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23.7 Facts About Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining'

by Kieran McMahon
March 26, 2013 12:55 PM
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Room 237

You know that a film is a lasting classic when it can sustain another entire film being made about it. Be it "Citizen Kane," "Psycho" or "Apocalypse Now," many of the great movies have themselves been the subject of films (sometimes successfully, sometimes less so), and the latest to get the treatment is Stanley Kubrick's classic horror "The Shining," with the release this Friday of documentary "Room 237."

Something of a disappointment on release, with mixed reviews (including multiple Golden Raspberry nominations), and middling box-office, almost immediately "The Shining" was reappraised and cemented its place not just as one of the greatest horror films ever made, but one of Kubrick's finest moments -- even if author Stephen King wasn't himself won over. And furthermore, it's become the subject of all kinds of theories and conspiracies over the years, which serve as the subject of Rodney Ascher's "Room 237," which was one of the highlights of our time at Cannes last year (read our review here)

So with "Room 237" (named, of course, after the most terrifying room in the Overlook Hotel) finally opening this Friday, and Stephen King's sequel novel "Doctor Sleep" being published later in the year, it seemed like a good idea to put together a little brief on Kubrick's movie. So below, you'll find 23.7 facts (well, rounded up to 24) about the subject of "Room 237," "The Shining." Read on below, and feel free to add your own trivia, anecdotes, stories and theories in the comments section below.

The Shining

1. Having completed "Barry Lyndon," Kubrick was struggling to find another project. He had a stack of books he would look through for ideas and his assistant recalls hearing thumps for hours on some days as Stanley picked up a book, read it for about a minute, and then threw it at the wall. When she noticed that the thumps had stopped she went into to check on him and found him reading "The Shining."

2. Stephen King said the title was inspired by John Lennon's “Instant Karma” which features the line "We all shine on.”

3. King says that, while Jack Nicholson was always Kubrick's first choice for the part (King always felt they needed more of an everyman), Robert De Niro, Robin Williams and Harrison Ford were also considered.

4. All the interiors were specially built on a soundstage in London, England. The Timberline Lodge, which was used for the exterior shots, requested that they not use the room 217, as it is in the book, fearing that nobody would want to stay there. Kubrick changed the script to use the non-existent room number 237

5. Because of the intense heat generated from the lighting used to recreate window sunlight, the lounge set caught fire and burnt down. That part of the Elstree studios was eventually rebuilt with a higher ceiling and ended up being used by Steven Spielberg for the snake-filled tomb in "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

The Shining

6. The 1997 miniseries remake (which King approved of) was filmed at the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, which is the hotel Stephen King stayed in, out-of-season before he was inspired to write The Shining. He stayed in Room 217 of the virtually empty hotel.

7. One of the actors arrived on set with a chess set, intending to play during the breaks. Kubrick was an avid chess player who used to hustle chess games for money. On an already delayed shoot, he suspended filming and played chess for hours instead. He won every game.

8. Garrett Brown, the inventor of the Steadicam, operated the famous Steadicam shots in the film himself. "The Shining" was only the seventh film to use the technique, after "Bound For Glory," "Marathon Man," "Rocky," "Exorcist II: The Heretic," "The Buddy Holly Story," "Rocky II" and "Fame."

9. Kubrick had the cast watch David Lynch’s "Eraserhead" multiple times to get them in the frame of mind he wanted.

10. Kubrick took more than 60 takes of the scene where the camera simply slowly zooms in on Scatman Crothers in his bedroom. 70 year-old Crothers became so exasperated with Kubrick's compulsive style that he broke down and cried, prompting Jack Nicholson to swear he’d never work with Kubrick again.

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  • Eric | July 6, 2013 1:03 PMReply

    15 is incorrect. He plays this cameo in the remake, not in the Kubrick version.

  • Kieran | April 8, 2013 8:05 AMReply

    #10 Comes from "Stanley Kubrick: A Biography" by John Baxter

  • Kieran | April 8, 2013 7:59 AMReply

    #9 Comes from the Michael Ciment interview with Kubrick.

  • Kieran | April 8, 2013 7:52 AMReply

    Re #11: It is in the Guinness World Records Book (or at least was) although multiple crew members have said it wasn't that scene but another scene, and that it was 148 takes not 127.

  • Kieran | April 8, 2013 7:42 AMReply

    #1 originated in a 1980 "American Film" article and is repeated in thousands of other articles. Various sources, including Kubrick himself and Anthony Frewin, speak of his restless and random reading habits, reading only small sections of books and articles before discarding them. Kubrick has stated that WB's John Calley sent him the manuscript of "The Shining" and also said in a separate interview that he felt very intimidated and frustrated by the months of fruitless reading that followed Barry Lyndon, and that it was "The Shining" that finally broke through (as the heavily annotated edition in the Kubrick archive will attest). Therefore, while it is likely that Harlan Kennedy embellished the original story a little, it is still, on balance, plausible and interesting enough to be included.

  • Kieran | April 8, 2013 6:32 AMReply

    #7 comes direct from IMDB, which I'm sure you're aware is an infallible source of truth, so there.

  • mike | March 28, 2013 4:20 AMReply

    7 is bullshit. Even Kubrick couldn't get away with holding up a production just to play chess.

  • mike | March 28, 2013 4:19 AMReply

    7 is bullshit. Even Kubrick couldn't get away with holding up a production just to play chess.

  • mike | March 28, 2013 4:19 AMReply

    7 is bullshit. Even Kubrick couldn't get away with holding up a production just to play chess.

  • E | April 2, 2013 1:25 PM

    YES HE could...of course he could

  • Kubrickian | March 27, 2013 10:22 AMReply

    There are many inaccuracies in this article -- #1 is apocryphal; Kubrick was sent the galleys for The Shining by Warner Brothers; #5 -- what is your source for the connection between the window lighting and the fire?; #7 -- yes, Tony Burton played chess with Kubrick, the rest is ridiculous; #9,10, 11 seem totally made up.

  • Mariano | March 30, 2013 4:32 PM

    #9 is absolutely real

  • Jerky | March 27, 2013 2:35 AMReply

    King didn't play the conductor in the film version. He did so in the TV version.

  • Kieran McMahon | April 8, 2013 7:45 AM

    Yeah, you're right about that one, my bad, should say he had a cameo in the TV Series.

  • Daniel | March 27, 2013 7:33 PM


  • cirkusfolk | March 26, 2013 7:04 PMReply

    Maybe he cut the alternate ending cause it makes no sense they wouldn't find his body after it is shown frozen solid still in the maze the next morning.

  • Taffy McKittrick | March 26, 2013 4:03 PMReply

    re point 4, some of the hotel exterior shots were also done on stage. The actual Timberline Lodge appears only in the wider establishing shots

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