames after the furnace malfunctions.
For reasons outlined below, Stanley didn’t like King’s ending and decided they had to change it to make the movie work, Entertainment Weekly reported.
“The ending was changed almost entirely because Kubrick found it a cliche to just blow everything up. He thought there might be something else that would be metaphorically and visually more interesting,” screenwriter, Diane Johnson explained.
Johnson said that since The Shining was a horror flick, Kubrick felt someone other than Jack (Jack Nicholson) should die. They weighed all their options, playing out how it could affect the movie as a whole and even considering killing off Jack’s young son, Danny.
“Danny’s relationship with his father was the thing that most interested Kubrick,” Diane explained.
“He was emotionally involved with the point of view of a little boy who is afraid of his father. I remember Kubrick saying that visually he could imagine a small yellow chalk outline on the floor like that they put around the bodies of victims. And Kubrick liked that image. But he was too tender-hearted for that ending and thought it would be too terrible to do …”
According to New York Daily News, one of the ideas was Wendy(Shelley Duvall) kills Jack in self-defense in the third act. Then Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) arrives and also get possessed by the hotel, Stanley liked that idea because the murderous figure the audience was expecting the whole movie was not Jack, but the hero that the audience assumed was coming to the rescue to save Danny and Wendy.
“We always had the powers of the hotel in mind. So the hotel would have been warping Hallorann’s mind for quite a long time,” Johnson revealed. “It was an attractive idea that Halloran is good [throughout the film] then he gets there and is possessed by the hotel into a monster surrogate for Jack.”
As for the final scene in The Shining when Jack is seen in ball photo in 1921, Johnson adds that Kubrick knew that’s how he wanted the movie to end from the beginning.
“There is an explanation for the photo, though it’s a bit strange and paradoxical because it’s both real and unreal — the idea that Jack was always at the hotel in some earlier incarnation. Jack had somehow been the creature of the hotel through reincarnation.”
“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 the blood coming out of the elevators, but that was more ornamental and metaphorical — it’s different than seeing people get stabbed,” Johnson explained.
Over the years, there have been many different theories about The Shining’s mysterious ending. However, both Johnson and Harlan believe that there was no secret message there and Stanley made it clear multiple times while filming.
“Very often crew members asked him, ‘Can you explain that to me?’ And he said, ‘I never explain anything, I don’t understand it myself. It’s a ghost film!’ Harlan explained.
The Shining cost $19 million to produce, and it made $44 million in theaters. Stanley destroyed all the footage that wasn’t included in the film.
“All outtakes and unused scenes were systematically destroyed — including negatives and rushes,” Harlan explained. “He himself knew that he would never consider a re-cut. He was someone who lived totally in the present. He never looked back.”
[Featured Image by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images]