Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is now a classic, culturally significant enough to warrant an entire documentary about all the batty theories people have about it. But it hasn’t always been beloved. The Razzies, in their first year, awarded it two nominations: Shelley Duvall for Worst Actress and Kubrick for Worst Director. (Fellow nominees included Brian De Palma and William Friedkin, incidentally.) Another critic: the author of the book from which it was adapted, Stephen King, who was famously displeased with the rather liberal liberties the legendary filmmaker took with his source.
So congrats are in order to Mike Flanagan, director of this weekend’s newbie Doctor Sleep. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, the best-selling author of all time praised the director of the adaptation of his sequel to his 1977 classic, published in 2013. Not only did King like it, he felt it atoned for a film that Flanagan clearly highly reveres.
Granted, Flanagan was already a trusted King adapter; the director of last year’s show The Haunting of Hill House turned the author’s novel Gerald’s Game into a Netflix movie two years back. Still, King was nervous, but those anxieties quickly abated. “I read the script very, very carefully,” King told EW, “and I said to myself, ‘Everything that I ever disliked about the Kubrick version of The Shining is redeemed for me here.”
Doctor Sleep catches back up with Danny Torrance, played as an adult by Ewan McGregor, who is also struggling with alcoholism, as did his father Jack. Where Kubrick kept some of the novel’s supernatural elements vague, Flanagan restored them to front and center, even as he recreates certain iconic elements from the movie King so disapproves.
And yet King was cool with it all, both the script and the finished film. Flanagan, also speaking to EW, talked about taking a copy of the film to King’s residence in Bangor, Maine. “I spent the whole movie trying not to throw up, and staring at my own foot, and kind of overanalyzing every single noise he made next to me,” Flanagan said. “The film ended, and the credits came up, and he leaned over and he put his hand on my shoulder, and he said, ‘You did a beautiful job.’ And then I just died.” (You can read our own interview with Flanagan right here.)
Jack Torrance didn’t get a happy ending, in neither the book nor the movie (nor the book’s TV movie, with Steven Weber subbing for Jack Nicholson), but at least Flanagan can say he succeeded where Stanley Kubrick did not. Then again, perhaps Kubrick never cared that much about pleasing Stephen King.