Coming Soon Visits The Overlook on the Doctor Sleep Set!
When I arrived in Atlanta for the Doctor Sleep set visit, I was excited. Though I hadn’t read the book, I knew it was a continuation of The Shining. I figured that would lead to lots of talk about whether or not it was a continuation of the book or the Stanley Kubrick film, which author Stephen King notoriously hated. I could never guess what was coming.
Doctor Sleep follows Danny Torrence – now an adult, and going by Dan – at the rock bottom of alcoholism and working at a nursing home. Most of his Shining is gone, and what little he has left he uses to help ease the elderly into painless death, earning him the name Doctor Sleep. When a group of RV-dwellers called the True Knot emerge, feeding on the Shine of those with the gift, Dan gets sucked back into that life. He meets Abra, a young girl with the strongest Shining he has ever seen. In working with her to fight against the True Knot and save themselves, Dan learns to stop shunning his Shine.
Ewan McGregor plays Dan, though he didn’t try to model his performance on young Danny in The Shining. “There’s not very much I can pick up from the Danny kid in The Shining because I don’t know how similar we are to our five year old selves when we’re adults.”
Director Mike Flanagan, who has been a fan of McGregor’s acting his whole life, didn’t write the role of Dan with any particular actor in mind. “It came down to a gut feeling,” Flanagan says. “Stephen King was very involved in casting, and very enthusiastic about Ewan. Ewan is endearing, but he can tap into darkness.”
When it came to casting the “villain” of the film, Rose the Hat, Flanagan said it was Rebecca Ferguson from the first conversation he had with her. “She exceeds everything I imagined.” Ferguson does not see her role as being a villain, though.
“I like finding the layers to all characters,” she explains. “In Doctor Sleep, yes, she’s a villain, but what is so beautiful is that everything she does, she does out of the love for her people. Yes, the consequence is that people die, but because she is feeding the ones she loves.”
And what about her hat, that has become so synonymous with her character that it is part of her name? “With the hat comes her history. It’s never really explained. In my own thoughts, it was passed on by the person who turned her, and that’s why it has such importance and gravitas. And it’s a bloody good hat. The hat was a normal top hat. I said it was too high; it looked too goofy and silly. But the shape of it was incredible. So they cut out the middle bit, and put the top back on and made it shorter. I was going to steal it, but I didn’t.”
The scene we watch them shoot today involves young Abra (played by newcomer Kyliegh Curran) being tucked into bed by her parents, who are clearly scared of her and her powers. Between takes, Curran is jumping on the bed, playing with a stuffed rabbit, and generally just being a goofy, excitable kid. “Kyleigh is, by far, one of the most incredible young actors I have had the possibility to work with,” enthuses Ferguson. “I felt like she was born on stage. She would be dancing and jumping around all the time, and I remember thinking, ‘How is she going to reign it in for some of these scenes?’ I don’t know how, but she sucked in all the energy. She’s so bloody versatile and phenomenal.”
Curran has similarly complimentary things to share about Ferguson. “There is not a moment on set when I am not laughing when she’s there,” Curran tells us. “She’s very fun; she’s great at breaking the tension when we’re there. But she’s also amazing at being my enemy.” She may have fun with Ferguson, but Curran’s favorite part about playing Abra is hanging out with Dan.
“I definitely think this is a coming of age story for Abra, going from this naïve little girl who just wants to jump in there, no armor, and then realizing what could really happen,” Curran says. McGregor jumps in: “She’s tough, though. She’s tough. Abra is tougher than Dan, really.”
This was not director Mike Flanagan’s first trip into the Stephen King universe. Previously, he directed Gerald’s Game for Netflix, about which he was terrified of “doing King wrong.” It clearly wasn’t so traumatic that it would prevent him from another King adaptation. “It was scary to do [a film] that directly connects with his least favorite adaptation,” he admits. “Clearly, this is my movie,” Flanagan continues, “but being a fan of Kubrick’s, I intentionally honored his style. This is ground in the Kubrick film, but I am approaching it in my own way.”
The Kubrick film is not just being honored in Doctor Sleep. Certain parts of it are being recreated. Flanagan takes us on a tour of The Overlook, a recreation of the set built for the Kubrick film. Flanagan explains that it took his team two months to build The Overlook, and it was built to Kubrick’s original specifications. While building, Flanagan realized just how big an issue of continuity The Overlook had. “The interior continuity issue is on purpose,” he explains. “It is labyrinthine.”
As a huge Kubrick fan – The Shining especially – it was awe-inspiring to walk into The Overlook, wander around the Colorado Room, examine the black and white photos that lined the walls. My favorite part was that there was a tricycle, just like Danny’s, in the hallway. I sat down and rode the trike through the halls, over that classic orange carpeting, and got a feel for how labyrinthine the set really was.
We walked into Room 237, and I fully expected to see the dead woman taking a bath. In the Blue Hallway, I thought I would run into the Grady twins. We saw the Torrance apartment, aged forty years, complete with Jack’s axe holes in the door. It was, honestly, an overwhelming experience.
Doctor Sleep hits theaters November 8th.