15 Little-Known Facts About 'The Shining' That Are Very ... Interesting

Chloe Wilt | May 22, 2020 Movies
15 Little-Known Facts About 'The Shining' That Are Very ... Interesting
Image: Warner Brothers via Getty Images

Jack Nicholson in 'The Shining' (1980)
Warner Brothers via Getty Images

It's the 40th anniversary of one of the greatest horror movies of all time, The Shining. The 1980 film absolutely stunned audiences with incredible horror tactics. From the music and cinematography, director Stanley Kubrick knew how to keep viewers on their toes. This frightening film is based on the creepy book by the king of horror himself, Stephen King, and the production surrounding the film has almost as much lore as the actual movie itself. There are so many strange facts about the movie's creation that fans have dug into -- specifically, around the grueling production schedule, and Kubrick's manic directorial habits. 

There is so much to learn about The Shining that will make viewing even more fascinating. The behind-the-scenes tidbits about the movie will shock fans. A number of the actors have come forward about their experiences on set, some with positive feedback, and others absolutely hating their time with the director. Kubrick stopped at almost nothing to get his movie in perfect shape, and it certainly paid off. 

For those who haven't seen it, The Shining follows the Torrance family -- Jack (Jack Nicholson), Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and her son, Danny (Danny Lloyd) -- as they inhabit a mysterious and isolated hotel deep in the Colorado wilderness. Jack, a writer with a serious case of writer's block, has become the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, so he brings his family to live there. Unfortunately, the hotel has dark, supernatural secrets that feed on the Torrances' familial problems. Danny already has psychic visions and is plagued by horrific visuals and apparitions. Meanwhile, Jack is slowly succumbing to the madness inflicted by the haunted hotel. This leads to him terrorizing his family in the most manic and despicable ways possible. 

In honor of The Shining turning 40, here are some tidbits about the film people might not know.

  • Danny Lloyd Quit Acting After 'The Shining'

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    Danny Lloyd quit acting after his experience on The Shining. Now, at 45, Lloyd is a biology professor in Kentucky. Though he's no longer in the acting biz, Lloyd did reveal a little tidbit about his time filming The Shining: He came up with the scary finger wiggle.

    Apparently, when Danny speaks to his imaginary friend, Tony -- who is actually a vision of a ghost -- it was the child actor's idea to speak to his finger, according to his acting coach. There's something extremely off-putting about the child wiggling his finger, and of course whispering the iconic "Redrum." 

  • The Snowy Maze Wasn't Actually Snow

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    Jack Nicholson in 'The Shining' (1980)
    Warner Brothers via Getty Images

    Reportedly, the snowy maze wasn't comprised of snow at all but 900 tons of salt and Styrofoam. The scene in which Jack drudges through the snow dragging his ax is one of the most famous in cinematic history. However, instead of being filmed in the frigid Colorado winter, it was made with some movie magic. That just makes the acting skills of Nicholson even more impressive that we believed he was actually freezing. 

  • Nicholson Only Ate Cheese Sandwiches

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    In order to really capture Jack's torture throughout the movie, Jack Nicholson subjected himself to his own version of torture. For two weeks of the grueling production of the movie, Nicholson only ate his least favorite food: cheese sandwiches. This tactic put him in the perfect agitated state to fill the role. 

    Nicholson, an Oscar-winner, truly will go to any end for a part. 

  • Shelley Duvall Lost Her Hair During Production

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    Shelley Duvall In 'The Shining' (1980)
    Warner Brothers via Getty Images

    One actor who had the hardest time on the set was Shelley Duvall who played the family matriarch, Wendy. Kubrick went to extreme lengths to make the actor feel isolated on set, and it seriously affected her mental health. In an interview with Dr. Phil in 2016, Duvall explained just how badly filming affected her

    "I guess this is what most people know me for, right?" she said. "And look, I won't get into too much detail now, but that film was hell to be a part of." 

  • Lloyd Didn't Know It Was a Horror Movie

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    Danny Lloyd was just a sweet 6-year-old kid at the time of filming, so he had no idea he was making a horror movie. As Kubrick explained, everything the child actor filmed was a part of a family drama in a hotel. To shield him during the scary parts, Danny was pulled from set during the filming of the creepiest scenes in the movie. Lloyd even watched a watered-down version of the movie until he saw the original when he was 10 years old. 

    No wonder he stopped acting!

