Director Mike Flanagan goes all out in the third act of his adaptation of Stephen King‘s Doctor Sleep, but there’s one scene in particular that might be the most ambitious of all and Flanagan knows it.
The rest of this article contains major Doctor Sleep spoilers so do not continue reading if you haven’t seen the movie!
The scene I’m referring to? The one at The Overlook bar featuring the return of Jack Torrance, here played by Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House star, Henry Thomas. After a few non-spoiler questions, Flanagan was kind enough to indulge me and talk a bit about crafting that key scene. He admitted, “I knew that that would be the most controversial scene of the film.” Not only did Flanagan dare to bring back an iconic character played by Jack Nicholson in the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film, but he also set out to pay homage to the Kubrick film through his visuals:
“There were parts of it I wanted to use exactly the same framing that Kubrick used. I wanted it to be that familiar, down to Ewan when he sits at the bar and finally makes eye contact with the bartender, he looks right down the barrel the same way that Jack did, before we reveal the bartender. But after the scene had started, I very intentionally did not want to live in Kubrick’s angles and one of the things that was really a revelation for me was how living in a true profile – even being out of their eyeliner so much – made that scene feel so intimate and uncanny to me.
It’s one of the few times that I was trying very hard not to homage Kubrick’s coverage, and I love the bizarre feeling that it gave me. And only kind of coming frontal to Ewan in pockets and only coming around on Lloyd one time at the very end, it just felt like the right balance. But it was one of the hardest scenes to crack in editorial. It was one of the ones I agonized over kind of frame by frame. There’ve maybe been 200 versions of that scene.”
Ewan McGregor also weighed in from a performance perspective. He told us that that particular scene was a bit like doing theater because it’s a long dialogue scene that they played from start to finish. “You’re not anticipating anything. You’re just in the moment with it.” McGregor also said he was a bit caught off guard by the emotion of the scene:
“I didn’t anticipate feeling so emotional playing that scene because I read it much more angrily. I felt like he’s faced with his father again and he wants some answers. He wants his father’s love, you know? He’s looking for it and he’s crushed being further hurt by him again.”