The unrealized Dick Hallorann-centric prequel to The Shining could have amended Stephen King’s disappointment with Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of the novel. Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 movie The Shining is regarded as a horror classic, but Stephen King himself was famously let down by the film. When it came to 2019’s Doctor Sleep, writer-director Mike Flanagan bridged the two with Doctor Sleep specifically modified to be both an adaptation of King’s eponymous 2013 sequel novel to The Shining, and a sequel to Kubrick’s The Shining.
Doctor Sleep was very well-received, including by Stephen King, with the film’s ending, in particular, retrofitting the novel’s ending into the story of the tortured but good-hearted Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor). Sadly, despite its reception, Doctor Sleep was a significant box-office disappointment. This ultimately led to the cancelation of Flanagan’s proposed prequel intended to focus on Dick Hallorann, played in The Shining by Scatman Crothers and Carl Lumbly in Doctor Sleep. This is, sadly, a big loss for the narrative diplomacy Doctor Sleep provided to King and Kubrick’s versions of The Shining.
Dick Hallorann (also featured in King’s novel IT) is the Overlook Hotel’s chef who shares Danny’s power of “shining” and explains much of the dark history of the hotel to him. The novel and the film differ in Hallorann’s fate, with Hallorann helping Danny and his mother Wendy escape the haunted hotel in the novel, while Hallorann is killed by Danny’s crazed father Jack (Jack Nicholson) in Kubrick’s movie. Doctor Sleep managed this divergence by having Hallorann (Carl Lumbly) appear as a ghost to Danny, while the Flanagan’s unmade prequel devoted to Hallorann could have developed his story more deeply than The Shining movie was able to.
Hallorann’s Prequel Story Would Have Remedied His Death In The Shining
Jack’s brutal murder of Hallorann, itself a change from Hallorann’s originally written survival in The Shining movie, is certainly a terrifying moment. However, it nonetheless cements Jack’s vilification as opposed to his redemption arc in King’s novel, along with cutting off Hallorann’s story. As a mentor of sorts for Danny, Hallorann is a significant character to The Shining‘s story as King conceived it, with Hallorann also returning in the Doctor Sleep novel. The Hallorann prequel could have gone further than his ethereal cameo in Doctor Sleep with Hallorann first discovering his shining abilities.
With Hallorann not able to return in the Doctor Sleep movie in the same way as he does in the novel, the prequel would have enabled his story to breathe and be developed in a way that The Shining cinematic properties could not. It would also have been another tool of Flanagan’s to enable King and Kubrick’s visions for The Shining to co-exist. While Dick Hallorann’s shocking on-screen death was maintained in Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep, Hallorann still could have embarked on his own story that Kubrick’s The Shining did not enable him to.
Doctor Sleep pulled off an incredibly daunting task of acting as a conduit between disparate versions of The Shining. Unfortunately, the film’s box office performance prevented The Shining prequel focused on Dick Hallorann from being brought to life. Considering that The Shining prequel could have further addressed King’s letdowns from Kubrick’s movie while paying deference to both versions, Stephen King fans can only wonder at the story it would have told.
Next: The Shining: The True Story & Real-Life Hotel Behind The Movie