25 Things You Might Not Know About The Shining

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.

Evening Standard/Getty Images

Stanley Kubrick is known for his forays into different genres—and horror was a genre that piqued his interest. 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 FILM 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.

According to Kubrick, “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. 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. KUBRICK DIDN'T EVEN READ THE SCREENPLAY THAT STEPHEN KING WROTE.

 Horror writer Stephen King attends a signing session for his new novel 'Lisey's Story' at Borders bookstore on Oxford Street on November 7, 2006 in London, England
Jeremy O'Donnell, Getty Images

According to one of Kubrick’s biographers, David Hughes, King wrote an entire draft of a screenplay for The Shining. Kubrick didn’t even deem it worth a glance, which makes sense as he once called 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 KUBRICK STILL HAD QUESTIONS FOR KING.

This is a legendary story that King apparently still tells at some book readings. 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. KUBRICK WAS SURROUNDED BY FAMILY.

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

6. KING WAS "DISAPPOINTED" IN KUBRICK'S ADAPTATION.

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.”

He didn’t like the casting of Jack Nicholson either, claiming, “Jack Nicholson, though a fine actor, was all wrong for the part. 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. KUBRICK WASN'T THERE FOR LOCATION SHOOTS.

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 AT THE REQUEST OF THE TIMBERLINE LODGE.

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 KUBRICK ACTUALLY TYPED 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 FILM.

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. IT 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.

13. LLOYD DIDN'T KNOW HE WAS MAKING A HORROR MOVIE.

Danny Lloyd in 'The Shining' (1980)
Warner Home Video

To protect Dan, who was 5 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. He said later, “I just personally don’t find it scary because I saw it behind the scenes. I know it might be kind of ironic, but I like funny films and documentaries.”

14. JACK NICHOLSON IMPROVISED THE "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 axe, Nicholson shouted out the famous Ed McMahon line from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The catch phrase 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. NICHOLSON WROTE A SCENE.

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’s trying to write.

In an interview with The New York Times, Nicholson explained, “That’s what I was like when I got my divorce. 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. KUBRICK AND SHELLEY DUVALL DID NOT GET ALONG.

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

Though he had a good relationship with Nicholson, Kubrick 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.

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 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 FILM 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 FILM TOOK FIVE YEARS TO MAKE.

Kubrick is 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. THERE IS AN ORIGINAL, DIFFERENT ENDING.

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. IT WAS THE FOLLOW-UP TO BARRY LYNDON, 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 the top 10 highest-grossing films of 1980.

24. IT 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. ITS 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.”

10 LEGO Sets For Every Type of LEGO Builder 

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If you’re looking for a timeless gift to give this holiday season, look no further than a LEGO set. With kits that cater to a wide age range—from toddlers fine-tuning their motor skills to adults looking for a more engaged way to relax—there’s a LEGO set out there for everyone. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite sets on Amazon to help you find the LEGO box that will make your loved one smile this year. If you end up getting one for yourself too, don’t worry: we won’t tell.

1. Classic Large Creative Gift Box; $44

Amazon

You can never go wrong with a classic. This 790-piece box contains dozens of types of colored bricks so builders of any age can let their inner architect shine. With toy windows, doors, tires, and tire rims included in addition to traditional bricks, the building possibilities are truly endless. The bricks are compatible with all LEGO construction sets, so builders have the option of creating their own world or building a new addition onto an existing set.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Harry Potter Hogwarts Express; $64

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Experience the magic of Hogwarts with this buildable Hogwarts Express box. The Prisoner Of Azkaban-inspired kit not only features Hogwarts's signature mode of transportation, but also Platform 9 ¾, a railway bridge, and some of your favorite Harry Potter characters. Once the train is built, the sides and roof can be removed for play within the cars. There is a Dementor on board … but after a few spells cast by Harry and Lupin, the only ride he’ll take is a trip to the naughty list.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Star Wars Battle of Hoth; $160

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Star Wars fans can go into battle—and rewrite the course of history—by recreating a terrifying AT-AT Walker from the Battle of Hoth. Complete with 1267 pieces to make this a fun challenge for ages 10 and up, the Walker has elements like spring-loaded shooters, a cockpit, and foldout panels to reveal its deadly inner workings. But never fear: Even though the situation might look dire, Luke Skywalker and his thermal detonator are ready to save the day.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Super Mario Adventures Starter Course; $60

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Kids can play Super Mario in 3D with LEGO’s interactive set. After constructing one of the courses, young designers can turn on the electronic Mario figurine to get started. Mario’s built-in color sensors and LCD screens allow him to express more than 100 different reactions as he travels through the course. He’ll encounter obstacles, collect coins, and avoid Goomba and Bowser to the sound of the Mario soundtrack (played via an included speaker). This is a great gift for encouraging problem-solving and creativity in addition to gaming smarts.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Gingerbread House; $212

