‘The Shining’: Why Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall Couldn’t Stop Giggling During the Serious Scenes

The Shining is known for its grueling behind-the-scenes stories. It’s one of those horror movies where things became even scarier when the cameras stopped rolling. It seems as though there are never-ending stories about how rough the film was to shoot due to Stanley Kubrick’s demanding directions.

But as tricky as the filming process often was, Shelley Duvall admits that she and Jack Nicholson couldn’t stop giggling throughout the serious scenes. Keep reading to find out more fascinating behind-the-scenes details about The Shining.

Jack Nicholson And Joe Turkel In 'The Shining'
Jack Nicholson with bartender Joe Turkel in lobby card for the film ‘The Shining’, 1980 | Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Shelley Duvall calls Jack Nicholson her ‘rock’

While it’s no secret that Duvall had a rough experience while shooting The Shining, there was one person she could always rely on at the end of the day. That person was Jack Nicholson. While Nicholson’s character would gladly swing an ax her way, they got along swimmingly in real life. Duvall says that the two would have a scotch and kick back at the end of a long workday. Usually, they’d discuss their acting methods and how they best wanted to portray their relationship.

Shelley Duvall
Shelley Duvall | Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

RELATED: ‘The Shining’: Shelley Duvall Said She and Stanley Kubrick Would ‘Explode’ at Each Other While Filming

While Duvall suggested their characters display more affection for each other, Nicholson was set on Jack Torrance being disgruntled right off the bat. Duvall reveals in an interview with comingsoon.net, “I actually wanted Jack and Wendy to be a bit more affectionate with each other in the beginning, but Jack wanted the total opposite. He wanted to be annoyed and uncaring toward Wendy straight after the job interview scene. I got my way during one scene, though, when we were being shown through the hotel, and we are holding hands, that was my idea. That wasn’t originally in the script.”

Stephen King agreed with Duvall. In the book version of The Shining, Wendy and Jack are a lot more loving and affectionate with one another. This is especially true at the beginning before Jack Torrance goes mad. One of the reasons King was so famously upset with Kubrick’s adaptation was because he felt as though Nicholson was crazy right off the bat. 

He makes this clear in an interview with Rolling Stone when he says, “As far as I was concerned, when I saw the movie, Jack was crazy from the first scene. I had to keep my mouth shut at the time. It was a screening, and Nicholson was there. But I’m thinking to myself the minute he’s on the screen, “Oh, I know this guy. I’ve seen him in five motorcycle movies, where Jack Nicholson played the same part.”

Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall had the giggles during the rough scenes

Sometimes, things got so stressful for Duvall that she began losing chunks of hair. She says filming The Shining was the most grueling on-set experience that she has ever had. But believe it or not, despite all the difficulties, Duvall and Nicholson were able to laugh through the pain. 

“Jack and I often got together after a day of shooting and had a Scotch,” she reveals. “And we would discuss different acting techniques for the next day. He was very sympathetic toward me because I had such a hard time on the set. It was often hard to do the very serious scenes with him because we’d often get the giggles. We got along really well, though.”

Even Stanley Kubrick and Shelley Duvall had their fun moments together

Shelley Duvall
Shelley Duvall | NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Kubrick and Duvall notoriously failed to get along during the filming process. Yet the actor admits that she and Kubrick could ease up from time to time and enjoy a laugh together. She tells comingsoon.net, “Stanley really gets a bad reputation sometimes, but he was a perfectionist. We had our moments when we laughed and joked around on set.”