Why Ridley Scott Favours ‘The Shining’ Novel Over Stanley Kubrick’s Film Adaptation

Jack Torrance stands at door

Ridley Scott greatly admires Stanley Kubrick’s contributions to cinema, but that’s not to say he blindly gloats over all of the legendary director’s works. When it comes to The Shining — a film that’s widely regarded as one of the best in the horror genre — the British filmmaker prefers Stephen King’s original novel.

In an interview with Deadline, Scott explained that he isn’t the biggest fan of Kubrick’s film’s portrayal of the Overlook Hotel, the haunted location where all the supernatural chaos unfolds. Scott believes that The Shining is the best novel in King’s oeuvre, as it manages to mine fear out of inherently scary rooms — an element that Kubrick’s film fails to capture.

“King’s book had a much darker and gloomy hotel. The Boiler Room is a monster in the book. All boiler rooms are scary as sh*t. Stanley chose deliberately to go very bright, very modern. And I thought, why? So immediately, it didn’t work for me. It made it an uphill battle on what was a very scary book. He didn’t really want to get into the shining, where Scatman Crothers says, you shine boy. He didn’t really use that enough.”

Scott isn’t the only person who’s taken issue with Kubrick’s classic. King himself has been very critical of the adaptation throughout the years, noting that he and Kubrick had completely different ideas for what the story should be.

Why Stephen King Dislikes Stanley Kubrick’s Adaptation

Like most movie adaptations of novels, The Shining takes some creative liberties with its source material. Understandably, authors are protective of their works, and they don’t always enjoy filmmakers’ reinterpretations of their visions. King isn’t a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece as he feels it lacks substance and heart, a view that’s seemingly echoed by the film’s small number of detractors. 

“I think The Shining is a beautiful film, and it looks terrific, and as I’ve said before, it’s like a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it. In that sense, when it opened, a lot of the reviews weren’t very favourable, and I was one of those reviewers. I kept my mouth shut at the time, but I didn’t care for it much,” King told Deadline.

According to the author, the story’s protagonist-turned-psychopath, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), has no arc in the film. In the novel, he’s portrayed as a tragic figure who eventually loses the grip on his sanity after evil forces manage to manipulate the darker elements of his human nature. The film, meanwhile, depicts him as somewhat cold and heartless from the get-go, an element that King believes prohibits the character from undergoing any significant change.

Despite his issues with Kubrick’s adaptation, King remains a fan of the filmmaker. In the same interview, he speaks about his love of Paths of Glory and Dr. Strangelove while praising Kubrick as an insular visionary.