It was the spirits of the Overlook Hotel that drove Jack Torrance into a murderous rage, but how did actor Jack Nicholson tap into that well of unending fury? Well, according to Far Out Magazine, he had some help from antagonising auteur Stanley Kubrick, who used cheese sandwiches to torment The Shining’s leading man.
Like Grady the barman knowing alcohol was the key to Jack’s anger, Kubrick knew that Nicholson hated cheese sandwiches. As such, the esteemed director arranged for the horror movie’s catering team to feed Nicholson nothing but cheese sandwiches for two whole weeks. Kubrick apparently hoped the bubbling frustration at being served a meal he loathed would help Nicholson’s acting.
It clearly worked because Nicholson’s performance is bone-chilling. Watching Jack tear through the haunted hotel is like seeing frustration made manifest, a not so Incredible Hulk powered by heckling ghosts instead of Gamma Rays. Now it’s worth noting that we’ve done some digging and, despite it being reported by several outlets, we can’t seem to find an official source for this story so perhaps take a pinch of salt with your cheese sandwich rumours.
Still, Kubrick has form when it comes to tormenting his cast. His treatment of Shelley Duval on The Shining set is well documented and was less than kind. It’s been alleged that Kubrick alienated her from the rest of the cast and crew to keep her in a heightened state of emotion.
Kubrick was also known for his exacting standards, but The Shining shoot was especially gruelling, with the director demanding countless retakes (the film holds a world record for the most retakes in a scene with dialogue).
Duval admitted she struggled with this due to the necessary hysterical nature of her performance. “[Kubrick] doesn’t print anything until at least the 35th take. Thirty-five takes, running and crying and carrying a little boy, it gets hard,” Duval told The Hollywood Reporter. “And [a] full performance from the first rehearsal. That’s difficult.”
If you enjoy The Shining, check out our list of the best ghost movies.