There's been talk of Warner Bros. developing a prequel film to Stephen King's classic horror story The Shining for years called Overlook Hotel. The book is one of my favorite King novels and the Stanley Kubrick film is a horror movie classic.
The idea of a prequel is intriguing to me, and the last thing we heard about it was that was that Mark Romanek (Never Let Me Go, One Hour Photo) would be directing. We've also previously heard that the movie will be based on King's original prologue to The Shining, which was cut from the book prior to its publication in 1977. We also learned that the film will tell the "origin story of the haunted hotel through the eyes of its first owner, Bob T. Watson, a robber baron at the turn of the 20th century."
We now have some additional information from screenwriter James Vanderbilt. During an interview with Collider, he says that the movie will be its own film.
“You want a real filmmaker like Mark doing it… Honestly I think people will really be excited about it, because it’s not like ’20 Years Before The Shining!’. I don’t want to give too much away about the story but the way [screenwriter] Glen [Mazzara] cracked it and the way Mark has sort of cracked it, it’s completely it’s own film, which I think is super smart. It’s not like, ‘When Scatman Crothers was young, he…’ it’s not that.”
Vanderbilt went on to talk about the kind of filmmaker that Romanek is, and that this prequel is going to be exactly what his vision is, and that he won't let anyone compromise that vision.
“One of the things that’s amazing about [Mark] is that he’s a strong filmmaker with his own convictions, and Mark is gonna make the movie Mark is gonna make… I think there’s something wonderful about a director who says, ‘No, this is the film.’ Fincher was the same way. It’s like, ‘This is the movie I wanna make. If you don’t wanna make that movie, that’s totally cool, then we won’t make the movie.’ And now as someone who’s directed a film, that’s kinda what you want. You want the captain of the ship to be like, ‘I know what the film is, I know how to make it, let’s go do it.’”
Romanek is a great director, and the fact that he has a vision for this film that he's willing to fight for is encouraging. For those of you who haven't had a chance to read the deleted prologue, you can read the first part below. To read the full thing, click here. The movie most likely won't be a direct adaptation of the prologue, but from what we've heard in the past, it was probably inspired by it. I'm actually really excited to see how this turns out.
Scene 1: The Third Floor of a Resort Hotel Fallen Upon Hard Times
It was October 7, 1922, and the Overlook Hotel had closed its doors on the end of another season. When it re-opened in mid-May of 1923, it would be under new management. Two brothers named Clyde and Cecil Brandywine had bought it, good old boys from Texas with more old cattle money and new oil money than they knew what to do with.
Bob T. Watson stood at the huge picture window of the Presidential Suite and stared out at the climbing heights of the Rockies, where the aspens had now shaken most of their leaves, and hoped the Brandywine brothers would fail. Since 1915 the hotel had been owned by a man named James Parris. Parris had begun his professional life as a common shyster in 1880. One of his close friends rose to the presidency of a great western railroad, a robber baron among robber barons. Parris grew rich on his friend’s spoils, but had none of his friend’s colorful flamboyancy. Parris was a gray little man with an eye always turned to an inward set of accounting books. He would have sold the Overlook anyway, Bob T. Watson thought as he continued to stare out the window. The little shyster bastard just happened to drop dead before he got a chance.
The man who had sold the Overlook to James Parris had been Bob T. Watson himself. One of the last of the Western giants that arose in the years 1870 - 1905, Bob T. came from a family that had made a staggering fortune in silver around Placer, Colorado. They lost the fortune, rebuilt it in land speculation to the railroads, and lost most of it again in the depression of ’93 - ’94, when Bob T.’s father was gunned down in Denver by a man suspected of organizing.
Bob T. had rebuilt the fortune himself, single-handedly, in the years 1895 to 1905, and had begun searching then for something, some perfect thing, to cap his achievement. After two years of careful thought (during the interim he had bought himself a governor and a representative to the U.S. Congress), he had decided, in modest Watson fashion, to build the grandest resort hotel in America. It would stand at the roof of America, with nothing in the country at a higher altitude except the sky. It would be a playground of the national and international rich – the people that would be known three generations later as the super-rich.
Construction began in 1907, forty miles west of Sidewinder, Colorado, and supervised by Bob T. himself.
"And do you know what?" Bob T. said aloud in the third-floor suite, which was the grandest set of apartments in the grandest resort hotel in America. "Nothing ever went right after that. Nothing."
The Overlook had made him old. He had been forty-three when ground was broken in 1907, and when construction was completed two years later (but too late for them to be able to open the hotel’s doors until 1910), he was bald. He had developed an ulcer. One of his two sons, the one he had loved best, the one that had been destined to carry the Watson banner forward into the future, had died in a stupid riding accident. Boyd had tried to jump his pony over a pile of lumber where the topiary now was, and the pony had caught its back feet and broken its leg. Boyd had broken his neck.
