Imagine — it’s your job to recruit someone for the unthinkable task of replacing Jack Nicholson in the iconic role of Jack Torrance in The Shining. Who could you possibly cast in the role? Well, if you somehow said Ben Stiller, then congratulations because you’re just as psychic as Danny Torrance. The Tropic Thunder director and star will apparently be stepping into Nicholson’s shoes for a production of The Shining, but not on the big or small screen — on the stage.
According to Deadline, Ben Stiller is in negotiations to join the production of a stage adaptation of The Shining at least five years in the making. The adaptation will be written by the Tony-winning Simon Stephens and directed by the acclaimed Belgian director Ivo van Hove. Sonia Friedman and Colin Callender — both of whom are currently busy with Broadway’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — will produce. The stage production will premiere in London ‘s West End, with an expected jump over the Atlantic to Broadway. Plans for the adaptation apparently go back to 2017, but the production was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As strange a choice as Ben Stiller may seem for a role popularized by Jack Nicholson, it’s useful to remember the 1980 film directed by Stanley Kubrick took a lot of liberties with the source material. In particular, in the 1977 Stephen King Novel, Jack Torrance’s descent into madness is a much more gradual journey. So while Nicholson is known for playing more sinister roles, from a certain point of view — including one held by Stephen King, apparently — that made him the worst choice for the role.
Deadline reports that the stage production Ben Stiller is looking to join plans to stick closer to the source material than Kubrick’s film, which in at least one way is both surprising and intriguing. One of the chief differences between the source material and the film is that the book included more supernatural threats facing the heroes, such as hedges sculpted to look like animals which come to life and attack them. One might assume something like that would be even more difficult to reproduce on stage than it would on screen.
In fact the very notion of the supernatural is debatable in Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining. While in the novel it’s made clear that there are powerful supernatural forces chipping away at Jack Torrance’s sanity, with the exception of the psychic abilities displayed by Danny Torrance and Dick Hallorann (the latter of whom survives in the book though he’s abruptly murdered in the film), most of what happens in Kubrick’s movie could be explained as being the product of one or more characters’ madness.
One thing we’re sure Ben Stiller and everyone else is hoping is different between this stage production and Stanley Kubrick’s is how the actors are treated. Since its release, The Shining has become infamous for the abuse Jack Nicholson and in particular Shelley Duvall suffered at the late director’s hands. The actress was dragged through daily trauma by Kubrick, including filming a ridiculoius 127 takes of the scene in which Duvall is forced to knock out Nicholson with a baseball bat.