It is a common trope that authors rarely like films based on their novels. Stephen King, who at the time of this writing has seen 48 feature films and 26 television series adapted from his works,1 is no exception. In the past, he expressed reservations about several films: “There are some that leave me cold, like Christine,” he said once, “and there are some that I actively dislike, like Firestarter, Children of the Corn, and The Shining.”2

No other film has provoked King’s ire as much as Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining. Unremitting in his condemnation, King has criticised every element in the film, from the casting of the two leading actors to Kubrick’s direction. In what is perhaps his most famous quote, King likened the film to “a great big beautiful Cadillac with no motor inside. You can sit in it, and you can enjoy the smell of the leather upholstery – the only thing you can’t do is drive it anywhere.”3 King’s dislike of Kubrick’s film is so renowned that it is indeed surprising to find that his initial reaction to the film seemed favourable. When he saw The Shining in a private screening two days before the film’s release,4 Warner Bros. executives noted in an internal memo that King “loved it” – a reaction that appeared to be genuine and that was even confirmed by his agent: “Stephen King truly had a positive reaction. Considered film faithful to book, and, in any interview, will say good things to promote the film.”5

The Shining US poster

The Shining opened on 23 May 1980 to mixed reviews. Variety best encapsulated the critics’ feelings: “With everything to work with, director Stanley Kubrick has teamed with jumpy Jack Nicholson to destroy all that was so terrifying about Stephen King’s bestseller [which has been changed] so much it’s barely recognizable.”6

Perhaps Warner Bros. had hoped King could offer some backup to turn the reception around, but the writer’s first public pronouncement about the film was certainly not what they expected. “When asked about the reviews [for Kubrick’s adaptation],” wrote the Los Angeles Times, King “would only respond with a terse ‘No comment.’ Asked if he had seen the movie, he replied ‘Yes.’ And what did he think of it? Another ‘No comment’.”7 From that summer on, what King said was the opposite of the promised ‘good things. “Technically the movie is flawless, and the acting is great,” he conceded, “but it’s not very scarey [sic].”8 To tell the truth, he found it “totally empty and totally flat.”9 The Shining is “a maddening, perverse, and disappointing film.”10 In short, “a failure.”11 “I’d admired Kubrick for a long time and had great expectations for the project, but I was deeply disappointed in the end result.”12 Whenever he got the chance, he further elaborated his point of view: “The movie was very cold. Horror works best when it’s hot; when it’s an emotional trip, like a rollercoaster ride. Horror is also a medium where there has to be a feeling of love and warmth. You have to care when people die,”13 yet in The Shining there is “no sense of emotional investment in the family whatsoever.”14 “Kubrick’s direction is good, but it’s heartless.”15 “What’s basically wrong with Kubrick’s version of The Shining,” King explained, “is that it’s a film by a man who thinks too much and feels too little.”16 Drawing from the classic misanthropic charge against the rigidly formal director, King said that “Kubrick seemed to be in charge of an ant farm. He had turned his people into ants, saying, ‘Well, what happens if they do this? What happens if they do that?’ I didn’t care for that.”17 “It just becomes sort of an exercise.”18 More and more open, King said that Kubrick was too “pragmatic and rational,”19 a “total anal retentive.”20 “You should have seen the fan mail,” he joked once, “They wanted to kill the guy.”21

King also objected to Kubrick’s treatment of the novel’s main character, Jack Torrance, who in the film “seems crazy from the beginning.”22 “The character … has no arc in that movie. Absolutely no arc at all. When we first see [him], he’s crazy as a shit house rat. All he does is get crazier. In the book, he’s a guy who’s struggling with his sanity and finally loses it. To me, that’s a tragedy. In the movie, there’s no tragedy because there’s no real change.”23 “I wanted to see an early scene where he takes the kid on his lap, gives him a kiss, and says, ‘I love you, Danny.’ Instead, the movie begins [with] Nicholson regal[ing] the family with a story about cannibals.”24 Without an arc for its anti-hero, “the film has no center and no heart.”25

King strongly disapproved of Kubrick’s casting choices. Jack Nicholson “was all wrong for the part. His last big role had been in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and between that and his manic grin, the audience automatically identified him as a loony from the first scene.”26 “I didn’t like Nicholson in it, doing predictable Nicholson shtick.”27 “No, I hated what Kubrick did with that.”28 “If I had a chance to do that over again, I’d cast anybody but Jack Nicholson – even Shirley MacLaine.”29 As for Shelley Duvall, King stated: “That’s an example of absolutely grotesque casting…”30 “I mean, talk about insulting to women.”31 “Shelley Duvall’s Wendy is really one of he most misogynistic characters ever put on film, she’s basically just there to scream and be stupid, and that’s not the woman that I wrote about.”32

