'Doctor Sleep': Stephen King and Kubrick estate 'loved' it, says director Mike Flanagan

Tom Beasley
Contributor

Stephen King and the estate of The Shining director Stanley Kubrick both “loved” sequel movie Doctor Sleep, according to filmmaker Mike Flanagan.

The author famously can’t stand the 1980 Stanley Kubrick adaptation of The Shining, which is a big inspiration behind Flanagan’s movie — as much a sequel to that film as it is a big screen transfer of King’s 2013 book.

Haunting of Hill House director Flanagan told Yahoo Movies UK that reconciling the differing visions of King and Kubrick was “the most daunting thing” about taking on Doctor Sleep.

Read more: Doctor Sleep avoids horror cliché

The film picks up several decades after the events of The Shining, with Danny Torrance — played by Ewan McGregor — struggling with alcoholism as he battles the trauma of what happened to him as a child.

His supernatural ‘shining’ ability is triggered when he connects with a young girl with similar abilities, who has become a target for Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and her cult of semi-immortals, sustained by feeding on powerful children.

Stephen King apparently loved 'Doctor Sleep', despite his infamous dislike of Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of 'The Shining'. (Credit: Warner Bros/Jeff Neira/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)

Flanagan’s take on the Doctor Sleep story features numerous visual references to Kubrick’s The Shining, with the iconic Overlook Hotel meticulously recreated for several sequences.

But question marks always hovered over whether the film’s obvious adoration for the late director would cause friction with King, who is well-known for being protective over his work.

Read more: Doctor Sleep posters heavy on Kubrick love

Flanagan said: “That's the ulcer that we've been living with since it was clear that this was going to happen.

“Reconciling King and Kubrick is a monumental challenge and we had to do it case by case, scene by scene, line by line, moment by moment.

“It started with our initial pitch just to say we wanted the movie to take place within the cinematic universe of Kubrick, to use his visual language. We needed Stephen King to sign off on that, otherwise we wouldn't have made the film at all.”

Mike Flanagan attends the premiere of Warner Bros Pictures' "Doctor Sleep" at Westwood Regency Theater on October 29, 2019. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

The film’s producer Trevor Macy said King was “suspicious” about the idea of Doctor Sleep making its way to the big screen, but he “embraced” Flanagan’s vision.

The director previously made an adaptation of King novel Gerald’s Game for Netflix, which the author described as “terrific”.

Read more: The Shining child star reacts to Doctor Sleep trailer

Flanagan said he and Macy were able to watch the finished version of Doctor Sleep with King, sat on either side of the horror maestro as he saw the movie for the first time.

“As a fan, it was one of the most surreal and insane experiences of my life,” Flanagan added. “I don't think I breathed for two and a half hours while the movie played.”

Mike Flanagan has recreated 'The Shining' meticulously for several scenes in sequel 'Doctor Sleep'. (Credit: Warner Bros)

The director said he has always felt a “tug of war internally” regarding his fandom of both King and Kubrick as idols for his own work.

He wanted Doctor Sleep to help repair the “gulf of difference” between those two positions.

Read more: Rebecca Ferguson wouldn’t be shocked by Doctor Sleep sequel

He said: “The hope was always that we could pull those roads back together a little bit. If we could reconcile it even a little bit, then it would've been worth it.

“At the end of the day, Stephen King loved the movie and the Kubrick Estate loved the movie. Nothing really matters to me after that.

“We did what we could, and now it's just up to the audience.”

Doctor Sleep is in UK cinemas from today.