Stephen King‘s dislike for Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of his novel The Shining is well known and, when the author wrote his 2013 Shining sequel Doctor Sleep, he deliberately declined to incorporate the changes Kubrick had made to his original book. But when director Mike Flanagan began adapting Doctor Sleep for the big screen he did want to make clear that his version of the novel was in the same universe as Kubrick’s movie. So, how did Flanagan get King to sign off on him not just referencing the film but even including both recreations of moments from the movie and actual footage shot by Kubrick?
“When it came to trying to crack the adaptation, I went back to the book first,” says Flanagan, who previously directed the well-received King adaptation Gerald’s Game. “The big conversation that we had to have was about whether or not we could still do a faithful adaptation of the novel as King had laid it out while inhabiting the universe that Kubrick had created. And that was a conversation that we had to have with Stephen King, to kick the whole thing off, and if that conversation hadn’t gone the way it went, we wouldn’t have done the film. Stephen King’s opinions about the Kubrick adaptation are famous, and complicated, and complicated to the point where, if you’ve read [Doctor Sleep], you know that he actively and intentionally ignored everything that Kubrick had changed about his novel, and kind of defiantly said, ‘Nope, this completely exists outside the Kubrick universe.’ We really needed to try to bring those worlds back together again. We had to go to King and explain how… and in particular how to get into the vision of the Overlook that Kubrick had created. And our pitches to Stephen went over surprisingly well, and we came out of the conversation with not only his blessing to do what we ended up doing, but his encouragement.”
“This project has had for me the two most nerve-wracking moments of my entire career,” continues the filmmaker. “The first was sending the first draft of the script to Stephen King, and that was utterly terrifying, but he thankfully really loved it. And the second was at the end, very recently, of this post-production process, when the film was sent to Stephen to watch and also to the Kubrick estate. Both went very well, and that was always the hope going in, was that if there was some universe in which Stephen King and the Stanley estate could both love this movie, that is the dream. Threading that needle has been the source of every ulcer we’ve had for the last two years.”
Set 40 years after the events of The Shining, Doctor Sleep stars Ewan McGregor as the grown-up Danny Torrance who encounters a teenager named Abra (Kyliegh Curran) with her own powerful extrasensory gift, known as the “shine.” Rebecca Ferguson plays Rose the Hat, the leader of a group called The True Knot, who feed off the shine of innocents in their quest for immortality.
Doctor Sleep will be released on Nov. 8. Watch the movie’s just-released trailer above.