An interview with Stephen King in the Los Angeles Times

Most significantly, King has criticised Kubrick and his co-screenwriter Diane Johnson for their approach to the horror genre. “It was like they had never seen a horror movie before,”33 King said. In fact, Kubrick had watched several in preparation for The Shining, expressing particular praise for William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973) and Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968);34 Johnson was giving a course at the University of California at Berkeley on the Gothic novel when she was chosen by Kubrick as a writing partner.35 Such a literate, academic approach proved ineffective for King: “I read an interview … in which [Johnson] said that she and Stanley had read a lot of literature and that they had tried to figure out why people are always so instinctively frightened of dolls or inanimate objects with faces and features. All of that was very interesting, but nothing in the movie is really scary. You don’t necessarily have to be a wiring expert to turn electric lights on and off. They had no real background in the field.”36

The best illustration of what’s wrong with Kubrick’s film, according to King, is the scene in which Wendy discovers Jack’s manuscript, a scene King found had spine-chilling potential: “Kubrick cuts from her face to the pages, from her face to the pages, from her face to the pages; you’re getting more and more frightened by what’s going on here. And you know what’s going to happen. You don’t want it to happen, but you know it’s going to happen. It’s what the horror movie is – it’s something like a girl jerking you off in a car, OK? You know that sooner or later there’s going to be an orgasm; the question is when is it going to come, and how intense is it going to be? So, back and forth, back and forth.”37 “Then for some reason that I still don’t understand, Kubrick cuts away and shows us Nicholson approaching her. … you know that he’s there, you don’t need to see him, and what should happen is that while she’s looking at the book, there should just be this [King grabs the interviewer’s shoulder] and him saying ‘You like it?’ But Kubrick cuts away and shows us Nicholson first, so there’s no payoff.”38 The effect for King is that of “a guy who doesn’t know how to tell a joke.”39

King expressed an interest in remaking The Shining, “to do justice to the story.”40 The chance materialised in 1996, when the network ABC, following the success of a string of TV adaptations from King’s novels – It (Tommy Lee Wallace, 1990), The Tommyknockers (John Power, 1993), The Stand (Mick Garris, 1994), and The Langoliers (Tom Holland, 1996), the last two scripted by King himself – agreed to finance a miniseries entitled Stephen King’s The Shining.41 It was a life-long dream coming true for King, who could finally ‘correct’ Kubrick’s version by writing a teleplay based on his old screenplay for The Shining, which Kubrick had ignored.42

Not once did Kubrick say anything about King’s constant criticism of the film and, in the same quiet fashion, took his revenge: since he still held the rights to the novel, one of his stipulations for giving them up was that King would be prevented from further commenting on his film; the other was $1,5 million. In a stunning move, Kubrick bought King’s silence but had King pay for it.43

Title card of Stephen King’s The Shining

The majority of reviews for Stephen King’s The Shining were good at the time. Yet, I think the most truthful appraisal for the miniseries came from the Boston Globe: despite three episodes and 273 minutes of running time, it is “a small picture. Not small in its commercial prospects, but small in its artistic ambitions. … some viewers might just head to the video store to see how Kubrick did so much more with the same material in less than half the time. Like a great novel, Kubrick’s The Shining grows richer with each viewing. In King’s version, once was more than enough.”44

King honoured the deal with Kubrick – until the director died; after a few additional months of respectful silence, from December 1999 on he resumed criticising Kubrick’s film just as he had before.

King has never been so vocal about any other adaptation he didn’t like. True, The Shining is a Kubrick film and it has received far more attention than any King adaptations by less revered directors. Yet the consistency in King’s condemnation – almost an obsession – must be attributed to something deeper than a mere dissatisfaction with an unfaithful adaptation. After all, in 1979, when asked about the changes that Kubrick was rumoured to be making to the novel, King said bluntly, “This bullshit about authors having their books changed. … a story changes, and it should. It’s right that it should.”45

We could find an obvious explanation for such a rejection by likening King’s experience to that of Anthony Burgess, the author of A Clockwork Orange, who became so annoyed by questions about violence and copycat killers, and so irritated by how much Kubrick’s film had overshadowed his novel, that he started to criticise Kubrick’s approach and even to detest his own book.46 But King enjoyed such a popular success with each new novel that it would have been easy for him to let the ‘book vs. film’ dispute go. When Kubrick’s film was released, King was already more than just famous – he was “a brand name”: his first two books, Carrie and Salem’s Lot, sold 35,000 copies in their hardcover editions and 4,5 million copies as paperbacks; The Shining was King’s first hardcover bestseller, reaching 50,000 copies sold.47 Yet perhaps, and this was true for Burgess too, King kept talking about The Shining because he enjoyed the additional fame brought by being associated with one of the greatest film directors.

