Warning: Major Doctor Sleep sequels ahead!
It's certainly the most memorable moment in Doctor Sleep, the new horror thriller that functions both as an adaptation of Stephen King's 2013 novel and a cinematic sequel to Stanley Kubrick's 1980 classic The Shining (itself a more liberal take on its 1977 source material).
A grown-up Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) has finally returned to The Overlook Hotel, the site of all that mayhem from four decades earlier, with supernatural forces driving his father to psychopathic, murderous extremes. Like Jack Nicholson sat alone at the hotel's deserted bar before a bartender mysteriously appeared in the original, Danny does the same in the sequel. And sure enough, a bartender appears, only this time, it's his father, played by… Haunting of Hill House star (and E.T. alum) Henry Thomas, doing his best Jack.
As writer-director Mike Flanagan explained to Yahoo Entertainment at the film's Los Angeles press day (watch above), "of course" they considered bringing back Nicholson to reprise the screen legend's iconic role. "The thing about that particular role is that the rules of The Overlook demanded that he be the same age that he was when he died there," the filmmaker said. "So there really only were two options.
"One would be to be create, even if it was Jack doing the performance, a digital Jack."
But Flanagan is not a fan of the de-aging technology that Marvel movies have become so fond of, and even Marvel antagonist Martin Scorsese currently employs in his Netflix mob saga The Irishman: "While that technology is improving all the time, it still rips me out of movies. I spend my time analyzing the technology instead of being part of the story. So I didn't want to do that."
Two, Nicholson is perfectly content sticking to the sidelines these days – be it Lakers games or in a larger metaphorical sense.
"The other thing about Jack, who was aware of what were doing and wished us well, he's very serious about being retired," Flanagan explained.
Plus it wasn't just Jack Torrance and grown-up Danny that Flanagan recast; he brought in new actors to play Wendy Torrance (Alex Essoe) and Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly).
Still, he knew the Jack (Torrance) sighting would elicit the strongest responses.
"I do think that Jack scene is going to be one of the biggest surprises of the movie," he told us. "And it's probably going to be the most controversial scene of the movie. I expected that. But it's also the reason I wanted to make it, it was that conversation."
Doctor Sleep is currently in theaters.
Watch Mike Flanagan and cast talk about how daunting it was to make a follow-up to The Shining:
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