With documentary Room 237 and Stephen King's novel sequel Doctor Sleep both arriving recently, The Shining has been enjoying something of a resurgence in interest (if it ever went away). Also part of that trend is a prequel to Stanley Kubrick's film version currently developing at Warner Bros., and reports are coming in this morning that the studio has just offered The Overlook Hotel to Alfonso Cuarón as his next directing gig.
This comes hot on the heels of the news that Cuarón is also in talks for the Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them: a potential return to the worlds of JK Rowling for the director of Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban. Following the triumphant Gravity, Warners are clearly keen to keep Cuarón in-house for a high-profile follow-up.
Not much is yet known about the Shining prequel, aside from some of the names involved. Writer/producer Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) and her partners Bradley Fischer (Black Swan) and James Vanderbilt (Zodiac) were originally tasked with hammering the film's potential direction, and Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead) has worked on the screenplay. Whether Cuarón sparks to the work that's already been done remains to be seen, but a Shining in his hands is certainly a tantalising prospect.
The Shining is, of course, the story of Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson in the movie) going crazy in the snowbound Overlook Hotel, having holed up there for the winter with his wife and young son in an attempt to get some peace to write a novel. One of the many great ambiguities, especially in Kubrick's version, is whether the hotel is haunting Jack, or Jack is haunting the hotel.
Where could a prequel take us? The events of The Shining we know are informed by what's happened at the hotel in the past, so there's perhaps scope for something about previous caretaker Grady, who chopped up his daughters with an axe. Or the film could be a broader history of the hotel, from the time it was first built (on an Indian burial ground, natch) in the 1890s. We could go back even further, and tell a story about what cursed the land itself, and end with the beginnings of the hotel's construction, hinting at all the horrors to follow. We could investigate all those masked hotel guest ghosts. Or, perhaps most obviously, we could look into how Jack came to be in that photograph from 1921...
Loads to draw on then, although whether we want answers to the many questions The Shining poses is hugely debatable. King himself has been predictably equivocal about the whole business. Cuarón may well pass, but the mere mention of his name in connection with the project indicates that Warners remains enthusiastic, and sees this as an important property.
Our psychic abilities tell us there's bound to be an eventual film of Doctor Sleep too, but, surprisingly, there's no word of it yet.