How Doctor Sleep Director Mike Flanagan Feels About All The Shining Conspiracy Theories

Danny peddles in the Overlook Hotel in Doctor Sleep

There are many reasons why Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a notable work in cinema history, and that includes the fact that it’s weirdly at the center of a number of conspiracy theories. Following a lot of deep analysis of the movie over multiple decades, and questions being asked about Kubrick’s motives, people have drawn a lot of weird conclusions from the film, including the idea that it acts as a confession that the legendary director staged the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Different people take different things away from The Shining, and in this regard one perspective I recently found myself curious about was director Mike Flanagan’s. After all, in the last year the filmmaker did a deep dive into the world of Stanley Kubrick’s movie in the making of Doctor Sleep, and so he arguably has a more substantial view of it than anyone.

Well, I recently asked Flanagan about it when we sat down for an interview at the legendary Stanley hotel in Estes Park, Colorado – the place where Stephen King was first inspired to write The Shining – and he explained that while he is intrigued by all of the ideas floating around, he wasn’t exactly convinced of anything through his experiences. Said the filmmaker of the Shining conspiracy theories,

I find them all fascinating. Having poured through now his actual production design plans and had the experience of trying to put my camera exactly where his camera was, there were a lot of things that I imbued a lot of meaning to that now that I've kind of been in the room, I'm like, 'Oh no, it's just a better shot here. It’s just more symmetrical. It works better.'

As noted by Mike Flanagan, Stanley Kubrick’s estate granted him access to the original plans for the Overlook Hotel from The Shining in the making of Doctor Sleep, as the film contains multiple sequences that bring audiences back to the iconic haunted lodging, and sets were delicately reconstructed. This allowed the director a unique opportunity to be in identical environments as Kubrick, but that phase of the production apparently didn’t lead to any kind of major revelations.

The aforementioned Apollo 11 theory about The Shining – which is based on the idea that Stanley Kubrick worked with NASA to fake mankind’s first steps on the Moon – is just one of many that have popped up over time. As chronicled in the documentary Room 237, there is also suggestion that the movie is really about topics such as the Holocaust and Native American genocide. These are ideas based on particular choices that the director makes in the film, particularly those that deviate from Stephen King’s original novel.

Just because Flanagan didn’t suddenly have any kind of greater understanding of Stanley Kubrick’s motivations in the construction of The Shining in the making of Doctor Sleep, however, doesn’t mean that he’s totally dismissing the various reads that have been floated going back to 1980. Taking a very humble stance, the writer/director admitted that Kubrick was constantly thinking on a much higher level than himself in his approach to the craft, so he doesn’t reject the notion that there are particular depths that don’t fully register:

I think part of the enigma of Kubrick is that he was always operating on so many multiple levels. You can only scratch the surface with what he's communicating in every shot of his work. I'm utterly incapable of this level of genius that he had. I would rule out nothing when it comes to the degree of genius that he could have buried information into his films. I rule out nothing. I find it fascinating.

You can watch Mike Flanagan discuss his thoughts behind the variety of Shining conspiracy theories by clicking play on the video below!

While he may not be exactly Stanley Kubrick (nobody is), Mike Flanagan is still constantly proving himself to be a phenomenal filmmaker, and Doctor Sleep is the latest evidence. Starring Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, and Kyliegh Curran, the film picks up decades after the events of The Shining as recovering alcoholic Dan Torrance both discovers a young girl who can shine even brighter than him, and a dangerous group that hunts people with psychic/telekinetic abilities.

The film is arriving in theaters this Friday, and be sure to stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more from my interviews with Mike Flanagan and the movie’s stars!

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.