Here’s Why Stanley Kubrick Ditched The Shining’s Original Book Ending
When people discuss the relationship between Stephen King’s The Shining and Stanley Kubrick’s movie adaptation, they often overlook the perspective of an essential contributor: co-screenwriter Diane Johnson.
An acclaimed novelist, Johnson was probably hired because of The Shadow Knows, her 1974 novel that mirrors The Shining in its portrait of a fractured family and a matriarch under attack. Now 82, Johnson is still an active writer—her last book was the 2014 memoir, Flyover Lives—who also happens to be available to comment on the lingering mysteries of The Shining.
Approached by Entertainment Weekly to explain why the film abandoned the novel’s explosive ending (as seen in an image from the TV remake above), Johnson attributed this to Kubrick’s intolerance for generic storytelling. “The ending was changed almost entirely because Kubrick found it a cliche to just blow everything up,” she explained. “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.”
With few flesh and blood characters involved in The Shining, there weren’t many opportunities for bloodshed, but Kubrick felt he needed at least one extra casualty. He eventually decided to take down Scatman Crothers’ Hallorann, but not until he had briefly considered a younger victim. “Danny’s relationship with his father was the thing that most interested Kubrick,” Johnson said. “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.”
For more from Johnson (and executive producer Jan Harlan), read the Entertainment Weekly article here. But first, be sure to get in the mood with the legendary teaser below: