Alternate Endings Revealed for Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING and Why They Were Changed
Regardless of how much Stephen King hated Stanely Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining, movie fans still love the film! There are several different between the book and the film and one of the biggest is how the story ends. In the book, the Overlook Hotel burns to the ground. In the film, Jack ends up freezing to death while chasing down Danny through the hedge maze.
As you'd imagine, the screenplay for the Kubrick's film went through several different drafts with a variation of different ways the story would play out and end. Diana Johnson was the co-writer and producer on the film and while talking to Entertainment Weekly, she said that they discussed and explored several endings for the film before they settled on Jack freezing to death and Wendy and Danny escaping in the snow cat.
The other variations of the ending included Wendy killing Jack, Jack killing Danny, and even one in which Dick Hallorann was one of the real villains of the story. As a big fan of this film, this is so fascinating to me. Johnson reveals the details of these alternate ends saying:
"The ending was changed almost entirely because Kubrick found it a cliche to just blow everything up. He thought there might be something else that would be metaphorically and visually more interesting … The talkiness [of the book] was also discussed. A lot of the script was pared down during filming, too — especially for Wendy, who had many more things to say in the script than she did in the film.
"One benefit of not 'killing off' the menacing Overlook Hotel was that Kubrick allowed the story’s masterfully constructed supernatural villain to continue haunting the viewer’s imagination long after watching the film. But one of Kubrick’s mandates for re-shaping the final act was that an innocent human character had to die…
"In the book, nobody gets killed except Jack. And Kubrick really thought somebody should get killed — because it was a horror movie. So we weighed the dramatic possibilities of killing off various characters and did different treatments. We actually talked it over in detail the possibility of having different people getting killed.
"Even Danny, at one point, was briefly considered for the ending’s tragic victim…
"Danny’s relationship with his father was the thing that most interested Kubrick. He was emotionally involved with the point of view of a little boy who is afraid of his father. I remember Kubrick saying that visually he could imagine a small yellow chalk outline on the floor like that they put around the bodies of victims. And Kubrick liked that image. But he was too tender-hearted for that ending and thought it would be too terrible to do …
"In one of the treatments — which has leaked online — Wendy kills Jack in self-defense in the third act. Then Hallorann arrives, and ALSO gets possessed by the hotel and becomes the finale’s surprise 'big bad.' It was an intriguing twist that the murderous figure the audience is anticipating the whole movie was not really his father, but rather the hero the audience assumed was coming to the rescue.
"That’s right. We always had the powers of the hotel in mind. So the hotel would have been warping Hallorann’s mind for quite a long time. It was an attractive idea that Hallorran is good [throughout the film] then he gets there and is possessed by the hotel into a monster surrogate for Jack. Kubrick and Johnson eventually landed on a semi-final plan that contained some now-familiar beats: Jack kills Hallorran shortly after he arrives, Jack chases Danny in the hedge maze, Jack freezes to death and then we see a seemingly impossible photograph in the hotel’s Colorado Lounge showing Jack at a July 4 ball in 1921.
"The photograph was always in the ending. The maze chase grew out of the topiary animal hedges that move around in the book. Kubrick thought topiary animals might be too goofy and cute, but he always liked the idea of a maze … [For Hallorann’s death] Kubrick didn’t want it to be too gory, he thought a lot of blood was vulgar. He wanted it to be mostly psychological. Of course, there’s the image of the blood coming out of the elevators, but that was more ornamental and metaphorical — it’s different than seeing people get stabbed. The elevator opening was an image he had in mind all along and had even prepared it by the time we were writing. So there was some discussion about trying to find a way of ending it without a lot of blood."
I think the ending they ended up going with was solid and creepy. Seeing Jack frozen to death in the hedge maze was insanely creepy and the image is burned into my mind forever. What do you all think of Kubrick's ending compared to the other options that were being explored?