"It was the most daunting experience of my professional life, I mean by a mile," writer-director Mike Flanagan admits when it came to taking on Doctor Sleep, the film that functions simultaneously as both an adaptation of Stephen King's 2013 novel and a nearly 40-years-later follow-up to Stanley Kubrick's cinematic classic The Shining. "I idolize Kubrick, I love The Shining, I grew up with The Shining, it kind of changed what I thought a horror movie could be."
But as Flanagan told Yahoo Entertainment, he preferred not to look at the new film as a direct sequel to Kubrick’s 1980 tour-de-force, especially given King's notorious hatred of the film version of his 1977 book.
"That was just something that would keep me up all night," he said. "[So I looked at it] more as a descendent of The Shining. This film had to kind of acknowledge its parents, who I thought of Kubrick and King, and their DNA would be all over it. But beyond that, it needed to stand up on its own two feet as well."
Doctor Sleep follows the story of Danny Torrance, the big wheel-riding boy of The Shining. Now grown-up and transient, Danny (Ewan McGregor) teams with a young girl (Kyliegh Curran) to take on a cult of quasi-immortals, who using their "shine" to do some very bad things.
McGregor says he would have been skeptical of a sequel (or descendant) to The Shining had King not provided the source material.
"If he wants to take some of his characters from The Shining, and move them forward in different direction … my feeling was if Stephen King's got something to say then let's see what it is," he explained. "I think if had we tried to remake The Shining in some way, or even made a sequel to that movie that still felt like The Shining, then we would've been in trouble."
Flanagan, who previously adapted King for the hit Netflix film Gerald’s Game, acknowledges that Doctor Sleep is in some ways an attempt to reconcile King and Kubrick, who died in 1999.
"Absolutely. I'm a Constant Reader [which is what King calls his avid fans]. I've been a King fanatic since I was a kid. So he's been my hero for so much of my life. I've always felt this very strange kind of ache when I look at that gulf of difference between the Kubrick Shining and the King Shining. And [King's] feelings about [the film], which to this day, are still really clear. So yeah if there was a chance to try to bring those two paths back together in a way that celebrated both of them … just as a fan, I'm a fan first, I thought it was an irresistible opportunity. I hope we did that."
Doctor Sleep opens Friday. Watch the trailer:
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