While the film was being made “with an excess of secrecy [with] no outsider … allowed on the set, nor … any interviews permitted,”48 King happily revealed to the press things that he allegedly saw during his visit to the set or heard chatting with Kubrick’s crew, such as “a larger-than-life replica of Nicholson’s head [that] splits open and worms crawl out of it”49 and a “game room that’s full of electronic games [that] all come to life when [Danny] comes in.”50 King also ‘revealed’ that John Williams was composing the score for Kubrick, saluting the choice as “very commercial … Kubrick really is trying to make a blockbuster.”51

These rumours are still repeated today, even if the magazine Take One had exposed them as unfounded right away: “King’s involvement with this project is such (nil) that most of his information has come second hand from Peter S. Perakos and Jim Albertson of Cinefantastique.”52

It could be that King tried to aggrandise his role in the production to compensate for the fact that Kubrick didn’t want him to be a part of his creative process. It is true that King never showed much consideration for the movie business: “The movies have never been a big deal to me,” he said once, “If they’re good, that’s terrific. If they’re not, they’re not. But I see them as a lesser medium than fiction, than literature.”53 “They’re not high art the way I think books are high art,”54 he reiterated. At the same time, though, King has shown he quite likes to be involved in film production: he wrote and acted in George Romero’s Creepshow (1982), had a number of cameos in subsequent adaptations of his works, and even accepted Dino DeLaurentiis’ proposal to write and direct a film, Maximum Overdrive (1986); furthermore, King wrote, produced or executive produced many films and television series, mostly adapted from his own works, with the more or less explicit intention of exerting some degree of control on their stories and characters.55 A moderate disappointment with not being consulted by Kubrick – someone King admired, until the late ‘70s anyway56 – may have been present.

The fact that Kubrick selected someone else for the adaptation of The Shining probably caused even greater friction, especially given Diane Johnson’s background. King has always been vigorously averse to the limited views of the intelligentsia, who in his opinion do not take genre fiction seriously and have a “propensity … to ghettoize horror and fantasy and instantly relegate them beyond the pale of so-called serious literature.”57 King tried hard to have his books taken seriously: for example, The Shining is filled with direct and indirect allusions to revered masterpieces of past genre fiction, such as Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death,” and in its early conception was even divided into five acts, as if it were a Shakespearean tragedy.58 If King never really cared about movies, he definitely cared very much about books and literature, and felt he was being treated unfairly: “That little elite, which is clustered in the literary magazines and book-review sections of influential newspapers and magazines on both coasts, assumes that all popular literature must also, by definition, be bad literature. Those criticisms are not really against bad writing, they’re against an entire type of writing. My type of writing, as it turns out.”59 Kubrick, who needed to understand and expand on the horror genre, didn’t pick King, a hands-on expert in the field, but summoned Johnson, a revered novelist and university professor who sometimes wrote reviews for The New York Times Book Review – someone who fit the bill of those “avatars of high culture,”60 as King once called them. And what did Johnson say about King and his novels, as soon as she had finished her work on The Shining? “Stephen King isn’t Kafka,”61 “I thought his were the kind of books that one gets in an airport.”62 In King’s resentment there may well have been a reaction to a crime of lèse-majesté.

Some of the stories that King recounted over the years seem to support the idea that he wished to get more credit. The most repeated one is King’s fictionalised account of how Kubrick found his novel: “the secretary in Kubrick’s office got used to this steady ‘Thump! Thump! Thump!’ from the inner office – which was Kubrick picking up books, reading about forty pages, and then throwing them against the wall. He was really looking for a property. One day, along about ten o’clock, the thumps stopped coming, and she buzzed him. He didn’t answer the buzz; she got really worried, thinking he’d had a heart attack or something. She went in, and he was reading The Shining. He was about halfway through it. He looked up and said, ‘This is the book.’ Shortly after that, Warners in California wanted to know if the book had been bought.”63 This story is totally inaccurate. Not only did Kubrick never have an inner office with a secretary (he read all the books at home), but he also received the manuscript in galley proofs via airmail, sent by John Calley of Warner Bros.64

