I don’t know how to drive, so when I went to Oregon in 2016 I had to convince some friends that borrowing a car to go up Mount Hood and see the Timberline Lodge would be “fun”. If the name isn’t familiar, the hotel probably isn’t: The Timberline is modeled after the Overlook’s façade in Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic “The Shining.” It’s where Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) takes a job as a winter caretaker, accompanied by his wife (Shelley Duvall) and psychically gifted son (Danny Lloyd), and where, under the hotel’s malevolent influence, he attempts to axe murder his family. For me, if not for my friends, it was an exciting day.
I am not alone in my mania. Legion are fans of “The Shining”, spellbound by its mysteries, all of which seem to encourage obsessive attention. Rodney Ascher and Tim Kirk’s “Room 237” (2012) offered a glimpse into some of the more outlandish fan theories: Did Kubrick fake the moon landings? (No) Is the movie surreptitiously dealing with the genocide of Native Americans? (Actually… maybe a little.)
I recently spoke with someone whose love for “The Shining” leaves mine on the slopes. Lee Unkrich, the Oscar-winning director of “Toy Story 3” and “Coco,” has been called “the most important ‘The Shining’ fan in the world.” He is the “caretaker” of a long duration Tumblr dedicated to the movie. and now the author of‘The Shining’ by Stanley Kubrick,‘” he ultimate guide for completionists to the tradition of the film and the visual ephemeral. Written with JW Rinzler, it is based on extensive interviews and archival research and is released by Taschen as part of a luxurious box set, with a 900-page “making of” as its centerpiece. (The first print run of this $1,500 behemoth has already sold out, but based on the success of Taschen’s other Kubrick books, it seems safe to predict a more affordable trade edition soon.)
Packed with never-before-seen materials and photographs (Unkrich estimates that 75% of the images submitted, excluding film stills, will be new even to serious enthusiasts), this collector’s dream sets a new high bar for Kubrick fetishism. . Unkrich and I chatted before a March 17 screening of “The Shining” at the Academy Museum that will officially release the box set, his excitement hasn’t waned even after more than a decade of writing the book and more than 40 years since it was first recorded in Overlook.
“I first saw ‘The Shining’ when I was 12 years old,” says Unkrich. “I grew up with my mom taking me to a lot of movies that were probably too old for me.”
For the imaginative only child from a “difficult marriage,” the film struck a personal chord. She soon acquired the Stephen King book on which she is based and an obsession was born. But it wasn’t just that he identified with the material. Kubrick suggests, designed “The Shining” to obsess. “There’s an anecdote in the book that I love where Stanley has just finished a take and he turns to a crew member and winks and says, ‘Let the French film critics figure that out.’” .
Kubrick is known for his perfectionism: “The Shining” has the Guinness World Record for “most repetitions of a scene with dialogue”” — and the book is filled with stories of devotion (or submission) to his haunting vision. “There are moments where you put Stanley first and you put yourself second,” says focus puller Douglas Milsome, whose hand once froze on the camera lens during filming. When one of the sets burned down at the end of production, Danny Lloyd worried that they would be there for years while it was rebuilt. Even after the film finished, Kubrick’s personal assistant Leon Vitali traveled to Malta, where Duvall was filming “Popeye,” to record a “wild track” for the snowball sequence, only for Kubrick to decide that he didn’t need it.
But it’s Kubrick’s relationship with Duvall that gets the most attention today. Her daughter Vivian captured footage of them arguing in her 1980 documentary “The Shining,” and more recent talk of cruel behavior has overshadowed the film. But based on his interviews with people who were there, Unkrich says such rumors have been “consistently exaggerated exponentially over the years.” Kubrick was perfectly happy that their clashes were featured in Vivian’s documentary, he notes.
“It was right at the end of production and they were all crisp,” says Unkrich. “Were things done that maybe wouldn’t be right, by today’s standards? Yes probably. It was in the late 1970s.” (As recently as 2021Duvall said that Kubrick had been “very warm and friendly” with her.)
Preconceptions about Kubrick are challenged by other revelations in the book. “People put Stanley on a pedestal as this brilliant filmmaker, which of course he was,” Unkrich told me, “but they also imagine that it was all figured out ahead of time and that at the time he executed these movies smoothly. And that’s not what happened.”
As in Michael Benson’s fabulous “Space Odyssey,” about the making of “2001” and Matthew Modine’s “Full Metal Jacket Diary,” readers will learn that Kubrick began filming without a clear idea of how the film would end. . “He didn’t even know he was going to have (psychic chef Dick) Hallorann killed until much later in production,” reveals Unkrich. “I think these stories…are emblematic and illustrative of something that really transcends the Stanley Kubrick mythos.”
The process of writing the book was also long and at times complicated. Rinzler and Unkrich initially made two separate proposals to the Kubrick estate, but once they came forward they quickly discovered they were “kindred souls.” The dive into the Kubrick archive gave Unkrich an idea of the breadth of what they would find, though it took many years to track down the dozens of people interviewed for the book, including Duvall, who hadn’t performed since 2002, and Lloyd, for then a teacher in Kentucky.
It was Unkrich’s relationship with Lloyd and his parents that led to the “mother lode” that distinguishes the book from earlier reviews of “The Shining”. Her family album, and hundreds of negatives from her basement, gave the writers a cache of material they had never dreamed of (“my jaw hit the floor,” recalls Unkrich). Other discoveries in the Kubrick archive included negatives of scenes that were later cut from the film, such as an epilogue set in a hospital that was seen briefly at early screenings but was hand-removed from each print before the film was released. in all the country. These images are just a few of the book’s major contributions to Kubrick studies.
The 12 years of gestation of the book have not been without sadness. Rinzler passed away in 2021. (“He will always be the caretaker,” Unkrich writes fondly in the acknowledgments.) Vitali, whose devotion to Kubrick was captured in the documentary “Filmworker,” died last summer. “He had been carrying the mantle of Stanley’s wishes for so long,” recalls Unkrich.
Kubrick died in 1999. Given his legendary attention to detail, it seems likely that he would have approved of the methods that produced this new “Shining” story. And while this private man may have been less interested in such an in-depth examination of his trial, he surely couldn’t have had concerns regarding the sanctity of the film’s mysteries. Despite all the revelations, for “The Shining” fans, he will never fully reveal his secrets.