'Doctor Sleep' Sets Itself Apart From Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining'

The upcoming Stephen King adaptation adds Zahn McClarnon, Carl Lumbly, and Alex Essoe.

Zahn Mcclarnon Westworld

The upcoming Stephen King adaptation adds Zahn McClarnon, Carl Lumbly, and Alex Essoe.

Ever since production has ramped up on the adaptation of Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep,” one question has been on the minds of horror fans. Will this be connected to the classic Stanley Kubrick movie, or will it be a self-contained adaptation of the sequel novel? After all, King’s books have very little to do with the 1980 film, outside of the characters and setting. Well, with the latest casting announcements, we now have a pretty good idea of where it fits in.

The latest additions to the increasingly terrific cast of Doctor Sleep are Zahn McClarnon (Westworld), Carl Lumbly (Supegirl), and Alex Essoe (Starry Eyes), as reported by Variety and Deadline collectively. The three actors join Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson in what’s shaping up to be one of the best horror movie casts this side of IT: Chapter Two.

Most interesting, though, is who these three will play in the King adaptation. Lumbly will portray Dick Hallorann, the Overlook Hotel’s cook who was previously brought to life by Scatman Crothers in Kubrick’s The Shining. This piece of casting is particularly intriguing, as, you may recall, Hallorann is killed in that version. He is, however, very much alive at the end of the book (and the 1997 miniseries adaptation, in which he’s played by Melvin Van Peebles), and appears in the follow-up.

So for anyone wondering if Doctor Sleep will connect to the Kubrick version, this looks to be an indication that it won’t. And that makes for a confusing situation. Regardless of how King feels about the movie, much of the audience seeing Doctor Sleep will be more familiar with that film and its iconography than the source or the later version.

Now I do understand the desire to adapt the book as is, instead of re-working it to fit with the classic movie. King’s “Doctor Sleep” wasn’t written to fit with the film, and director Mike Flanagan seems keen to stick closer to the novel. But whether general audiences will go along with this choice is another matter.

King himself spoke about the potential for confusion when promoting “Doctor Sleep” in 2013. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the author said:

“But one of the things – and I’m not sure if this is going to be a problem for readers or not – is that ‘Doctor Sleep’ is a sequel to the novel. It’s not a sequel to the Kubrick film. At the end of the Kubrick film, the Overlook is still there. It just kind of freezes. But at the end of the book, it burns down.”

If these concerns were there for the novel, then the filmmakers are surely aware of what they’re up against with the movie. But who knows, maybe audiences have just gotten used to soft reboots mixing up the continuity of franchises. Enough that they’ll accept a Shining sequel with no connection to the original movie.

And they’ve at least made a solid choice with the Hallorann’s casting. Lumbly is a very experienced actor, with over 100 roles in his 40-year career. He was most recently seen in The CW’s Supergirl, where he portrayed M’yrnn J’onzz. Despite being under heavy prosthetics, the actor effectively portrayed the mixed emotions of being reunited with his son, whom he thought to be dead. And hd will surely be a fine choice to help Danny deal with the trauma of the Overlook in Doctor Sleep. Lumbly was also in 2016’s A Cure for Wellness and played a key role as Marcus Dixon on Alias.

McClarnon is certainly owed some good roles after anchoring the best episode of Westworld to date. In Doctor Sleep, he will play Crow Daddy, the right-hand man of Ferguson’s True Knot cult leader, Rose the Hat. While audiences may know him best for his tragic role in Westworld, he’s no stranger to playing bad guys. As Fargo‘s Hanzee Dent, McClarnon was an intimidating, yet increasingly sympathetic figure. His ability to balance these characteristics was mesmerizing to watch and really should have earned him an Emmy nomination.

McClarnon has become one of the finest actors on television in recent years, and it was only a matter of time before he landed a high profile movie role. Whether or not Flanagan decides to give Crow Daddy a sympathetic side, McClarnon is absolutely up to the job.

And finally, Essoe follows in Shelley Duvall’s (and Rebecca DeMornay’s) footsteps as Wendy Torrance in scenes set in the past. The actress is no stranger to horror, perhaps best known for her role in the recent Midnighters. The movie saw Essoe in a twisty thriller, in which she and her partner face the consequences of running down a pedestrian while drunk driving. Adding dramatic weight to what could have been a by-the-numbers outing.

She also starred in 2014’s Starry Eyes, again showing her ability to carry the audience through a terrifying situation. One that makes her a danger to those around her, after making a bad decision to advance her acting career. All while remaining sympathetic along the way. This makes her the perfect choice to portray the character who King believes was underserved by the Kubrick movie.

Hopefully this time he’ll be happier with the result.

Sometimes knows what he's talking about.