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“Hi, Lloyd. Little Slow Tonight, Isn’t It?”

In the early 70s, Stanley Kubrick was being considered to direct The Exorcist, but he ended up not getting the job because he only wanted to direct the film if he could also produce it. Kubrick later told a friend that he wanted –

“to make the world’s scariest movie, involving a series of episodes that would play upon the nightmare fears of the audience.”

Following the completion of the poorly-received Barry Lyndon, Kubrick was struggling to find another project. He had a stack of books he would look through for ideas and his assistant recalls hearing thumps for hours on some days as Kubrick picked up a book, read it for about a minute, and then threw it against the wall. When she noticed that the thumps had stopped she went into to check on him and found him reading The Shining.

Stephen King said the title was inspired by John Lennon‘s “Instant Karma” which features the line “We all shine on.”

According to Kubrick’s biographer David Hughes, King wrote an entire draft of a screenplay for The Shining. However, Kubrick didn’t even deem it worth a glance, describing King’s writing “weak.” Instead, Kubrick worked with Diane Johnson on the screenplay because he was a fan of her book, The Shadow Knows. The two ended up spending eleven weeks working on the script.

King says that, while Jack Nicholson was always Kubrick’s first choice for the part of Jack Torrance, Robert De Niro, Robin Williams and Harrison Ford were also considered.

Nicholson wanted Jessica Lange for the role of Wendy and even suggested it to Kubrick. Kubrick was adamant though, he wanted Shelly Duvall as his leading lady. Despite championing her for the role, Kubrick was also Duvall’s biggest critic.

Danny Lloyd, who plays their son Danny, was 5 years old when he made the film, Kubrick told him that they were filming a drama. He didn’t even see the actual film until he was 16.

King despised the adaptation. In 1983, he told Playboy –

“I’d admired Kubrick for a long time and had great expectations for the project, but I was deeply disappointed in the end result. Parts of the film are chilling, charged with a relentlessly claustrophobic terror, but others fell flat.”

Kubrick was notorious for his lengthy film productions. Sources differ on how long shooting itself lasted, but it probably went on for almost a year. Around the time he was making the film, Kubrick said –

“There is a wonderful suggestive timeliness [that the structure] of making a movie imposes on your life. I’m doing exactly the same as I was doing when I was 18 and making my first movie. It frees you from any other sense of time.”

“Redrum. Redrum. REDRUM!”

The casting call for the Grady daughters never specified it required twins, but when Lisa and Louise turned up, Kubrick realized that twins were, “just spookier” and they got the job.

Kubrick gave each of the girls tiny bottles of fake blood on their Birthday. He called it Kensington Gore (“Kensington Gore” has become a generic term for stage blood) and it was the same blood the twins had to lie in when they were axed to death by Torrance.

Kubrick was infamous for making last-minute changes to scripts. Script pages would often change from day-to-day by both he and co-screenwriter Johnson filing constant re-writes. The practice was so frequent that Nicholson refused to learn any of his lines until he got on set because he knew that they would change just before shooting.

Kubrick treated his lead actress, Duvall, notoriously bad on the set of The Shining. She characterized working with Kubrick as –

“excruciating, almost unbearable.”

The director harangued her for minor mistakes and forced her to endure a huge number of takes. The scene where she walks back up the stairs, crying and swinging a bat at Jack, was shot at least 35 times. Some report it was shot more than 100 times. It became one of her most powerful scenes, her hands shaking as she holds the bat, her eyes and nose red from actual crying.

Kubrick was constantly rude and dismissive to her on the set, often telling her she was wasting everyone’s time. He was known to instruct crew members not to show Duvall any compassion. The result was that Duvall looked stressed, tired, and haggard, the very performance Kubrick wanted. It took four months for Kubrick to film the last hour of the movie, which required Duvall to be hysterical for almost all of her scenes. By the end of filming she was ill and her hair was falling out.

Kubrick took more than 60 takes of the scene where the camera simply slowly zooms in on Scatman Crothers in his bedroom. 70-year-old Crothers became so exasperated with Kubrick’s compulsive style that he broke down and cried, prompting Nicholson to swear he’d never work with Kubrick again.