At book readings, King never missed the opportunity to narrate his single discussion with Kubrick. Like the good novelist he is, King tells the anecdote like a horror story, for the great amusement of his audience. One day, very early in the morning, let’s say at 7am, he was shaving in the bathroom. His wife came running and startled him, causing him to cut himself with the razor blade; in another version, she had such a terrified look on her face that King thought something horrible had happened to one of their kids. “Stanley Kubrick’s on the phone!” his wife said instead, and King, either with half face still covered in shaving cream or blood streaming down his neck, went and picked up the handset, through which a gravelly voice said, “Hi, Stanley Kubrick here, don’t you agree that all stories of ghosts are fundamentally optimistic?” Dumbfounded, half-asleep or hung-over depending on the version, King faltered, “What do you mean?” and Kubrick explained: “Well, if there are ghosts it means we survive death, and that’s fundamentally an optimistic view, isn’t it?” “What about hell?” King asked quick-wittedly. Usually the story features a long silence on the line at this moment, as if the wheels inside Kubrick’s head were slowly turning. “Well, I don’t believe in hell,” Kubrick finally replied, and hung up.65

In an unpublished bit from an interview with British film critic Alexander Walker, Kubrick acknowledged he had heard the story and revealed it was “a total, total figment of [King’s] imagination. Maybe that’s why he writes such clever plots!”66 The two talked over the telephone on one occasion, and it is possible that Kubrick said The Shining was an optimistic story given that he gave exactly the same witty remark to Jack Nicholson.67 But the phone conversation was mostly about Kubrick asking King’s opinion on a different ending for the film, with Hallorann becoming possessed and finishing the job that Jack started, killing Wendy and Danny; the Torrances are then seen as ghosts in the Overlook Hotel the following spring. In interviews closer to the event, King didn’t sensationalise the facts and told the story straight; take for example this interview from 1978: “The impression I got from our conversation is that Kubrick does not believe in life after death. Yet, he thought that any vein of the supernatural story (whether it is horrifying, or whether it is pleasant) is inherently optimistic because it points towards the possible survival of the spirit. And I told him that’s all very good as a philosophy, but when an audience is brought face to face with the slaughter of characters that they care about, then they will cry for your head once they go out of the theatre.”68

Illustration for the novel’s first edition, from Cinefantastique #8.1, Winter 1978

Surely the clash between King and Kubrick has something to do with their respective cinematic tastes. To his own admission, King’s brand of horror is “Brand X. A low-priced brand.” He loved Re-Animator (Stuart Gordon, 1985) and Return of the Living Dead (Dan O’Bannon, 1985). “That’s my kinda movie. Y’know, low.”69 He is of course able to appreciate more stylish and visionary films, like Brian DePalma’s Carrie (1976), yet he is quite the traditionalist as far as horror films are concerned. In his non-fiction book about the subject, Danse Macabre, King in fact extend his ideas to the horror genre itself: “the horror story, beneath its fangs and fright wig, is really … conservative … its main purpose is to reaffirm the virtues of the norm by showing us what awful things happen to people who venture into taboo lands. … Modern horror stories are not much different from the morality plays of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries … We have the comforting knowledge when the lights go down in the theater or when we open the book that the evildoers will almost certainly be punished, and measure will be returned for measure.”70 Kubrick’s films on the contrary wilfully explore taboo lands and never offer comforting endings; his career is a testament to cinematic unconventionality and often sheer iconoclasm.

After years of repeated complaints, King seems to have understood the question more clearly in recent times: he acknowledged the real difference between him and Kubrick lies in their respective takes on the nature of evil. “In the novel, Jack Torrance is a difficult character but it’s fundamentally a sympathetic character,” King said in 2011, “and I always visualized him as a piece of metal which has been bent one way and the other by these malignant spirits … Stanley Kubrick saw the haunting coming from Jack Torrance, whereas I always saw it from outside … [All the characters] were being threatened by forces from without, from ghosts, from real supernatural creatures. … So we had a fundamental difference of opinion about it.”71

The difference runs even deeper. For King, when evil comes from within, it is always “an act of free and conscious will – a conscious decision.”72 “My definition of evil,” he said while discussing the novel, “is ‘the conscious will to do harm’.”73 Jack’s background of dysfunctional upbringing, alcoholism and frustrations predisposes him to be seduced by the Overlook Hotel, but he is not doomed to succumb. There are a number of occasions in the novel in which he could prevent a tragic ending: he could let Wendy take Danny to a doctor in the city, he could drive the snowcat and escape from the hotel with his family, he could use the radio and call for help. Jack consciously decides to follow an evil path. Nothing is predetermined in King’s world: when Hallorann explains the shining and its visions to Danny, he says “Those things don’t always come true.”74

