“I gave Stanley Kubrick a live grenade”: Stephen King Blasted The Shining Adaptation, Felt Director Butchered His Novel Despite Film’s Cult Status

Stanley Kubrick’s legendary film starred Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall in the lead.

Stephen King Blasted The Shining Adaptation, Felt Director Butchered His Novel Despite Film’s Cult Status


  • Stanley Kubrick adapted the classic horror novel The Shining into a film starring Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall.
  • Kubrick reportedly changed a lot of elements from the original novel.
  • The changes irked the original author Stephen King.
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Legendary director Stanley Kubrick made one of the most influential horror films of all time The Shining. The Jack Nicholson starrer was based on the novel by notable horror novelist Stephen King. The film is still considered to be one of the best horror films of all time and has attained a cult status among horror fans.


Though it is an influential film, author Stephen King famously called it out as a bad adaptation and criticized many aspects of the film. While there were many differences in the film, Kubrick’s adaptation was disregarded by King, who does not seem to like the cult status it enjoys.

Also read:“I would’ve broken Kubrick”: Keanu Reeves Claimed He Could Have Given Stanley Kubrick A Taste Of His Own Medicine That Made Tom Cruise Miserable


How Does Stanley Kubrick’s Adaptation Differ From The Novel?

Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick, in an interview with Michael Ciment that he was always interested in the paranormal and found Stephen King’s novel The Shining to be one of the most ingenious pieces of horror writing. He said that he liked the way the psychological and the supernatural were combined in the story. That was one of the biggest changes that Kubrick made in the film.

Kubrick famously made the film ambiguous enough to make the viewers feel that all the happenings in the Overlook Hotel were happening in the protagonist Jack Torrance’s (played by Jack Nicholson) mind due to his history of alcohol abuse and cabin fever. However, Stephen King’s novel reportedly makes it quite clear that the hotel is haunted.

Also read:“How on earth did that thing come out?”: Stanley Kubrick Kept Aside His Ego to Learn One Key Trick from Ridley Scott That Left Trailblazing Director Bewildered

Stanley Kubrick on the sets of The Shining
Stanley Kubrick on the sets of The Shining

While Stanley Kubrick did not mess with the overall storyline, it was these changes in the finer details or the narrative that made the film differ heavily from the novel. Another notable difference was how he treated the protagonists of the story. The novel’s Jack Torrance had more depth due to his history of alcohol abuse and the acts of violence he commits due to his struggle with it. The story was reportedly based on King’s own struggle with alcoholism.

However, Jack Nicholson’s portrayal makes it a bit more performance-heavy and takes the nuance out of it, making him an anti-hero in the film. Even Shelly Duvall’s portrayal of his wife Wendy is treated as a one-dimensional push-over as opposed to a more nuanced take in the novel.

Also read:“The Kubrick movie was overbearing”: A Clockwork Orange Star Malcolm McDowell Regretted Working With Controlling and “Too Brutal” Director


What Was Stephen King’s Opinion On The Shining?

Stephen King
Stephen King

Despite its vast differences, The Shining has been regarded as a cult classic in the horror genre. The film features in many best-of lists and has been cited by many filmmakers as an influence. It even received a sequel by noted horror director Mike Flanagan called Doctor Sleep, which was also based on the Stephen King novel.

King has mentioned on multiple occasions that he was not happy with the film as an adaptation and had reportedly said that it was the only adaptation of his that he remembered hating. He reportedly also disapproved of the casting of Jack Nicholson as he felt that the audiences expected him to go insane due to his reputation in the film One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

Also read:“I’m Still Scarred”: Man of Steel Star Diane Lane Was Traumatized For Life After Being Exposed To Stanley Kubrick’s Film at Age 9


King mentioned in an interview with David Letterman what he felt about the adaptation,

“I feel both ways. I got to see it four times…there are an awful lot of things about that movie that I think are flawless and beautiful…then there are other times when I feel as though I’d given Stanley Kubrick a live grenade and he heroically threw his body on it.”

King mentioned in the interview that he had much less creative control over the projects once the rights were sold.

Also read:“You’re going to blame yourself”: Stanley Kubrick Saved the Life of Taxi Driver Actor Who Later Went On To Viciously Hate the Director


Written by Nishanth A

Articles Published: 850

Nishanth A is a Media, English and Psychology graduate from Bangalore. He is an avid DC fanboy and loves the films of Christopher Nolan. He has published over 400 articles on FandomWire. When he's not fixating on the entire filmography of a director, he tries to write and direct films.