Doctor Sleep came along as a four-decades later sequel to the iconic horror film that is The Shining. Adapting the novel written by Stephen King by the same name, Mike Flanagan managed to stay true to the story told in Stanley Kubrick's movie while staying close enough to the Doctor Sleep book's source material to please fans and King himself. However, the biggest deviation came at the end of the movie, specifically with the Overlook Hotel and the fate of Dan Torrance, something writer and director Mike Flanagan explained in an interview with ComicBook.com.
Spoilers for Doctor Sleep follow. Major spoilers!
In the Doctor Sleep book, the Overlook Hotel had been completely destroyed. In the movie, it was not exactly up and running but had not been destroyed. The hotel was very much alive, spirits and all, waiting for Dan Torrance to return. "[Stephen King's] feelings obviously about the Kubrick film are famous," Flanagan explained. "I knew it was going to be a big ask to go back and say I wanna do a great adaptation of Doctor Sleep, I wanna be true to the novel, but for one thing, I really wanna go back to the Overlook, and I want to go back to the Overlook as I see it in my head, which is all of Kubrick's imagery."
At first, King didn't take to the idea. "He wasn't terribly receptive to that in the very beginning," Flanagan explained. "But once we explained how we wanted to do it and why we wanted to do it, he gave his blessing. And if he hadn't I wouldn't have made the film." One of the convincing factors was using the Jack Torrance character as they did, to offer a sense of close for the character which was a bit different from Kubrick's portrayal.
Ultimately, Ewan McGregor's Dan Torrance went down with the hotel as it was finally destroyed and Dan died, becoming a spirit to continue on with Abra. "It made me very nervous and the thing that I held on to though, was that yes we were changing the ending of Doctor Sleep," Flanagan explains. "I felt like we needed Dan to step aside to make way for Abra. This was about handing off that responsibility." Whether or not Flanagan is hinting at a potential sequel is unclear.
"What made me feel good was that we could reach past the movie and back to the book of The Shining," Flanagan said. "I felt way better about changing the ending if I was changing it kind of back to the ending that Kubrick never shot for The Shining. And if Jack's arc, that redemptive sacrificial arc, if that could be Dan's instead, that felt like the kind of change I thought maybe Stephen King would feel good about, and hopefully his fans would be excited about too."
Doctor Sleep is now playing in theaters.