25 years ago today, Stephen King released his version of The Shining because he hated Stanley Kubrick's
King had a very interesting set of actors he wanted to play the role of Jack Torrance.
Released in 1980 to (almost) unanimous praise and still considered to this day to be one of - if not THE - greatest horror movie of all time, Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining was truly something special. Based off the 1977 novel of the same name by Stephen King, Kubrick gathered an incredible cast to tell his version of the haunting of the Overlook Hotel, with some of his movie's imagery still instantly recognisable over four decades later.
And Stephen King absolutely HATED it.
So much so that King embarked on another adaptation of his story, providing the screenplay for project himself and remaining very closely involved in its production, right up to its release on 27 April, 1997.
The three-episode mini-series was broadcast across a week, the entire thing ran for four hours and 33 minutes (a full two hours longer than the movie), and was initially well-received by critics, but in the years since, it is remembered less fondly, increasingly compared less favourably to Kubrick's adaptation.
At the time of Kubrick's film's release, King criticised the casting of Jack Nicholson in the role of Jack Torrance, stating that audiences would pre-empt his descent into the madness following his performance in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. Instead, King reckoned the role should've been played by Jon Voight, Martin Sheen or Christopher Reeve.
King also disliked that he perceived Kubrick's version as downplaying Jack's alcoholism, how Wendy was portrayed by Shelley Duvall, and the overall downplaying of the supernatural. In King's version, Jack is a regular man who is tormented by the ghosts at the hotel; in Kubrick's, it appears Jack is already twisted, and the exposure to the hotel simply brings it out of him.
Years later, King fully went off on the movie during an interview with Rolling Stone (via CinemaBlend):
"The book is hot, and the movie is cold; the book ends in fire, and the movie in ice. In the book, there's an actual arc where you see this guy, Jack Torrance, trying to be good, and little by little he moves over to this place where he's crazy. And as far as I was concerned, when I saw the movie, Jack was crazy from the first scene.
"I had to keep my mouth shut at the time. It was a screening, and Nicholson was there. But I'm thinking to myself the minute he's on the screen, 'Oh, I know this guy. I've seen him in five motorcycle movies, where Jack Nicholson played the same part.' And it's so misogynistic. I mean, Wendy Torrance is just presented as this sort of screaming dishrag. But that's just me, that's the way I am."
It was all of this that eventually, 18 full years later, prompted King to set about adapting the story himself, and as was pointed out by Laura Miller in Salon, the two versions are basically the exact opposites of each other:
"King is, essentially, a novelist of morality. The decisions his characters make - whether it's to confront a pack of vampires or to break 10 years of sobriety - are what matter to him. But in Kubrick's The Shining, the characters are largely in the grip of forces beyond their control. It's a film in which domestic violence occurs, while King's novel is about domestic violence as a choice certain men make when they refuse to abandon a delusional, defensive entitlement.
"As King sees it, Kubrick treats his characters like 'insects' because the director doesn't really consider them capable of shaping their own fates. Everything they do is subordinate to an overweening, irresistible force, which is Kubrick's highly developed aesthetic; they are its slaves. In King's The Shining, the monster is Jack. In Kubrick's, the monster is Kubrick."
Directed by Mark Gariss (who had directed the hit 1994 mini-series The Stand, another King adaptation), with Steven Weber (13 Reasons Why) as Jack and Rebecca De Mornay (The Hand That Rocks The Cradle) as Wendy, the show was initially a huge success with critics and viewers, but has since had a severe fall-off in popularity, to the point that in 2014 it was ranked as the worst TV adaptation of King's works.
It wouldn't be until 2019, when Mike Flanagan showed his script for the adaptation of The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep to King, that there was any kind of reconciliation between the two versions. Initially, King was fully against the idea of bringing back the Overlook Hotel (in the book, and in King's adaptation, it is set in real-life location The Stanley Hotel in Colorado), but upon reading Flanagan's script, King submitted, telling Entertainment Weekly:
"Everything that I ever disliked about the Kubrick version of The Shining is redeemed for me here."
At the time of writing, King's version of The Shining is not available for streaming at home, while Kubrick's version is available to rent on Google Play and the Sky Store, and Doctor Sleep is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.