25 Facts About Stanley Kubrick's The Shining for Its 40th Anniversary

Heeeeeere's Jack Nicholson.
Heeeeeere's Jack Nicholson.
Warner Home Video

Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is widely considered to be among the best big-screen adaptations of a Stephen King story—and with good reason. (Even though King himself isn't much of a fan.) Even if you've seen the movie 100 times, there's still probably a lot you don't know about what went on behind the scenes.

1. Stanley Kubrick had an interest in horror long before he made The Shining.

Stanley KubrickEvening Standard/Getty Images

Stanley Kubrick is known for his forays into different genres—and horror was a genre that piqued his interest early on in his career. In the early '70s, he was in consideration to direct The Exorcist, but he ended up not getting the job because he only wanted to direct the film if he could also produce it. Kubrick later told a friend that he wanted “to make the world’s scariest movie, involving a series of episodes that would play upon the nightmare fears of the audience.”

2. The Shining was inspired by an episode of Omnibus.

In 1952, Kubrick worked as the second unit director on one episode of the television series Omnibus. But it was a different episode, about poker players getting into a fight, that inspired parts of The Shining.

"You think the point of the story is that his death was inevitable because a paranoid poker player would ultimately get involved in a fatal gunfight," Kubrick said of the episode. "But, in the end, you find out that the man he accused was actually cheating him. I think The Shining uses a similar kind of psychological misdirection to forestall the realization that the supernatural events are actually happening.”

3. Stanley Kubrick didn't even read the screenplay that Stephen King wrote for The Shining.

Jeremy O'Donnell, Getty Images

According to David Hughes, one of Kubrick’s biographers, Stephen King wrote an entire draft of a screenplay for The Shining. However, Kubrick didn’t even deem it worth a glance, which sort of makes sense when you consider that the director once described King’s writing “weak.” Instead, Kubrick worked with Diane Johnson on the screenplay because he was a fan of her book, The Shadow Knows. The two ended up spending eleven weeks working on the script.

4. But Stanley Kubrick still had questions for Stephen King about The Shining.

A now-legendary story that King reportedly still tells at some of his book readings goes like this: Stanley Kubrick called him at seven in the morning to ask, “I think stories of the supernatural are fundamentally optimistic, don’t you? If there are ghosts then that means we survive death.” When King responded with the question of how hell fit into that picture, Kubrick simply responded, “I don’t believe in hell.”

5. Stanley Kubrick was surrounded by family on the set of The Shining.

The executive producer of The Shining was Kubrick’s brother-in-law, Jan Harlan. Christiane Kubrick and Vivian Kubrick—Stanley's wife and daughter, respectively—helped with both the design and the music, though Vivian might be more well-known for the on-set documentary she made titled, The Making Of The Shining. The 30-minute film, which aired on BBC, was a very rare look into Kubrick’s directing styles. (You can watch it above.)

6. Stephen King was "disappointed" in Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining.

In 1983, King told Playboy, “I’d admired Kubrick for a long time and had great expectations for the project, but I was deeply disappointed in the end result. Parts of the film are chilling, charged with a relentlessly claustrophobic terror, but others fell flat.”

One thing King didn’t like was the casting of Jack Nicholson. “Jack Nicholson, though a fine actor, was all wrong for the part," King said. "His last big role had been in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and between that and the manic grin, the audience automatically identified him as a loony from the first scene. But the book is about Jack Torrance’s gradual descent into madness through the malign influence of the Overlook—if the guy is nuts to begin with, then the entire tragedy of his downfall is wasted.”

7. Stanley Kubrick wasn't around for location shoots on The Shining.

Kubrick hated to fly and refused to leave England toward the end of his life, so he was not in attendance when the opening credits of The Shining were shot. A second unit crew headed to Glacier National Park in Montana, where they filmed from a helicopter.

8. Room 217 was switched to Room 237 for The Shining at the request of the Timberline Lodge.

The Timberline Lodge played the part of The Overlook in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980).Wikimedia Commons

In the book, the spooky events are set in Room 217, not Room 237. Oregon's Timberline Lodge, which was used as the hotel’s exterior for some shots, is to blame for this swap. The Lodge’s management asked for the room number to be changed so that guests wouldn’t avoid Room 217. There is no Room 237 in the hotel, so that number was chosen. The website of The Timberline Lodge notes , “Curiously and somewhat ironically, room #217 is requested more often than any other room at Timberline.”