Kubrick’s take seems quite different: “There’s something inherently wrong with the human personality,” he once said, “There’s an evil side to it.”75 Evil, according to Kubrick, resides in human nature itself. He described The Shining as “a sort of Jekyll and Hyde story, but without the Jekyll,”76 showing there is no room for a good side in his philosophy. Kubrick’s Jack Torrance couldn’t have done anything differently. A quote from an interview with French film critic Michel Ciment is illuminating: “Jack comes to the hotel psychologically prepared to do its murderous bidding,” Kubrick said; “He doesn’t have very much further to go for his anger and frustration to become completely uncontrollable. He is bitter about his failure as a writer. He is married to a woman for whom he has only contempt. He hates his son. In the hotel, at the mercy of its powerful evil, he is quickly ready to fulfil his dark role.”77 Actions are a role to fulfil, not an act of will. Borrowing a phrase from Kubrick’s subsequent film, Full Metal Jacket, Jack Torrance was “Born to Kill.”

A look at how the three incarnations of The Shining end will clarify the point further. In the novel, Danny unmasks a raging Jack as a “false face,” a simulacrum of his father, now completely driven by the Overlook Hotel (King uses the pronoun ‘it’ instead of ‘he’ for the character in the chapter); Jack briefly regains consciousness, stops waving the mallet against Danny, and tells him to “Run away. Quick. And remember how much I love you.”78 Moments later, Hallorann resists the evil forces and takes Wendy and Danny under his arms, leading them away while the Hotel burns down. In an epilogue, the three survivors reconstitute a surrogate family.

In the miniseries, in a ‘ten years later’ coda, Jack reappears as a ghost at Danny’s graduation, says “I love you” and blows a kiss to Danny, who comments “That’s what I’ve been missing” (a line that works quite well as an observation on King’s part with regard to Kubrick’s film); if the point wasn’t clear enough, Hallorann reassures Wendy that “All’s well that ends well.”

Jack blowing a kiss to Danny, in Stephen King’s The Shining

In the film, Hallorann arrives at the Hotel, only to be killed by Jack; Danny and Wendy flee on Hallorann’s snowcat and slowly disappear in the mist. Jack freezes to death, but a photograph from 1921 in the Hotel lobby suggests he has been a ghost reincarnated all along – maybe.

King and Kubrick’s works end in a way that conforms to their respective views. The novel’s conclusion restores order, and King’s miniseries even more so; on the contrary, the film’s conclusion – the most radical of Kubrick’s open endings – unleashes chaos.79 In any case, as wide as it is, this difference in overall views doesn’t really explain King’s obsessiveness. Kubrick’s film must have hit a rawer nerve. The fact is, The Shining is not any novel for King, and Jack Torrance is not any character.

The Shining came from my own really aggressive impulses toward my kids,”80 King has revealed with surprising candour, going as far as mentioning a specific episode: “I came home one day [and] Joe, my oldest boy who was then three or four, had done all these cartoon and crayon drawings on this manuscript that I had been working on … and I was thinking of myself, ‘Little son of a bitch I could kill him. I could kill him, look at this stuff!’”81 “It’s a very sorry thing to discover, as a father, that it is possible, for bursts of time, to literally hate your kids and feel that you could kill them.”82

The Shining originated from the memories – “scars”, as King called them – of how life was before selling his first novel, Carrie. “My wife and I had been just about as poor as churchmice for most of that time. … We had two kids, I was drinking too much, and things were sometimes tense at home.” In those years, King felt “miserably unhappy … unable to provide adequately for my family” and terrified that he could never become a writer. “I felt like a man caught in a malign funhouse, blundering his way around with increasing desperation, looking for the way out.” Fatherhood had also come as a sudden shock to him: “I found myself sometimes pregnant with sordid, unromantic emotions I had never suspected, some directed toward my wife, some toward my children – they ranged from impatience to anger to outright hate.” He used to walk around his “cheesy living room, a kid in my arms or over my shoulder, … wondering exactly how I had wandered into this sub-primary insane asylum. I never stopped loving my wife or my children, but there were times… oh boy, there were times… when I wondered what had happened, and how.”83

These unique disclosures are featured in a rare essay by King, published in 1982 in a relatively obscure magazine, Whispers, and never reprinted elsewhere. In this extraordinarily frank look into his mind, King uncovered what lies beneath the book’s tragic hero. “By making Jack Torrance a drinker who was trying to quit and by making him a part of the insidious child-beating syndrome that is passed from father to son to grandson, I found myself able to look around a dark corner and to see myself as I could have been, under the right set of circumstances.”84 “In some ways, I think Jack Torrance was as autobiographical as I’ve ever come to a character,”85 King summed up. “In Jack Torrance I saw a face that hypnotized me because it was, to a large extent, my own.”86

Written in such a state of mind, “the book became a ritual burning of hate and pain,” a way for King to finally exorcise and channel “feelings that flowed, almost whole, from my subconscious.”87 When The Shining was finished, he was finally able to put his dark past at rest.

