McGregor, who stars as the grown-up Danny Torrace in the new film, says he “spent a lot of time watching Jack Nicholson’s performance” to prep.
Nearly 40 years after The Shining became a pop culture classic, Warner Bros. is revisiting Stephen King’s world with Doctor Sleep. Ewan McGregor stars as the now-adult Danny Torrace (previously played by Danny Lloyd), who in the original film was revealed to have psychic abilities (i.e. “the shining”) that allowed him to see the horrific past of the Overlook Hotel where he and his family were staying.
The follow-up film picks up with a middle-aged Danny still struggling to deal with the trauma from his childhood —largely by the hands of his father, famously played by Jack Nicholson — and at rock bottom, turning to alcohol to numb the pain. In preparing to take over the iconic Shining universe, McGregor “spent a lot of time watching Jack’s performance because I’m playing his son and I wanted to feel like really his son; I think we carry a lot of our fathers with us through our lives,” the star said at the Los Angeles premiere on Tuesday.
And although Doctor Sleep is considered a sequel, McGregor said, “I didn’t feel like we were revisiting anything, we were very much following on from that story, so I didn’t feel like we were looking backwards.” The original, directed by Stanley Kubrick, has been the source of some controversy as King has been vocal that he did not like that film; the author is however, on board for this version, which adapts his 2013 novel of the same name.
Rebecca Ferguson, who plays the leader of a cult that feeds on children with psychic powers, said that there were initial hesitations to reprising such classic material, but after meeting with writer/director Mike Flanagan, “All of my worries about doing what could be seen as a sequel flew out of the window because I felt very secure in his vision and what he wanted to do, and the support that he had from Stephen King.”
Flanagan, who also created hit Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House, said Doctor Sleep sets itself apart from The Shining in focusing on recovery rather than addiction, as well as a timely message of embracing “the shining” within as special, unique things that make people different.
“There’s so many reasons in this hostile world to try to cover it up and try to suppress it, but what I loved about this story was Stephen King was saying, ‘Don’t do that, shine on, let that out no matter how frightening the world is,'” the director said. He also spoke to the importance of addressing childhood trauma and its affect on adulthood, which is “something very much in my wheelhouse and something I love to explore.”
In giving The Shining universe an update, Flanagan credits King with making the Doctor Sleep novel so contemporary, and as a result, “I was already able to tell a story that people hadn’t heard before, and a story that Kubrick certainly never took a swing at before,” he said. One component that did stay the same, though, was the Overlook Hotel setting, which the team recreated for this film and had the cast and crew “giggling like kids, all of us.”