Theory: How Doctor Sleep Has Recast Jack Nicholson In The Shining

Doctor Sleep Shining Recast

Jack Nicholson's portrayal of Jack Torrance is an iconic cinematic monster but how will Doctor Sleep deal with recasting the legendary star? The Shining started life as a book by Stephen King and dealt with the Torrance family - consisting of husband and wife Jack and Wendy and young son Danny - as they settle into the isolated Overlook hotel to act as its caretakers during the winter. Soon evil forces within the hotel conspire to drive Jack - a recovering alcoholic with anger management issues - insane and to murder his family. Jack's son Danny also possesses psychic abilities known as "the shining," giving him an insight into the evil at the heart of the hotel.

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Stanley Kubrick adapted the book for the 1980 movie of the same name. While Kubrick's The Shining was initially greeted with mixed reviews it's now considered a masterpiece. Everything from Jack Nicholson's performance to the roving camerawork and haunting score works together to make an unforgettable horror experience. Stephen King himself famously wasn't a fan of the movie, however, disliking its cold atmosphere and how much it disregarded his novel.

Related: Every Stephen King Movie Ranked, From Worst To Best

The author later wrote the sequel novel Doctor Sleep which picks up with Danny as a grown-up who is still haunted by what happened at the Overlook. Ewan McGregor plays the adult Danny in director Mike Flanagan's (Oculus) adaptation of the novel, which will include flashbacks to the events to The Shining. This likely means Jack Torrance will appear in some capacity, though no actors have been officially confirmed for the role. Here's who we believe will play inherit Jack Nicholson's ax.

Jack Torrance's Role In The Shining Novel

Jack Nicholson in The Shining

The Shining was a novel that was very personal to Stephen King, with Jack Torrance's struggle with alcohol mirroring his own issues. That's one of the reasons he felt Kubrick's film didn't work, as Jack Nicholson looked crazy from his first scene, instead of a steady, tragic decline where he's driven to madness by the Overlook and his own demons. The Jack Torrance in the original book was an aspiring writer who was fired after striking a student. His alcoholism and temper later caused him to break Danny's arm.

One of the reasons he accepts the winter caretaker job at the Overlook is to reconnect with his family and finish working on a play. The hotel itself is crawling with malign spirits, who work to foster Jack's anger issues and push him to kill Wendy and Danny. He eventually cuts off all outside communications, stranding his family and trying to kill them. Unlike the film version, Jack achieves some form of redemption by stopping himself attacking his family. Wendy and Danny manage to escape the Overlook as Jack is killed in an explosion caused by the hotel's boiler.

While the broad strokes of Jack Torrance from the novel remained in Kubrick's The Shining, Jack Nicholson's take on the role was somewhat sinister from the beginning. The Doctor Sleep movie will be leaning closer to the story presented in King's novel, but the trailer made it clear it will be borrowing iconic imagery from the 1980 movie too. New actors will portray the Torrance family in flashbacks, including Alex Essoe as Wendy Torrance and Carl Lumbly (Alias) as Overlook cook Dick Hallorann, who survived in the novel but not the original movie. It hasn't yet been confirmed who will portray Jack or Danny yet, although a couple of major actors are attached to the film in unspecified parts.

Is Henry Thomas Playing Jack Torrance In Doctor Sleep?

Henry Thomas As Jack Torrance in The Shining

During a November 2018 interview with podcast Post Mortem With Mick Garris actor Henry Thomas revealed he's part of the Doctor Sleep cast but could say nothing about his role, other than revealing he's playing a "very bad dude." Curiously, the film isn't listed on his IMDb page, but there are signs he could be playing Jack Torrance. He's worked with Flanagan multiple times before, where he always cast in the role of a troubled father, including The Haunting Of Hill House, Gerald's Game, and even Father Tom in Ouija: Origin Of Evil.

Related: The Haunting Of Hill House: "The Bent-Neck Lady" Shock Twist Explained

Thomas also has experience stepping into the role of horror icons, such as inheriting the role of Norman Bates from Anthony Perkins in prequel Psycho IV: The Beginning. Thomas is also the right age to play the Jack role and in another strange piece of kismat, his Psycho IV director Mick Garris previously directed a miniseries remake of The Shining in 1997, which was a much more faithful adaptation scripted by King himself. Thomas may not be an icon like Jack Nicholson, but he's a terrific performer in his own right and much closer to what Stephen King envisioned the character to be.

Is Jacob Tremblay Playing Young Danny Torrance In Doctor Sleep?

Jacob Tremblay as Danny Torrance in The Shining

Another actor attached to the movie in an unspecified role is Jacob Tremblay, the young star of Wonder. Tremblay is considered one of the best child actors currently working and previously collaborated with Mike Flanagan on horror drama Before I Wake. The Doctor Sleep trailer confirms the movie will feature a new actor playing Danny, but in these brief glimpses, his face is hidden from view.

While Jacob Tremblay is a little older than Danny Torrance's original performer Danny Lloyd, it's easy to imagine him stepping into the part. The flashbacks sequences in Doctor Sleep will likely form a small section of the movie too, so it wouldn't have required much time on Tremblay's part. It would also tie into the young actor's prior work with Flanagan, as he also played a young boy will psychic gifts in Before I Wake.

Thomas and Tremblay would be great choices for both Jack Torrance and Danny Torrance in Doctor Sleep, and while it's still possible those roles could be filled by other performers, they're the most likely suspects. It will also be very interesting to see how they reinterpret the parts made famous by Jack Nicholson and Danny Lloyd in Kubrick's The Shining, and how Flanagan will go about emulating Stanley Kubrick's style.

Next: Doctor Sleep Trailer & Poster: The Shining Gets a Sequel

Key Release Dates
  • Doctor Sleep (2019) release date: Nov 08, 2019
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