Viewers are also introduced to Abra Stone, the young woman at the center of Doctor Sleep, another child with the power to “Shine” and potentially the key to Danny’s redemption. When audiences meet Danny he’s at rock bottom, suffering from the same addiction and violent tendencies as his father before him, Flanagan explained, stating that “in a lot of ways The Shining was about alcoholism, and Doctor Sleep is about recovery.”
One of the key challenges throughout the process has been finding a way to connect the disparate parts of Shining canon. It’s public knowledge that King doesn’t like the Kubrick version, and in the novel Doctor Sleep actively challenges the continuity that was established there. It’s a complex situation that led to Flanagan and co. to carve out their own path for the new chapter. “It’s an adaptation of the novel Doctor Sleep, which is Stephen King’s sequel to his novel, The Shining. But this also exists very much in the same cinematic universe that Kubrick established in his adaptation of The Shining. Reconciling those three at times very different sources has been kind of the most challenging and thrilling part of this creatively for us.”
Flanagan is clearly aware of the huge responsibility of taking on such an iconic property, especially as a fan of both the creators who shaped it. “I’m a Stephen King fanatic, going back to my childhood. So any opportunity to play in Stephen King’s sandbox has always been a dream and an honor for me. But as a student of cinema, I idolized Kubrick and I think the kind of storm of Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick on this, for me, has been the most exciting, delightful, intimidating, nightmarish, wonderful, incredible experience that I’ve ever had professionally. It has come with more pressure than–I don’t want to say we didn’t expect it, we knew what we were getting into–but it’s been quite overwhelming in a wonderful way.”
Actually making that happen, though, had to begin at the source with a conversation with King himself. Presenting that pitch was an experience that Flanagan called “one of the most nerve wracking moments of my career.” But it went well, which is lucky as the director revealed it would never have gone forward without the author’s approval. So why was Flanagan so scared? Well, his plan included cementing the sprawling canon of both The Shining movie and both the books into one world. It’s a choice showcased in the trailer with multiple shots from the original film directly recreated by the director and his team.
The teaser hints at a new vision for Danny Torrence and the power of The Shining whilst still connecting to the classic movie, instantly recognizable geometric carpet and all. It’s a balance that has apparently been a hit with both the Kubrick estate and King himself, with Flanagan sharing that screenings of the finished films went “very well” with both audiences. “That was always the hope going in, that if there was some universe in which Stephen King and the Stanley Kubrick estate could both love this movie, that’s the dream. And threading that needle has been the source of every ulcer we’ve had for the last two years,” the director laughed.
Doctor Sleep hits cinemas on November 8th, 2019.