9. "All Work And No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy" has many different translations.

The iconic sentence actually changes meaning for foreign translations of the film, at Kubrick’s request. In German versions, the phrase translates to: “Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” The Spanish translation is: “Although one will rise early, it won’t dawn sooner.” In Italian: “He who wakes up early meets a golden day.”

10. Rumors abound that Stanley Kubrick actually typed up all of those "All Work" pages.

No one is quite sure whether Kubrick typed 500 pages of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Kubrick didn’t go to the prop department with this task, using his own typewriter to make the pages. It was a typewriter that had built-in memory, so it could have turned out the pages without an actual person. But the individual pages in the film contain different layouts and mistakes. Some claim that it would have been characteristic of the director to individually prepare each page. Alas, we’ll never know—Kubrick never addressed this question before he died.

11. There's a hidden Playgirl magazine in The Shining.

Warner Home Video

Kubrick is famous for being a particularly detail-oriented director. So when Jack Torrance is seen reading a Playgirl in the lobby of the Overlook before he gets hired, it’s probably not meaningless. There is an article in the issue about incest, so the most common theory is that Kubrick was subtly implying that Danny may have experienced sexual abuse. Another article advertised on the cover is “Interview: The Selling of (Starsky & Hutch’s) David Soul.” Perhaps Kubrick was throwing in some extra foreshadowing. Regardless, no normal hotel leaves copies of Playgirl lying around, so the magazine serves as an immediate red flag in the film.

12. The Shining was Danny Lloyd's only movie.

The Shining seemed to introduce a promising child star in Dan Lloyd. He ended up having a role in a TV film two years later, but that was the extent of his acting career. “We kept trying for several years ... until I was in high school and I stopped at about 14 with almost no success," he told the New York Daily News. Lloyd did, however, have a brief cameo as a spectator in Doctor Sleep, Mike Flanagan's 2019 sequel to The Shining.

13. Danny Lloyd didn't know he was making a horror movie while shooting The Shining.

Warner Home Video

To protect Lloyd, who was 5 years old when he made the film, Kubrick told him that they were filming a drama. He didn’t even see the actual film until he was 16. “I just personally don’t find it scary because I saw it behind the scenes," Lloyd later said. "I know it might be kind of ironic, but I like funny films and documentaries.”

14. Jack Nicholson improvised The Shining’s "Heeere's Johnny" line.

Jack Nicholson is responsible for the only line from The Shining to make it onto AFI’s Top 100 Movie Quotes. While filming the scene in which Jack breaks down a bathroom door with an ax, Nicholson shouted out the famous Ed McMahon line from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The catchphrase worked and stayed in the film. Some behind-the-scenes footage (which can be seen above) shows Nicholson’s Method acting before filming the iconic scene.

15. Jack Nicholson wrote a scene for The Shining.

In addition to improvising one of the most famous lines of the film, Nicholson actually wrote an entire scene. He felt a particularly deep understanding of Jack Torrance's berating of his wife while he is trying to write.

“That’s what I was like when I got my divorce," Nicholson explained in an interview with The New York Times. "I was under the pressure of being a family man with a daughter and one day I accepted a job to act in a movie in the daytime and I was writing a movie at night and I’m back in my little corner and my beloved wife Sandra walked in on what was, unbeknownst to her, this maniac—and I told Stanley about it and we wrote it into the scene.”

16. Stanley Kubrick did not get along with The Shining star Shelley Duvall.

Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, and Jack Nicholson star in The Shining (1980).Warner Home Video

Though Kubrick had a good relationship with Nicholson, the director was notoriously brutal on Shelley Duvall during filming. In her words, “From May until October I was really in and out of ill health because the stress of the role was so great. Stanley pushed me and prodded me further than I’ve ever been pushed before. It’s the most difficult role I’ve ever had to play.”

The scene in which Wendy is swinging a bat at Jack is an example of this pushing. The scene actually made it into The Guinness Book of Records because it took 127 takes, the most for a scene with spoken dialogue.

