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Stephen King had to be talked into letting Doctor Sleep share a universe with Kubrick's The Shining

Screenshot: Warner Bros.

Of the great and storied Hollywood feuds between adapter and adaptee, few are as infamous as Stephen King’s stance on Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining. King is on the record—many times over, and as recently as just a few years ago—of frankly hating the director’s widely heralded horror opus, going so far as to produce his own TV movie version of the novel in the late ’90s, just to have a “proper” version of the book on the screen. When he eventually published a sequel to the book in 2013, Doctor Sleep, he went out of his way to ignore every plot change that Kubrick had made, restoring it to some very particular version of “pure”.

Fast forward to today, when the first trailer for Mike Flanagan’s film adaptation of Doctor Sleep hit the internet…filled to the brim with references to, and shots from, Kubrick’s version of the old Overlook Hotel. As we noted in our write-up of the trailer, it’s a bold choice; not just because it invites direct comparisons with one of the most beloved horror movies of all time, but because Flanagan had to run the decision to set the movie in Kubrick’s cinematic universe by King himself.


“The big conversation that we had to have,” Flanagan told Entertainment Weekly this week, “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.”

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.

In the end, though, Flanagan says that conversation was less fraught then King’s famous feelings on Kubrick’s movie had led him to worry it might be. Which is lucky for Flanagan (and Warner Bros.), because anything less than that would have probably killed the movie: “If that conversation hadn’t gone the way it went, we wouldn’t have done the film. “

Doctor Sleep hits theaters November 8.


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