Mark Romanek remains better known for his music videos than his feature films like “One Hour Photo” and “Never Let Me Go,” but there was a moment several years ago where it appeared his directing career would be getting a major breakthrough. Back in July 2014, Variety reported Warner Bros. was bringing in Romanek to direct a prequel to “The Shining,” the Stephen King novel made famous by Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror film. The prequel movie was to be based on the original prologue King wrote and then scrapped from his 1977 novel. The film would be set at the turn of the 20th Century and center around Bob T. Watson, a robber baron who ventured through the Colorado Rockies and built the Overlook Hotel.
In a new interview with Collider to promote his work on Amazon’s “Tales From the Loop,” Romanek said the Overlook Hotel movie is pretty much dead. The lack of any buzz around the project over the last six years made the reveal a given. Drafts of the script were written by former “Walking Dead” showrunner Glen Mazzara, and Romanek himself punched things up when he signed on to direct.
“It’s a great script I think,” Romanek said. “It’s based on Stephen King. It’s not just something somebody made up, and it’s more of an origin story on the, almost like a Western or a wilderness story, going back to the construction and the desecration of the Indian burial grounds, and the construction of the Overlook Hotel and its opening night.”
Warner Bros. attempted to resurrect “The Shining” franchise last fall with the release of “Doctor Sleep,” a film adaptation of King’s “Shining” sequel novel of the same name. Despite getting top talent, including fan favorite horror director Mike Flanagan and actor Ewan McGregor, “Doctor Sleep” was a box office bomb for the studio with just $31 million in the U.S. Romanek said that even with a great script it would hard to get the prequel film made after the failure of “Doctor Sleep.”
“The problem is it’s really expensive,” Romanek said. “It kind of reads like ‘The Revenant’ or ‘Heaven’s Gate’ or something and I think they wanted to try ‘Doctor Sleep’ to see if — my impression is they wanted to see if there was this sort of ‘Shining’ universe that would have financial life through them or artistic life with the audience. And I think ‘Doctor Sleep’ did just sort of okay, and given that our script is so costly, it’s a little dead in the water right now. But you never know, it’s a weird business. It’s a very good script. I’m proud of the script.”
Romanek has yet to make a follow-up film to 2010’s “Never Let Me Go.” Head over to Collider to read more about the director’s most recent work on “Tales From the Loop.” IndieWire has reached out to Warner Bros. for further comment on the unmade “Shining” prequel film.