17. Slim Pickens was offered the role of Dick Hallorann in The Shining.

Slim Pickens had already worked with Kubrick before. He played Major T. J. King Kong in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Regardless, he was a particularly strange pick for the role of Dick Hallorann because the character is black in the book. Pickens chose to not work with Kubrick again, as he did not like the strenuous Dr. Strangelove shoots. The role then went to Scatman Crothers.

18. The Overlook Hotel doesn't make sense from a spatial perspective.

Rob Ager, an observant fan of The Shining, noticed that there are many aspects to the set of The Overlook Hotel that make no sense. For example, Ullman’s office has a window to the outside, but there are rooms surrounding the office, making that window impossible. This is the case for many of the windows in the film—they don’t work in context. There is also a hallway in the Colorado Lounge that essentially appears out of nowhere. Ager created a video (which you can watch above) in which he maps out the nonsensical visuals.

The executive producer of The Shining, Jan Harlan, has stated that this was intentional. “The interiors don’t make sense," he said in 2012. "Those huge corridors and ballrooms couldn’t fit inside. In fact, nothing makes sense.”

19. Much of The Shining’s set burned down.

Toward the end of shooting, a fire broke out and destroyed multiple sets. According to the set still photographer, “It was a huge fire in there one night, massive fire, we never really discovered what caused that fire and it burned down two soundstages and threatened a third at Elstree Studios. It was an eleven alarm fire call, it was huge.” The rebuild of one of these soundstages cost an estimated $2.5 million.

There’s a famous picture of Kubrick laughing in front of this wreckage. Perhaps he’s laughing because he knows the novel ends with The Overlook Hotel burning down.

20. The Shining required 900 tons of salt.

And that was just for the final scene! At the end of The Shining, Jack chases young Danny through a snow-covered hedge maze before finally dying. To create the elaborate, wintery maze, it took a lot of salt and crushed Styrofoam.

21. The Shining took five years to make.

Kubrick was notorious for his lengthy film productions. Sources differ on how long shooting itself lasted, but it probably went on for almost a year. Around the time he was making the film, Kubrick said, “There is a wonderful suggestive timeliness [that the structure] of making a movie imposes on your life. I’m doing exactly the same as I was doing when I was 18 and making my first movie. It frees you from any other sense of time.”

22. The original ending to The Shining is different from what you probably saw.

Jack Nicholson in The Shining (1980).Warner Home Video

It’s not uncommon for a film’s ending to change in post-production, but Kubrick changed the ending of the film after it had been playing in theaters for a weekend. The film version is lost, but pages from the screenplay do exist. The scene takes place after Jack dies in the snow. Ullman visits Wendy in the hospital. He tells her, “About the things you saw at the hotel. [A lieutenant] told me they’ve really gone over the place with a fine tooth comb and they didn’t find the slightest evidence of anything at all out of the ordinary.” He also encourages Wendy and Danny to stay with him for a while. The film ends with text over black, “The Overlook Hotel would survive this tragedy, as it had so many others. It is still open each year from May 20th to September 20th. It is closed for the winter.”

Roger Ebert deemed the cut a good decision. According to him, “Kubrick was wise to remove that epilogue ... it pulled one rug too many out from under the story.”

23. The Shining was the follow-up to Barry Lyndon, Stanley Kubrick's worst-received film.

Things weren’t looking good for Kubrick after Barry Lyndon was released in 1975. Film reviewer Tim Robey noted, “It was not the commercial success Warner Bros. had been hoping for.” The film cost $11 million to make and earned $9.5 million in the United States, though it did have a good life in foreign box offices. According to Hughes, the film would have had to earn $30 million to be profitable.

The Shining did a lot better financially. The film cost $19 million to make and it went on to earn $47 million in the United States. It was one of the top 10 highest-grossing films of 1980.

24. The Shining has inspired many conspiracy theories.

So many film theorists have their own takes on The Shining that these conspiracies star in their own film: the documentary Room 237. One theory is that Kubrick helped to fake the moon landing and The Shining is his confession. Another claims that the film is truly about the genocide of Native Americans. Yet another theory reads the film as a story about the Holocaust and concentration camps.

Leon Vitali, Kubrick’s personal assistant during filming, has since denied these theories. “I was falling about laughing most of the time," he said of the documentary. "There are ideas espoused in the movie that I know to be total balderdash.”