Then arrived Kubrick and Johnson. By tampering with King’s novel, they possibly affected King’s inner life, too. When he watched what they had done with Jack, perhaps King saw an image of himself that he wished he had forgotten. When he complained that Jack has no arc in the film, perhaps he was protesting about the happy ending that Kubrick had denied to him.

Before dismissing this as far-fetched psychoanalysis of Stephen King, let’s consider the fact that he wrote a sequel to The Shining in 2013, Doctor Sleep, which deliberately ignores Kubrick’s film and follows an adult Danny battling with alcoholism, like his father had. Doctor Sleep was adapted as a film in 2019 by Mike Flanagan, who merged both King’s novels and Kubrick’s film into a hybrid cinematic sequel (see McEntee in this special issue). Flanagan revealed that King didn’t want to hear anything about a film version of Doctor Sleep initially, but relented when the director pitched him a specific scene towards the end of his proposed film.88 I wouldn’t be surprised if the scene in question is the confrontation between Dan and the ghost of Jack Torrance at the Overlook Hotel bar. Here, the alcoholic’s dilemma, which permeated the original novel and that King knew all too well, comes back with a vengeance. “A man tries,” says the ghost of Jack to his adult son, “He provides. But he’s surrounded by mouths that eat and scream and cry and nag. So, he asks for one thing … to take the sting out of those days, of the mouths eating … everything he makes, everything he has. And that family. A wife. A kid. Those mouths eat time. … They eat your days on earth. … It’s enough to make a man sick. And this is the medicine,” he concludes, pushing a glass of whiskey forward to Dan – who resists, refuses to drink, and throws the glass away.

The ghost of Jack offers the medicine to Danny in Doctor Sleep

Flanagan, who had been widely praised by King for his faithful adaptation of Gerald’s Game, made also sure that the denouement of Doctor Sleep (the film) mirrored that of The Shining (the novel): in the Overlook Hotel, Abra, the new young character who ‘shines’, confronts a possessed Dan and says, “You’re a mask, a false face,” words which are again enough to make Dan come back to himself and urge Abra to run away.

King opened the novel Doctor Sleep with quotes from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and closed it with an old AA saying: “FEAR stands for Face Everything And Recover.”89 Hopefully, King has now faced everything Kubrick put him through, and, thanks to Flanagan, recovered.


I would like to thank Peter Krämer, Michele Pavan Deana and Nicola Silva for their comments on a preliminary draft of this article. I am also grateful to Alessandro Gnocchi and Jeremy Guerineau for their help in locating a copy of Stephen King’s essay “On The Shining and Other Perpetrations.”


