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Read this: Inside the unproduced Shining prequel described as "There Will Be Blood: The Horror Movie"

Illustration for article titled Read this: Inside the unproduced Shining prequel described as "There Will Be Blood: The Horror Movie"
Photo: Sunset Boulevard (Getty Images)

Hardly a month goes by without news of a new Stephen King film or series, be it a straight book adaptation or some elaboration on his IP, and it’s assumed that only a handful of them will actually happen. Hollywood’s a fickle place, after all, and perhaps more averse to risk now than ever. Today, Bloody Disgusting offered an in-depth look at one such project: A prequel to Stanley Kubrick’s take on The Shining penned by Glen Mazzara, the writer who just recently saw his series adaptation of The Dark Tower axed.


Mazzara’s project was far enough along that it had a director in One Hour Photo’s Mark Romanek. Producer James Vanderbilt—who’s currently working on his own King adaptation—even emphasized how different it would be from the original in a 2015 interview, though he was tight-lipped about specific plot details. Now, reading this detailed breakdown of the script, it’s clear that the project was much more epic than Kubrick’s original, though calling it entirely dissimilar wouldn’t be accurate. Set in the early 20th century, it follows Bob T. Watson, a “robber baron” who, in his fierce desire to build the “grandest hotel the world has ever seen,” finds himself responsible for the deaths of many, including his own family. Mazzara describes it as There Will Be Blood: The Horror Movie. And while it’s an intriguing premise, it most certainly strains to replicate certain elements of Kubrick’s original as it provides an unwelcome origin for many of the hotel’s ghosts. (Did we really need to know where Lloyd came from?)

Mazzara provides plenty of behind-the-scenes insight, including that Brad Pitt turned it down due to the script being too “bleak.” He also had a role in mind for Jack Nicholson, star of the original, though it wouldn’t be a mere reprisal.

“There’s a character named McCready, who is sort of the first man on the mountain. He kinda commits the original sin,” Mazzara explains. “It’s written that Bob T. goes in and talks to Lloyd, and Lloyd says, ‘Oh, this drink just came over from the man in the corner.’ And he goes and sits down. In my dream, I would’ve had Jack Nicholson give that speech. I know Jack’s older. I thought he’d be sitting there, and just give him one speech. I thought that’d be a fun thing, as if, ‘Oh, this character is continually circling. He’s trapped in his own hell. He’s constantly circling through different time periods within the Overlook.’ I thought that would have been fun.”

Neat? Sure. Disorienting? Very. Mazzara toys with The Overlook being unstuck in time in his script, but placing an aged version of the iconic face of Kubrick’s film on an entirely different character seems like a recipe for confusion.

Mazzara credits Mike Flanagan’s Shining sequel, Doctor Sleep, for the project’s eventual dissolution, saying that “Warner Brothers wasn’t going to commit to making both.” He adds that he considered adapting his script for TV, but couldn’t get the rights. That’s because, it turns out, J.J. Abrams is making his own Shining prequel for HBO Max. “I don’t know if they know my script exists. Whatever they’re making, as far as I know has nothing to do with my script,” he clarifies.


There’s plenty of other great insights, including some musing on the difficulty of reconciling Kubrick’s vision with King’s, different as they are. Flanagan, obviously, dealt with similar issues and, irregardless of Doctor Sleep’s quality, did a damn fine job of it.

Read the full interview and script breakdown over at Bloody Disgusting.

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Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.