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Gingerbread houses are a great way to enjoy the holidays … but this expert-level kit takes cookie construction to a whole new level. The outside of the LEGO house rotates around to show the interior of a sweet gingerbread family’s home. Although the living room is the standout with its brick light fireplace, the house also has a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and outdoor furniture. A LEGO Christmas tree and presents can be laid out as the holidays draw closer, making this a seasonal treat you can enjoy with your family every year.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Elsa and Olaf’s Tea Party; $18

Amazon

LEGO isn’t just for big kids. Toddlers and preschoolers can start their LEGO journey early by constructing an adorable tea party with their favorite Frozen characters. As they set up Elsa and Olaf’s ice seats, house, and tea fixings, they’ll work on fine-motor, visual-spatial, and emotional skills. Building the set from scratch will enable them to put their own creative spin on a favorite movie, and will prepare them for building more complicated sets as they get older.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Collectible Art Set Building Kits; $120

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Why buy art when you can build it yourself? LEGO’s Beatles and Warhol Marilyn Monroe sets contain four options for LEGO art that can be built and displayed inside your home. Each kit comes with a downloadable soundtrack you can listen to while you build, turning your art experience into a relaxing one. Once you’re finished building your creation it can be exhibited within a LEGO brick frame, with the option to hang it or dismantle it to start on a new piece. If the 1960s aren’t your thing, check out these Sith and Iron Man options.

Buy it: Amazon

8. NASA Apollo Saturn V; $120

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The sky (or just the contents of your LEGO box) is the limit with LEGO’s Saturn V expert-level kit. Designed for ages 14 and up, this to-scale rocket includes three removable rocket stages, along with a command and service module, Lunar Lander, and more. Once the rocket is complete, two small astronaut figurines can plant a tiny American flag to mark a successful launch. The rocket comes with three stands so it can be displayed after completion, as well as a booklet for learning more about the Apollo moon missions.

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9. The White House; $100

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Reconstruct the First Family’s home (and one of America’s most famous landmarks) by erecting this display model of the White House. The model, which can be split into three distinct sections, features the Executive Residence, the West Wing, and the East Wing of the complex. Plant lovers can keep an eye out for the colorful rose garden and Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, which flank the Executive Residence. If you’re unable to visit the White House anytime soon, this model is the next best thing.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Volkswagen Camper Van; $120

Amazon

Road trip lovers and camping fanatics alike will love this vintage-inspired camper. Based on the iconic 1962 VW vehicle, LEGO’s camper gets every detail right, from the trademark safari windshield on the outside to the foldable furniture inside. Small details, like a “Make LEGO Models, Not War” LEGO T-shirt and a detailed engine add an authentic touch to the piece. Whether you’re into old car mechanics or simply want to take a trip back in time, this LEGO car will take you on a journey you won’t soon forget.

Buy it: Amazon

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10 Surprising Facts About Richard Pryor

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Richard Pryor, who was born on December 1, 1940, is considered by many to be the greatest stand-up comedian of all time. Jerry Seinfeld referred to him as “the Picasso of our profession.” Chris Rock has called him comedy’s Rosa Parks. Yet the indelible mark Pryor made on the world of comedy only tells part of his story.

Like his career in the spotlight, Pryor’s world offstage was also highly compelling and full of shocking turns. He’s one of those people whose real life was so off-the-wall at times that it becomes tough to separate fact from fiction. Here are just a few stories about the brilliant and chaotic life of the great Richard Pryor.

1. Richard Pryor had a tragic childhood.

Richard Pryor had a tragic early life, experiencing things that no child should have to endure: Born to a prostitute named Gertrude on December 1, 1940 in Peoria, Illinois, Pryor’s father was a notoriously violent pimp named LeRoy Pryor. For much of his childhood, Pryor was raised in the actual brothel where his mother worked, which was owned by his own no-nonsense grandmother, Marie Carter. With his mother periodically dropping out of his life for long stretches, it was Marie who served as Pryor’s central guardian and caretaker.

In 2015, The New Yorker published an article to mark the 10th anniversary of Pryor’s passing, which offered further details on his turbulent early life, noting:

Pryor said that one of the reasons he adored movies as a boy was that you were never in doubt as to why the women in them were screaming. As for the sounds that Richard heard in the middle of the night in his room on the top floor of one of Marie’s businesses, he had no idea what was happening to those girls. A number of times, he saw his mother, Gertrude, one of the women in Marie’s employ, nearly beaten to death by his father. Gertrude left when Richard was five. He later registered no resentment over this. “At least Gertrude didn’t flush me down the toilet,” he said. (This was not a joke. As a child, Pryor opened a shoebox and found a dead baby inside.)

2. Richard Pryor walked away from a successful career.

Early in his career Pryor found success by modeling his comedy largely on the work on Bill Cosby, which led to many comparisons being drawn between the two—a fact that Cosby reportedly grew to dislike.

There are conflicting tales of just how Pryor made the 180-degree change in style that led to him becoming a comedic legend. One of the most well traveled tales, and one that Pryor himself confirmed on more than one occasion, states that Pryor was performing his clean-cut act in Las Vegas one night when he looked out into the audience and saw Dean Martin among the crowd. If you believe the story, seeing the legendarily cool Rat Packer’s face made Pryor question what exactly he was doing and caused him to abruptly leave the stage mid-performance. Around this time Pryor moved to the San Francisco Bay area, dropped out of the comedy limelight for several years, and later reemerged with the more pointed, in-your-face style that made him an icon.