  1. Anon., “List of adaptations of works by Stephen King,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_adaptations_of_works_by_Stephen_King
  2. Jessie Horsting, Stephen King at the Movies (New York: Starlog Press, 1986), p. 7.
  3. Darrell Ewing and Dennis Myers, “King on the road,” American Film, June 1986, p. 46.
  4. This preview screening surely was the 146-minute cut of the film that would open in selected theatres in New York and Los Angeles the following day. Over that weekend, Kubrick excised an epilogue in which Danny and Wendy are visited by Stuart Ullman while recovering in a hospital. The new 144-minute version kept playing in both cities and went on general release in the U.S. and Canada in mid June. For the international markets, Kubrick shortened the film to 119 minutes. Stephen King never commented on the cuts, and we can safely assume he always referred to the longer American version of the film.
  5. George Nelson, “Memo to Julian Senior ‘Re. Stephen King’”, 22 May 1980, in The Shining, Laura Mee (Leighton Buzzard: Auteur, 2017), p. 39. Apparently, King only confided his true feelings to a close friend of his who attended the preview: “it wasn’t his vision at all. It wasn’t his book, it was Kubrick’s movie.” Cf. George Beahm, Stephen King America’s Most Loved Boogeyman (Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1988), p. 60.
  6. Jim Harwood, “Film Reviews: The Shining,” Daily Variety, 23 May 1980, p. 3.
  7. Lyn Liljeholm, “Stephen King: View from Maine woods,” Los Angeles Times, 8 June 1980, p. Q36.
  8. David Sterritt, “When shivers came from what you didn’t see”, The Christian Science Monitor, 28 August 1980, p. 18.
  9. Jessie Horsting op.cit., p. 9.
  10. Stephen King, Danse Macabre (New York: Berkley Books, 1983), p. 214.
  11. Charlie Rose, “Interview with Stephen King,” The Charlie Rose Show, PBS, 18 October 1993, https://charlierose.com/videos/16779
  12. Eric Nordern, “Playboy Interview: Stephen King,” Playboy, June 1983, p. 23.
  13. Mark Sullivan, “King of terror in a world of Big Macs,” Women’s Wear Daily, 23 August 1982, p. 20.
  14. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt and Nathaniel Rich, “Stephen King: The Art of Fiction No. 189”, The Paris Review #178, Fall 2006, https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/5653/the-art-of-fiction-no-189-stephen-king
  15. David Sterritt, op.cit.
  16. Eric Norden, op.cit. p. 24.
  17. Jake Tapper, “Stephen King: ‘I Want You to Care’,” ABC News, ABC, 15 November 2007, https://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=3872181&page=1
  18. Marc Olsen, “Stephen King on the artistic merits of torture porn,” Los Angeles Times, 22 June 2007, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2007-jun-22-et-king22-story.html
  19. Richard Zoglin and Russell Leavitt, “Giving Hollywood the Chills,” Time #123.2, 9 January 1984, p. 56.
  20. Anon., “Opening up on Eyes Wide Shut,” The Guardian, 29 June 1999, https://www.theguardian.com/film/1999/jun/29/news
  21. Deborah Caulfield, “Horrifying Duo: King and Romero”, Los Angeles Times, 27 October 1982, p. H1.
  22. David Sterritt, op.cit.
  23. Mike Fleming Jr, “Stephen King On What Hollywood Owes Authors When Their Books Become Films: Q&A,” Deadline, 2 February 2016, https://deadline.com/2016/02/stephen-king-what-hollywood-owes-authors-when-their-books-become-films-q-a-the-dark-tower-the-shining-1201694691/
  24. David Sterritt, op.cit.
  25. Eric Norden, op.cit. p. 24.
  26. Ibid.
  27. Rene Rodriguez, “Stephen King sees horror story in movie adaptations,” Austin American Statesman, 2 November 1992, p. B9.
  28. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt and Nathaniel Rich, op.cit.
  29. Irv Slifkin, “Happy horrors! Stephen King delights in bad reviews of gruesome tales intended to offend”, Austin American Statesman, 1 November 1989, p. B15.
  30. Peter S. Perakos, “Stephen King on Carrie, The Shining, etc.”, Cinefantastique #8.1, Winter 1978, p. 15.
  31. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt and Nathaniel Rich, op.cit.
  32. Will Gompertz, “Stephen King returns to the Shining with Dr Sleep,” BBC News, BBC, 19 September 2013, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/entertainment-arts-24151957/stephen-king-returns-to-the-shining-with-doctor-sleep
  33. Aljean Harmetz, “‘Pet’ Film Rights Sold, The New York Times, 8 June 1984, p. C10.
  34. Cf. Emilio D’Alessandro and Filippo Ulivieri, Stanley Kubrick and Me: Thirty Years at His Side (New York: Arcade, 2016), p. 96-97; Michel Ciment, Kubrick: The Definitive Edition (London: Faber and Faber, 2001), p. 196.
  35. Michel Ciment, op.cit., p. 185.
  36. Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller (eds.), Bare Bones: Conversations on terror with Stephen King (New York: Warner Books, 1988), p. 142.
  37. Jessie Horsting, op.cit., p. 9.
