Elstree Studios celebrated its heritage last year with a special reunion for the cast and production staff of The Shining to mark the film’s 35th anniversary…
“Seeing this crowd again, it’s like a room full of ghosts, but very gentle, good ghosts,” said one of the attendees, Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown to The Hollywood Reporter. The Steadicam had only recently come into consideration as a cinematic technique when Stanley Kubrick began making The Shining at Elstree in 1979 but his choice to extensively use it saw Brown spend many hours on the set.
“I visited the set with the original idea of showing Stanley the equipment and training somebody to use it, but the result of those conversations was that I really must do it this myself. I was a huge fan of Kubrick, a huge fan of his work — we almost thought of him as being someone on Mount Olympus as filmmakers. And the idea of being able to contribute something to this movie was extraordinary,” enthused Brown. Always the innovator, Kubrick had a back-up plan if the Steadicam failed. The idea was to put the camera in the back of a Citroen 2CV car and push it down the corridors.
The reunion, which for some was the first time they had seen each other since filming wrapped, was arranged last year by Warner Bros and The Elstree Project, an initiative set up in 2010 to document the studios’ history. The group went on to attend a special screening of the film at a local cinema in St. Albans where Kubrick spent many years of his life.
Diane Johnson, the writer who worked extensively with Kubrick on the film’s script, was also in attendance. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, she recalled how she and Kubrick would speak on the phone about books and politics – “but never films” – for a bout a week before she was invited to join him in London.
“I would be driven to the Kubrick house, where we worked; we’d sit there across the table talking about stuff, having lunch, watching movies and having Chinese food. It was really great,” she said. “He suggested that we each work independently in compiling a list of 120 scenes. He gave me a copy of Stephen King’s novel and some scissors and told me to just cut out the scenes that I thought should be in the film.”
Some of the cast showed up to the event too. Twins Louise and Lisa Burns, who each didn’t see the film until their twenties after appearing in the movie aged 10, recalled their fond memories of working with Kubrick and the production crew. Indeed, they remember Garrett Brown very well. “Mummy wouldn’t let us have a cup of coffee and a donut each, just half a cup and half a donut. But [Garrett] used to go around and get us an extra cup and a donut. It was like being part of a big family,” said the sisters.
The conversation turned to the conspiracy theories that surrounded the production, such as Kubrick’s supposed apology for faking the 1969 moon landings. Executive Producer Jan Harlan, who worked with Kubrick on many occasions, was quick to dismiss them though.
“It’s a ghost film, end of story. It’s completely mysterious. When at the end you see Jack Nicholson in the photograph in 1923, you can’t ask ‘How come?’, because nobody can possibly have an answer. Kubrick always said, ‘Never try to explain something that you don’t understand yourself.'”
Kubrick had a presence at the event through his daughter while attendees enjoyed a specially recorded video message for Danny Lloyd who played the young Danny Torrance in the film. “I know that I’ve kept a low profile, and I know people say that’s because I didn’t like the movie or didn’t like the process of making the movie, but that’s definitely not true. I want to set the record straight and say that I really enjoyed the experience and the crew was like my family.”