Stephen King Hated Kubrick's The Shining. But He Loves Mike Flanagan’s Sequel, Doctor Sleep

IMAGE Warner Bros.

tephen King is many things. Master of the horror novel, sultan of Twitter shade, proud Corgi owner, and, famously, a guy who’s hard to please.

In 1980, legendary auteur Stanley Kubrick adapted one of King’s most beloved works, The Shining, with Jack Nicholson in the lead role. And King hated the adaptation, which took several liberties with the book. In 2006, the author told The Paris Review that Kubrick’s film was “too cold,” “had no emotional investment whatsoever", and that Shelley Duvall was “basically a scream queen” in it. King concluded that he was “really disappointed.”

So as you can imagine, when Haunting of Hill House director Mike Flanagan rolled around wanting to adapt Doctor Sleep, King’s follow-up to the novel of The Shining, there was some beef potential. Especially because Doctor Sleep intentionally ignores Kubrick’s telling of the events at the Overlook Hotel. Which is why Flanagan had to hand the script over to King in order to get approval to move ahead.

“I read the script to this one very, very carefully,” King told Entertainment Weekly. “Because obviously I wanted to do a good job with the sequel, because people knew the book The Shining, and I thought, I don’t want to screw this up. Mike Flanagan, I’ve enjoyed all his movies, and I’ve worked with him before on Gerald’s Game. So, I read the script very, very carefully and I said to myself, ‘Everything that I ever disliked about the Kubrick version of The Shining is redeemed for me here'.”


That’s a huge deal, considering Flanagan’s version of Doctor Sleep attempts to marry the worlds of both the Kubrick and King tellings of The Shining. Though as you can imagine, Flanagan, who previously adapted King’s Gerald’s Game for Netflix, was pretty nervous about the process.

“But you know that, as soon as it’s done, he’s going to see it, and you know, because of what happened with The Shining, if he doesn’t like what you do, he’s not going to be shy,” Flanagan told EW. “So, there’s this huge fear. Even though he’s not over your shoulder, there’s this sense every day that, yeah, he’s going to see the movie. Just as a fan, I didn’t know if I was going to recover if he watched the film and felt the way he felt about The Shining.”

Flanagan even told EW about when he took his finished Doctor Sleep film to King’s Maine home, and watched the movie alone with him, overanalysing every noise the author made. Flanagan said that when the film ended, King “leaned over and he put his hand on my shoulder, and he said, ‘You did a beautiful job.’ And then I just died.” As for King, it’s nice to see that he’s reached a sort of catharsis after all these years.

“I don’t want to get into a big argument about how great the Shining film is that Kubrick did or my feelings about it,” King said. “All I can say is, Mike took my material, he created a terrific story, people who have seen this movie flip for it, and I flipped for it, too. Because he managed to take my novel of Doctor Sleep, the sequel, and somehow weld it seamlessly to the Kubrick version of The Shining, the movie. So, yeah, I liked it a lot.”

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This story originally appeared on Esquire US.

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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