  38. Darrell Ewing and Dennis Myers, op.cit., p. 46.
  39. Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller (eds.), op.cit., p. 143.
  40. Anon., UPI wire story retrieved as “Writer directs film of his own book,” Tyrone Daily Herald, 21 July 1986, p. 4.
  41. Bill Warren, “King of all media,” Fangoria #163, July 1997, p. 30.
  42. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt and Nathaniel Rich, op.cit. A copy of King’s screenplay with Kubrick’s annotations is part of the Kubrick Archive, proof that the director did read it; cf. Filippo Ulivieri, Email interview with Lee Unkrich, 6 April 2020.
  43. Grant McIntyre, “By the book,” The Globe and Mail, 26 April 1997, p. G8; Bret Easton Ellis, ”Mick Garris”, B.E.E., 13 March 2017, https://www.podcastone.com/episode/B.E.E.—Mick-Garris—3/13/17
  44. Michael Blowen, “The ghost of ‘Shining’ past Stephen King’s TV miniseries is no match for Kubrick’s film,” Boston Globe, 27 April 1997, p. D1.
  45. Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller (eds.), op.cit., p. 121.
  46. Cf. Filippo Ulivieri, “Dangerous Arts: Anthony Burgess’s conflictual relationship with A Clockwork Orange and Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic adaptation”, presented at A Clockwork Symposium, University of the Arts London, 1-2 November 2018.
  47. Stephen King, “On becoming a brand name”, Adelina #XIV.2, February 1980; in Fear Itself: The Horror Fiction of Stephen King (New York: Signet, 1985), Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller (eds.), p. 40-41. King acknowledged that he was a brand name as soon as September 1979, cf. Richard Rothstein, After ‘Carrie’”, Daily News, 29 September 1979, p. 8.
  48. Aljean Harmetz, “Kubrick Films ‘The Shining’ In Secrecy in English Studio”, The New York Times, 6 November 1978, p. 72.
  49. Bhob Stewart, “Flix”, Heavy Metal #3.11, March 1980, p. 82.
  50. Dan Christensen, “Stephen King living in constant, deadly terror,” Fangoria #3, December 1979, p. 48.
  51. Bhob Stewart, op.cit.
  52. David Chute, “King of the Night”, Take One, January 1979, p. 38.
  53. Andy Greene, “The horror master looks back on his four-decade career,” The Rolling Stone, 31 October 2014, https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/stephen-king-the-rolling-stone-interview-191529/
  54. Tim Underwood, Chuck Miller (eds.), Feast of Fear: Conversations with Stephen King (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1992), p. 16.
  55. Cf. Charlie Rose, op.cit.
  56. King called Kubrick “a genius” a few times in 1979, cf. David Chute, op.cit., and Feast of Fears, cit., p. 30.
  57. Eric Norden, op.cit.
  58. Stephen King, “On The Shining and Other Perpetrations,” in Whispers #5.1/2, Stuart David Schiff (ed.), August 1982, p. 14.
  59. Eric Norden, op.cit.
  60. Ibid.
  61. Aljean Harmetz, op.cit.
  62. Nicolas Saada, “The Shining, une histoire de famille”, Cahiers du Cinéma #534, April 1999, p. 34. Author translation from the French.
  63. Bhob Stewart, op.cit., p. 81.
  64. Cf. Emilio D’Alessandro and Filippo Ulivieri, op.cit. passim; Michel Ciment, op.cit., p. 183.
  65. Cf. A Night at the Movies: The Horrors of Stephen King, TCM, 3 October 2011; Darrell Ewing and Dennis Myers, op.cit. Another version is given during a Q&A with the audience in 2006, https://youtu.be/x98qcNZ8Fz0
  66. Alexander Walker, “Kubrick/Interview,” 30 May 1980, Fondo Walker, Cineteca del Friuli, Gemona (UD).
  67. Cf. Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (Jan Harlan, 2001).
  68. Peter S. Perakos, op.cit.
  69. Jessie Horsting, op.cit., p. 8.
  70. Stephen King, op.cit. (1983), p. 395-96.
  71. A Night at the Movies: The Horrors of Stephen King, cit.
  72. Stephen King, op.cit. (1983), p. 62.
  73. Peter S. Perakos, op.cit., p. 14.
  74. Stephen King, The Shining (New York: Pocket Books, 2001), p. 126. Cf. Alessandro Gnocchi, I Segreti di Shining (Siena: Barney Edizioni, 2001), p. 41-45.
  75. Jack Kroll, “Stanley Kubrick’s Horror Show,” Newsweek, 26 May 1980, p. 99.
  76. Alexander Walker, op.cit.
  77. Michel Ciment, op.cit., p. 194.
  78. Stephen King, op.cit. (2001), p. 649-52.
  79. Cf. Gnocchi, op.cit., p. 114.
  80. Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller (eds.), op.cit. (1988), p. 181.
  81. Omnibus. Stephen King: Shining in the Dark, BBC, 6 December 1999.
  82. Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller (eds.), op.cit. (1988), p. 181.
  83. Stephen King, op.cit. (1982), p. 13-14.
  84. Ibid.
  85. Will Gompertz, op.cit.
  86. Stephen King, op.cit. (1982), p. 14.
  87. Ibid.
  88. Nick Schager, “‘The Shining’ Sequel ‘Doctor Sleep’ Is Spooky as Hell,” The Daily Beast, 5 November 2019, https://www.thedailybeast.com/inside-the-shining-sequel-doctor-sleep-a-spooky-as-hell-tribute-to-stanley-kubrick-and-stephen-king
  89. Stephen King, Doctor Sleep (New York: Scribner, 2013), p. 511.