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Stephen King fans are well aware of how much the author dislikes Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining. While the King of Horror usually doesn’t hold strong opinions about his novels’ film adaptations, he is quite vocal about Kubrick’s classic. 

Despite the massive praise the film has received, King doesn’t understand why people like it so much. Although he thinks Kubrick’s movie is visually beautiful, King has a big problem with the characters. He is not a fan of the cast, and he has expressed this on multiple occasions. But why? What’s wrong with having Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall for the roles of Jack and Wendy? Keep reading to find out. 

The Shining Typewriter
The Shining Typewriter | Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Stephen King explains why he dislikes Kubrick’s version of his novel

There has been speculation in the past that the reason King heavily dislikes Kubrick’s film is due to jealousy. Because Kubrick’s film arguably received more attention than his novel, some fans thought the author wasn’t happy with the director getting all the credit. As it turns out, this isn’t true at all. The reason the author is so against the film is because it has no heart.

The movie gives audiences a cold feeling, while the book provides elements of warmth. In the novel, the Torrance family has its problems, of course. Yet they are still a loving unit with affectionate moments. They share lots of laughter and genuinely care about one another. Even Jack Torrance wants to do right by his family.

In the movie, we never see this. 

King tells Rolling Stone, “The book is hot, and the movie is cold; the book ends in fire and the movie in ice.”

Why Stephen King thinks Shelley Duvall was poorly cast

King is under the impression that Nicholson and Duvall were poor casting choices for the film. He had an entirely different image of what the Torrance’s would both look and act like. For example, he wrote Wendy Torrance as a blonde cheerleader-type, with a good sense of humor and a toughness to her. Interestingly, King thought Jessica Lange would be a good fit for the role instead.

But the way Kubrick portrayed Wendy was extremely “misogynistic” in his eyes. 

“It’s so misogynistic,” King reveals. “I mean, Wendy Torrance is just presented as this sort of screaming dishrag.

Stephen King also thinks Jack Nicholson was totally wrong for the role of Jack Torrance

Similarly, the Master of Horror is under the impression that Nicholson was the wrong fit for the role of Jack Torrance. In the book, the character has a lot more humanity in him. Sure, he’s a bit of a jerk with anger issues and goes crazy in the end. But there is a whole lot more buildup in his novel for him to get to that place of insanity. In the movie, he is crazy right off the bat. (Pun intended.) 


What Is Stephen King’s Favorite Movie Adaptation of One of His Books?

“In the book, there’s an actual arc where you see this guy, Jack Torrance, trying to be good, and little by little, he moves over to this place where he’s crazy,” King says. “And 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.'”