‘The Shining’: Stephen King Hated Kubrick’s Version of Wendy: ‘She’s Basically Just There to Scream and be Stupid’

Stephen King has had many of his novels turned into films, and he likes some more than others. One critically acclaimed film based on one of his books that he does not care for is Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Despite the fact that the film is widely considered one of the great horror films of all time, King didn’t like it. While he had many reasons for this, what he hated the most about it was the depiction of the character Wendy. Here’s what King had to say about it. 

Shelley Duvall screaming, behind an ax, in 'The Shining'
Shelley Duvall In The Shining | Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ is one of the greatest horror movies ever made

Say what you want about King’s novel (and it was obviously a hit with fans), but the film was also definitely successful. Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation was massively popular. The film tells the story of a boy with psychic abilities and a man who descends into madness at the sinister Overlook Hotel. It has a score of 8.4 stars out of 10 on IMDb. It grossed $46 million on a budget of $19 million. It featured some of the most iconic shots and lines in horror movie history. 

Jack Nicholson was already a star when he appeared in the film, but his performance here definitely helped his stature as an actor grow. Nicholson’s famous “Here’s Johnny!” line has gone down as one of the most memorable images in cinema. 

Why Stephen King didn’t like Kubrick’s version of Wendy in ‘The Shining’

According to Indie Wire, King’s least favorite aspect of the movie was how Kubrick portrayed Wendy, Jack Torrance’s wife. Wendy, played by the talented actor Shelley Duvall, was written much differently in the book. 

“Shelley Duvall as Wendy is really one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film, she’s basically just there to scream and be stupid and that’s not the woman that I wrote about.”

While King’s opinion certainly has validity, the fact is that Kubrick’s adaptation of King’s book is a work of art in its own right. It may not be the same as King’s book, but he made different creative choices for his own reasons. No one can doubt King’s credentials as an author, but Kubrick is certainly no slouch as a director. It’s hard to figure out which one was right – it’s easier to chalk this up to a creative difference between two geniuses. 

‘The Shining’ film has many differences from the book

The movie may be based on the book, but there are plenty of ways in which it veers off the original course the movie set. Cinema Blend outlined some of the discrepancies between the film and the novel, including: 

  • The infamous creepy twins featured in the film aren’t in the book. 
  • One of the film’s most iconic images was the blood-filled elevator. This also isn’t in the book. 
  • Another famous image is the view from Torrance’s typewriter where he has typed the words “All words and no play make Jack a dull boy” repeatedly. This is never referenced in the book. 
  • The “Here’s Johnny!” line mentioned above? Not in the book. 
  • In the film, Jack famously freezes to death. Who can forget the image of Jack Nicholson, frozen solid, sitting there gathering freezer burn? In the novel, however, Jack is blown to smithereens in the hotel’s boiler room. 
  • The character of Wendy is a much more independent character in the book. 

King was no fan of Kubrick’s take on his material. He had multiple reasons for his distaste, but his number one reason related to Wendy. 

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