  • Stephen King Hated the Movie

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    Stephen King wrote 'The Shining' and disapproved of the film.
    Ida Mae Astute/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

    Author of The Shining book, Stephen King has infamously had issue with the horror movie classic. In an interview with The Paris Review in 2006, King revealed that he thought the movie was "too cold." He said the film had, "No sense of emotional investment in the family whatsoever on his part." Plus, he thought the treatment of the part of Wendy was "insulting to women."

  • Production Lasted 250 Days

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    Jack Nicholson in 'The Shining' (1980)
    Warner Brothers via Getty Imags

    At the time, The Shining had one of the longest-running production schedules in movie history -- mostly because of Kubrick's perfectionist nature, and his willingness to reshoot countless times. Stanley Kubrick revolutionized a lot of the horror genre and was one of the first to use a Steadicam. Initially, The Shining was supposed to have 100 shoot days, but that quickly racked up to 250 -- or about 13 months. Kubrick shot the entire film in mostly chronological order, which is rare in the film industry. 

  • Kubrick's Secretary Typed the Same Line 500 Times

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    Talk about meticulous! Stanley Kubrick wanted the film to look perfect no matter what language it was filmed in -- so he had his secretary rewrite Jack's manuscripts (all 500 pages of them), which feature the iconic line, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Margaret Warrington, the secretary, ended up rewriting the same line four times in four languages. 

  • The Twins Considered Nicholson a 'Father Figure'

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    While many people on set complained of abuse and hard days on the set, the creepy twins -- played by Lisa and Louise Burns -- have nothing but positive experiences to share. The Burns twins, who play the Grady sisters, said in an interview with The Daily Mail that they enjoyed their time on set. Even though Nicholson played a sociopathic murderer in the movie, in real life, he was pleasant to the children. The Burns sisters even called him a "mentor" and a "father-figure." 

  • Nicholson Took Naps on Set

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    The Burns sisters also remember Nicholson taking naps in between scenes on set. Nicholson had the taxing job of creating the crazed maniac and had to work every day. Plus, he was jetting back and forth to the US from London to visit his girlfriend at the time, Anjelica Huston. Apparently, Nicholson wanted Huston to play the role of Wendy, but we can't imagine anyone else fulfilling that role other than Duvall. 

  • Duvall Had To Do 100 Takes of a Single Scene

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    One of the most difficult moments in Duvall's time on set was having to film the mentally exhausting baseball bat scene 127 times. In the scene, Wendy swings a baseball bat at her deranged husband who is advancing on her on a giant staircase. Wendy looks totally and completely drained in the scene, and that's because she was in real life. The record-breaking scene became known as the most retakes of a single movie scene with spoken dialogue.

  • Kubrick Questioned If King Believes in Heaven or Hell

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    Stanley Kubrick directed 'The Shining' (1980)
    Getty Images

    While prepping for filming, Kubrick called King to get some personal insight. King revealed in an NPR interview that Kubrick asked him if he believed in heaven or hell. King said, "I can remember talking to the late Stanley Kubrick, who called when he was getting ready to start filming The Shining. And whatever else you could say about him, he was a thinking cat." 

    He continued:

    "So he said to me, 'Stephen, don't you feel that anybody who tells a ghost story is basically an optimist because that presupposes the idea that we go on, that we go on into another life?' And I said, 'well, yes, I can see that, but what about hell?' ... And there's this long pause on the other end of the line. And then Stanley Kubrick said in this very stiff voice 'I don't believe in hell.'"

    Stanley Kubrick died of a heart attack in 1999. 

  • Nicholson Improvised a Lot of His Lines

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    One of the most quoted and iconic lines in the movie is when Nicholson bursts through the bathroom door with his ax and shouts, "Here's Johnny!" -- and that line was actually an idea of Nicholson's. (Fun fact: It's based on Ed McMahon's catchphrase that he used on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.) Of course, the UK-native Kubrick didn't recognize it, and decided to keep it in the final cut of the movie. 

  • It Took Three Days To Film the 'Here's Johnny' Scene

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    Another testament to just how long and exhausting the filming process was is the film's most recognizable scene. The iconic moments -- like when Jack bursts through the bathroom door with an ax -- were not an easy feat. Filming took three days, and Nicholson broke down 60 doors. After each take, the production team would have to clean up the mess and put up a new door. 

  • Scatman Crothers Broke Down in One Scene

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    Crothers, who played hotel cook Hallorann, was an inexperienced actor. He was known as a musician, but being a friend of Nicholson's in real life, he took on the role. In one scene, where Hallorann talks to Danny about his recently deceased grandmother, the filming drove Crothers to tears. The scene took 148 takes and broke a world record. Crothers reportedly cried to Kubrick, "What do you want Stanley? What do you want?"

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