3. Richard Pryor won an Emmy for writing.

Alan Alda, Lily Tomlin, and Richard Pryor in Tomlin's 1973 TV special, Lily.CBS Television, Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

Though Pryor was better known for his work in front of the camera than behind it, the only Emmy he ever won was for writing. In 1974, Pryor won the Emmy for Best Writing in Comedy for Lily, a comedy special starring Lily Tomlin (in which he also appeared). He earned a total of four nominations throughout his career, two of them as an actor and the other two as a writer.

4. Richard Pryor made Lorne Michaels quit Saturday Night Live.

Back in 1975, Saturday Night Live was brand new, so at the time the show’s creator, Lorne Michaels, wasn’t yet a powerful TV icon. Therefore, when Michaels stuck his neck out and demanded the right to have Pryor on as a guest host, he was really risking a lot. It took Michaels handing in a fake resignation to convince NBC executives to allow the famously foulmouthed comic to appear. Michaels himself had to implement a secret five-second delay for that night’s episode to be sure that any off-the-cuff, unscripted choice language didn’t make its way out over the airwaves. The delay was kept from Pryor who, upon later finding out, confirmed that he would have refused to do the show had he known about it

The episode, the seventh one of SNL’s premiere season, contained one of the most memorable and edgy sketches ever to appear on the show: (the NSFW) Word Association. Chevy Chase and Pryor’s personal writer, Paul Mooney, have each claimed to have written the sketch.

5. Richard Pryor lost the starring role in Blazing Saddles.

Pryor and Gene Wilder made four films together (Silver Streak; Stir Crazy; See No Evil, Hear No Evil; and Another You), but there could have been at least one more. Pryor was one of the credited writers on Mel Brooks’s classic Blazing Saddles and the plan for a time was that he would also co-star in the film, playing Sheriff Bart alongside Wilder as the Waco Kid. In the clip above, Wilder explained how Pryor’s infamous drug use caused him to end up in a remote city and subsequently lose the starring role to Cleavon Little.

6. It wasn’t a drug mishap that caused Richard Pryor to set himself on fire.

One of the most retold stories about Pryor centers around the incident on June 9, 1980 where he set himself on fire and took off running down a Los Angeles street fully engulfed in flames. Though he wasn’t expected to survive the episode, he eventually pulled through and spent the next six weeks recuperating in the hospital. At the time it was often reported that the cause of the accident was Pryor freebasing cocaine. Pryor later admitted that in a drug-fueled psychosis he had actually attempted to kill himself by dousing his body in 151-proof rum and setting himself ablaze. A friend of Pryor’s at the time has gone on record as saying that the idea for the act likely came about that evening after the two of them watched footage of Thích Quảng Đức, the Vietnamese monk who famously burned himself to death in 1963 as an act of protest.

7. Richard Pryor was married seven times.

Pryor was married seven times—to five different women. In the 2013 documentary Omit the Logic, a friend of Pryor’s—who served as the best man at one of his weddings—recounts how Pryor showed up at his hotel room door just a few hours after marrying Jennifer Lee, insisting that he already wanted a divorce. Pryor would get divorced from Lee the next year, only to remarry her 19 years later; the two were still together when Pryor passed away in 2005.

8. Richard Pryor had a soft spot for animals.

In 1986 Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a central nervous system disease that ultimately left him confined to a wheelchair. Pryor was such an avid supporter of animal rights, however, that he actively spoke out against animal testing of any kind—even when that testing meant getting closer to a cure for his own condition. The biography on RichardPryor.com provides more insight into this part of his private life:

He's been honored by PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, for saving baby elephants in Botswana targeted for circuses. In 2000, as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was preparing to open at Madison Square Garden, Pryor gave the Big Top's first African-American ringmaster, Jonathan Lee Iverson, something to think about when he wrote him a letter in which he stated: “While I am hardly one to complain about a young African American making an honest living, I urge you to ask yourself just how honorable it is to preside over the abuse and suffering of animals."

9. Richard Pryor won the first Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Beginning in 1998, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts began awarding its annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which "recognizes individuals who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th-century novelist and essayist Samuel Clemens, best known as Mark Twain." Pryor was chosen as their very first recipient. In the more than 20 years since, he has been joined by an illustrious group of comedy legends, including Carl Reiner, Bob Newhart, George Carlin, Steve Martin, Carol Burnett, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Dave Chappelle.

10. Despite his deteriorating health, Richard Pryor never stopped performing.

Even while MS continued to rob him of his mobility, Pryor’s comedic mind continued cranking. Throughout the early 1990s Pryor would often show up at Los Angeles’s famous standup club The Comedy Store to take to the stage in his wheelchair. In the above clip from The Joe Rogan Experience, a few comics discuss what it was like to watch the all-time great perform in his diminished state.

This story has been updated for 2020.