25. The Shining’s most famous fan site is run by the director of Toy Story 3.

Lee Unkrich runs The Overlook Hotel, which contains tons of pictures and behind-the-scenes information about the film. “I started the site purely for selfish reasons," Unkrich told Vulture in 2013. "I’ve been collecting stuff from The Shining over the years, and I just wanted to have one place where they could be organized.” Unkrich was also one of the people who helped fund the Room 237 documentary.

But, undeniably the most fun part about Unkrich's obsession with The Shining is finding the hidden references in various Pixar films, including Toy Story 3: Sid’s carpet is very similar to a carpet in the Overlook Hotel. A garbage truck’s license plate reads “RM237.” And Trixie chats online with a dinosaur toy down the street who happens to have the screen name “Velocistar237.”

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From Ear to Eternity: When Mike Tyson Bit Evander Holyfield

Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) compete in their rematch in Las Vegas on June 28, 1997. The bout would make sports history.
Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) compete in their rematch in Las Vegas on June 28, 1997. The bout would make sports history.
Focus On Sport/Getty Images

As the 16,000 spectators began filing out of the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, following a night of fights on June 28, 1997, MGM employee Mitch Libonati noticed something strange on the floor of the boxing ring. He later described it as being roughly the size of a fingernail, with the texture of a piece of hot dog or sausage.

It was no concession stand remnant. It was a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear.

Wrapping the morsel of flesh in a latex glove, Libonati hurried backstage, where Holyfield was conferring with officials and doctors after his opponent, Mike Tyson, had been disqualified for biting him on the left ear. In all the commotion, Libonati wasn't allowed inside the room. But Michael Grant, one of Holyfield’s training partners, accepted the ear fragment on Holyfield’s behalf.

Libonati’s discovery was the climax to one of boxing’s most controversial and bizarre evenings, one in which "Iron" Mike Tyson—the most famous fighter of his era—meted out a savage reprimand for what he perceived was dirty fighting on the part of Holyfield. The ear-biting far exceeded the brutal underpinnings of boxing and added to Tyson's reputation as a frenzied combatant both in and out of the ring.

 

Mike Tyson’s collision with Evander Holyfield had started when the two were just teenagers. On the amateur circuit, they had sparred together—not quite knowing the heights each would achieve, but understanding the other would be a formidable obstacle if they were to ever meet as professionals.

Evander Holyfield (L) had success against Mike Tyson (R) early on.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Tyson was a prodigy, having won the heavyweight championship of the world in 1986 at the age of 19 and dominating the division up until an upset loss to James “Buster” Douglas in Tokyo, Japan, in 1990. Holyfield was the lighter fighter at cruiserweight (190 pounds), moving up to the heavyweight division in 1988 and gaining respect for his trilogy with Riddick Bowe.

Long before that fateful night in 1997, Tyson's personal life had started to overshadow his accomplishments inside the ring: An allegedly abusive marriage to actress Robin Givens darkened his image in the media and ended in a very public divorce after just one year. In 1992, a rape conviction sidelined the fighter for more than three years while he served out his prison sentence.

When Tyson returned to the ring, he rattled off a string of wins against fighters not quite at his level, including Peter McNeeley, Buster Mathis Jr., Frank Bruno, and Bruce Seldon. Holyfield had stepped away from competition in 1994, but as Tyson knocked off inferior opponents, talk of a bout with Holyfield intensified. Finally, the two met in Las Vegas on November 9, 1996, with Tyson a 17-1 favorite over the semi-retired Holyfield.

Holyfield would prove his doubters wrong. Through 11 rounds of action, he outmaneuvered and outclassed Tyson by negating his opponent's power with movement and volume. Holyfield also landed headbutts that were declared unintentional, but to Tyson seemed deliberate. Before the fight could see a 12th round, Holyfield knocked Tyson down and earned a technical knockout victory.

 

While it was an undoubtedly disappointing moment for Tyson, an upset in boxing virtually guarantees a lucrative rematch deal. Both men agreed to meet a second time, with Holyfield earning $35 million and Tyson getting $30 million. Tyson’s camp, however, insisted that the referee from the first bout, Mitch Halpern, not be booked for the second, because Tyson felt he failed to call the illegal headbutts. The Nevada State Athletic Commission didn’t want to be seen capitulating to Tyson’s demands, but Halpern stepped aside voluntarily. So referee Mills Lane took his place.

Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) first met as amateurs.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Before a huge crowd full of A-list celebrities like Sylvester Stallone and a then-record 1.99 million households that had purchased the event on pay-per-view, Tyson and Holyfield met for a second time at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on June 28, 1997. While Holyfield took the first round, Tyson appeared fit and adaptive, and came out blazing in round two. Then, just as Tyson had feared, Holyfield’s headbutt struck him again.

The clash of heads opened a cut over Tyson’s right eye, which threatened to obscure his vision as the fight went on. It also opened a reservoir of frustration in the fighter that would manifest in a spectacularly violent way.

Coming out for the third round, Tyson had forgotten his mouthpiece and had to go back and retrieve it—a foreshadowing of things to come. His aggression was working against Holyfield, but with 40 seconds left in the round, the two clinched up. Tyson moved his mouth so it was near Holyfield’s right ear. With his mouthpiece still in place, he clamped down on the ear, ripped the top off, and spat it along with his mouthguard onto the canvas.

Holyfield jumped up in the air in shock and pain. Referee Mills Lane was initially confused by what had happened until Holyfield’s trainers, Don Turner and Tommy Brooks, yelled out what Tyson had done. Lane called for a doctor then told Marc Ratner, the executive director of the athletic commission, that he was going to end the fight. Ratner asked if he was sure. Seeing Holyfield was bleeding from his ear but otherwise ready to fight, Lane waved the two men back into competition.

Incredibly, Tyson bit Holyfield a second time, this time on the left ear, before the round ended. This time, Lane was aware of what was happening and had seen enough. Before the start of the fourth round, he disqualified Tyson.

 

That was far from the end of it. Realizing he had lost the fight, Tyson grew incensed, shoving Holyfield from behind and pawing at the security guards who had stormed the ring in an attempt to restore order.

After the bout, Tyson didn’t appear to be overly contrite. He explained that he was frustrated at Holyfield headbutting him without being penalized, and said he had lost control.

An emotional Mike Tyson reacts to his disqualification loss to Evander Holyfield.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

“Listen,” Tyson said. “Holyfield is not the tough warrior everyone says he is. He got a nick on his ear and he quit.”

Tyson believed his retaliation was justified. “This is my career," he said. "I’ve got children to raise and this guy keeps butting me, trying to cut me and get me stopped on cuts. I’ve got to retaliate. What else could I do? He didn’t want to fight. I’m ready to fight right now. Regardless of what I did, he’s been butting me for two fights. I got one eye. He’s not impaired. He’s got ears. I’ve got to go home and my kids will be scared of me. Look at me, look at me, look at me!”

Two days later, Tyson issued a tempered apology in an effort to minimize the consequences, but it was too late. In addition to losing his boxing license in the state of Nevada, Tyson was fined 10 percent of his purse, or $3 million, which was thought to be the largest fine in sports at the time.

 

Tyson could never entirely shake the stigma of his actions. When a lucrative bout with Lennox Lewis was being planned in 2002, the fight ultimately ended up taking place in Memphis, Tennessee; Nevada refused to restore Tyson's license following a press conference brawl between the two men.

Tyson ultimately continued competing through 2005, when he lost his last bout to Kevin McBride. Holyfield retired in 2011. Earlier this year, the 54-year-old Tyson expressed a desire to return to the ring. The fighter once known as "The Baddest Man on the Planet" is scheduled to fight Roy Jones Jr. on November 28, 2020. Yet Holyfield, now 57 years old, remains a possible future opponent.

The two have occasionally interacted in public in interviews, with Tyson expressing remorse and Holyfield admitting he briefly thought about biting Tyson on his face right back. The pair even filmed a spot for Foot Locker in which Tyson “gave” Holyfield the missing piece of his ear.

In reality, Holyfield never did get his ear back. After Mitch Libonati handed it over to Michael Grant, the piece somehow fell out of the latex glove while being transported to the hospital.

Many fighters talk about leaving a little piece of themselves in the ring. It’s usually metaphorical. For Evander Holyfield, it was simply the truth.