Learn the Real Story Behind the Photo at the End of 'The Shining'

Learn the Real Story Behind the Photo at the End of 'The Shining'

Oct 19, 2012

Here's some fun, random movie trivia for you. Remember the photo at the end of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining? The one that shows Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) at the center of a 1920s party? People have long had their own interpretations of what it means, with Kubrick even stating that it's proof that Jack was actually a reincarnation of someone who worked at the hotel five decades earlier. But we're not here to theorize about what the photo means, we want to talk about how it's a fake photo.

It's a pretty flawless touch-up job, really. All these years I just assumed that Kubrick gathered together a hundred extras, dressed them up in fancy '20s gowns and tuxedoes, and took some ballroom pictures; one with Jack Nicholson at the center, one without him. What really happened, however, was Kubrick's art department found a photo from an actual 1920s party and airbrushed Nicholson's face onto the body of a total stranger.

Now, that's hardly mindblowing, but it's a particular curious attention to detail considering that airbrushing photos in the late '70s wasn't a digital process. It involved using an actual airbrush to physically paint over the original. Considering that, we're quite impressed with how it turned out. Further, as taken from TheOverlookHotel.com [via The Verge]:

Interestingly, close examination of images from the film reveals that two different photo composites were used: one for the long tracking shot which pushes down the hall towards the photo, and a different one for the extreme close-up. Nicholson’s composited head rotates from one photo to the next, and his shoulder shifts, partially obscuring the woman holding the cigarette behind him.

So not only is it an airbrushed photo, it's actually two airbrushed photos, and Jack Nicholson appears to move in both of them. That's not creepy at all. Well played, Stanley Kubrick. Well played.

Follow along on Twitter: @PeterSHall and @Moviesdotcom.

Categories: Geek, Horror
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