No one is quite sure whether Kubrick typed 500 pages of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Kubrick didn’t go to the prop department with this task, using his own typewriter to make the pages. It was a typewriter that had built-in memory, so it could have turned out the pages without an actual person.

The sentence actually changes meaning for foreign translations of the film, at Kubrick’s request. In German versions, the phrase translates to: “Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” The Spanish translation is: “Although one will rise early, it won’t dawn sooner.” In Italian: “He who wakes up early meets a golden day.”

Nicholson is responsible for the only line from The Shining to make it onto AFI’s Top 100 Movie Quotes. While filming the scene in which Jack breaks down a bathroom door with an axe screaming “Here’s Johnny!”, Nicholson shouted out the famous Ed McMahon line from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The catchphrase worked and stayed in the film.

In addition to improvising one of the most famous lines of the film, Nicholson actually wrote an entire scene. He felt a particularly deep understanding of Torrance’s berating of his wife while he is trying to write. Nicholson explained in an interview with The New York Times –

“That’s what I was like when I got my divorce,”

“I was under the pressure of being a family man with a daughter and one day I accepted a job to act in a movie in the daytime and I was writing a movie at night and I’m back in my little corner and my beloved wife Sandra walked in on what was, unbeknownst to her, this maniac—and I told Stanley about it and we wrote it into the scene.”

In the book, the events are set in Room 217, not Room 237. Oregon’s Timberline Lodge, which was used as the hotel’s exterior for some shots, is to blame for this swap. The Lodge’s management asked for the room number to be changed so that guests wouldn’t avoid Room 217. There is no Room 237 in the hotel, so that number was chosen. The website of The Timberline Lodge notes –

“Curiously and somewhat ironically, room #217 is requested more often than any other room at Timberline.”


All the interiors were specially built on a soundstage in Elstree London, England. The Timberline Lodge, which was used for the exterior shots, requested that they not use room 217, as it is in the book, fearing that nobody would want to stay there. Kubrick changed the script to use the non-existent room number 237.

“Here’s Johnny!”

Because of the intense heat generated from the lighting used to recreate window sunlight, the lounge set caught fire and burnt down. That part of the Elstree studios was eventually rebuilt with a higher ceiling and ended up being used by Steven Spielberg for the snake-filled tomb in Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

The maze itself was made of plywood boxes with chicken wire stapled to them and hedge branches woven into the wire. The set was huge, and while the crew and cast were given maps of the maze, they frequently became disoriented anyway. The actors often had to shout for help, which would usually be met by Kubrick’s laughter booming out from loudspeakers hidden in the maze.

When it came time to film the scene where Jack chases Wendy and Danny through the maze, the hedges were taken down and erected on a soundstage. To create the snow, 900 tons of dairy salt was spread on the ground while pulverized styrofoam was sprinkled from giant hoppers suspended above the set. To make it look misty and foggy, vaporized motor oil was sprayed, which required the crew to wear gas masks.

Cinematographer Garrett Brown remembered the salt was particularly difficult to walk on and the masks made breathing difficult. To add to the misery, the halogen quartz lighting created a sweltering temperature, which Duvall and Lloyd had to run in while wearing heavy winter coats. Antiperspirant was mixed into their makeup to reduce sweating, but they could only shoot for a couple of minutes before they had to stop and strip off their winter clothing. Brown found his Steadicam too heavy to run with in the heat and eventually stripped it down to the bare essentials.

The film originally had an alternative ending: the last shot of the party dissolved to a hospital scene where Wendy is in bed and Danny is playing in the waiting room. Ullman tells her that they have been unable to locate Jack’s body. Ullman gives Danny a ball to play with as he leaves — the one that mysteriously rolled into the hallway earlier. Kubrick removed it, and the scene hasn’t been seen since, though the screenplay was dug up recently.

One of the actors arrived on set with a chess set, intending to play during the breaks. Kubrick was an avid chess player who used to hustle chess games for money. On an already delayed shoot, he suspended filming and played chess for hours instead. He won every game.

The MPAA did not allow blood to be shown in any trailers that would be seen by all ages. Kubrick persuaded them that the blood was rusty water and got the trailer passed.

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