There had been financial reverses on other fronts. The Watson fortune, which had looked so secure in 1905, had begun to look decidedly shaky in that autumn of 1909. There had been a huge investment in munitions in anticipation of a foreign war that did not happen, and had not happened until 1914. There had been a dishonest accountant in the timbering end of the Watson operation, and although he had been sent to jail for twenty long years, he had done half a million dollars worth of damage first.
Perhaps disheartened by the death of his oldest son, Bob T. had become unwisely convinced that the way to recoup was the way that his father had couped in the first place: silver. There were advisors who contended against this, but after the calumny of the head accountant, who was the son of one of his father’s best friends, Bob T. trusted his advisers less and less. He had refused to believe that Colorado’s mining days were over. A million dollars in dry investments hadn’t convinced him. Two million had. And by the time the Overlook opened its doors in the late spring of 1910, Bob T. realized that he was precariously close to being in shirt-sleeves again … and building on the ruins at the age of forty-five might be an impossibility.
The Overlook was his hope.
The Overlook Hotel, built against the roof of the sky, with its topiary of hedge animals to enchant the children, its playground, its long and lovely croquet course, its putting green for the gentlemen, its tennis courts outside and shuffleboard courts inside, its dining room with the western exposure looking out over the last rising jagged peaks of the Rockies, its ballroom facing east, where the land dropped into green valleys of spruce and pine. The Overlook with its one hundred and ten rooms, its staff of specially trained domestics, and not one but two French chefs. The Overlook with its lobby as wide and grand as three Pullman cars, the grand staircase rising to the second floor, and its ponderous neo-Victorian furniture, all capped by the huge crystal chandalier which hung over the stairwell like a monster diamond.
Bob T. had fallen in love with the hotel as an idea, and his love had deepened as the hotel took shape, no longer a mental thing but an actual edifice with strong, clean lines and infinite possibility. His wife had grown to hate it – at one point in 1908 she told him that she would have preferred competing with another woman, that at least she would have known how to cope with – but he had dismissed her hate as a hysterical female reaction to Boyd’s death on the grounds.
"You’re not natural on the subject," Sarah had told him. "When you look at that there, it’s like there was no sense left in you. No one can talk to you about what it’s costing, or how people are going to get here when the last sixty miles of road aren’t even paved --."
"They’ll be paved," he said quietly. "I’ll pave them."
"And how much will that cost?" Sarah asked hysterically. "Another million?"
"Nowhere near," Bob T. said. "But if it did, I’d pay it."
"You see? Can’t you see? You’re just not natural on the subject. It’s taken your wits, Bob T.!"
Perhaps it had at that.
The Overlook’s premier season had been a nightmare. Spring came late, and the roads were not passable until the first of June, and even then they were a nightmare of washboards and axle-smashing chuckholes and hastily-laid corduroy over stretches of jellied mud. There was more rain that year than Bob T. had ever seen before or since, climaxed by a day of snow flurries in August … black snow, the old woman called it, a terrible omen for the winter ahead. In September he had hired a contractor to pave the last twenty miles of the road that led west from Estes Park to Sidewinder, and the forty miles from Sidewinder to the hotel itself, and it had turned into an expensive, round-the-clock operation to finish the two roads before the snow covered them for the long, long winter. The winter his wife had died.
But the roads and the abbreviated season had not been the worst of the Overlook’s first year. No. The hotel had been officially opened on June 1, 1910 at a ribbon-cutting ceremony presided over by Bob T.’s pet congressman. That day had been hot and clear and bright, the kind of day the Denver Post must have had in mind when they took "’Tis a privilege to live in Colorado" as their motto. And when the pet congressman cut the ribbon, the wife of one of the first guests fainted dead away. The applause that had begun at the cutting of the ribbon dried up in little exclamations of alarm and concern. Smelling salts had brought her around, of course, but she had come back to the world with such an expression of dazed terror on her vapid little face that Bob T. could cheerfully have strangled her.
"I thought I saw something in the lobby," she said. "It didn’t look like a man."
Later she admitted that it must have been the unexpected heat after all the chilly weather, but of course by then the damage had been done.
Nor was the tale of that day’s reverses all told.
One of the two chefs had scalded his arm while preparing lunch and had to be taken to the hospital closest by, far away in Boulder. Mrs. Arkinbauer, the wife of the meat-packing king, had slipped while toweling herself dry after her bath and had broken her wrist. And finally, the crowning touch, at dinner that night, Bob T.’s pet congressman swallowed a piece of heavy Western sirloin strip steak the wrong way and choked to death in the full and horrified view of two hundred guests, nearly all of them there at Bob T. Watson’s personal invitation.
The pet congressman had clawed and clutched at his throat, he had turned first red and then purple, he had actually begun to stagger among the assembled company in his death-throes, bouncing from table to table, his wildly swinging arms knocking over wine-glasses and vases full of freshly cut flowers, his eyes bulging hideously at the assembled revellers. It was as if, one of Bob T.’s friends told him much later in private, Poe’s story about the Red Death had come to life in front of all of them. And perhaps Bob T.’s chance to make his beloved hotel a success had died on that very first night, had died a jittering, twitching, miserable death right alongside the pet congressman and in full view of those assembled.