The Big ‘Doctor Sleep’ Mystery: How Will ‘The Shining’ Sequel Resurrect Jack Torrance?

Neither Warner Bros. nor director Mike Flanagan are revealing who is stepping into the role made famous by Jack Nicholson.
"The Shining"
"The Shining"
Warner Bros.

[Editor’s note: The following post contains spoilers for Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep” novel.]

Warner Bros. released the first trailer for “Doctor Sleep” on June 13 to much praise from fans of Stephen King’s 2013 novel of the same name and Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” The film is based on King’s literary sequel to “The Shining” and picks up with an adult Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor), a struggling alcoholic whose shining abilities return after he tries to go sober and meets a young girl with similar supernatural gifts. The trailer confirmed director Mike Flanagan would be recreating scenes from Kubrick’s iconic 1980 horror movie, which is why the big question on every “Shining” fan’s mind is this: How is “Doctor Sleep” planning on resurrecting Jack Torrance?

News broke in August 2018 that Flanagan had cast new actors to play the familiar faces from “The Shining.” Newcomer Alex Essoe, best known for indie films such as “Midnighters” and “Red Island,” was cast in the role of Wendy Torrance, made famous by Shelley Duvall in Kubrick’s movie, while “Cagney & Lacey” and “Alias” actor Carl Lumbly was hired to play Overlook Hotel cook Dick Halloran, played in Kubrick’s film by Scatman Crothers. One character missing from the announcement was Jack Torrance, iconically played by Jack Nicholson. Neither Flanagan nor Warner Bros. have yet to mention Jack’s involvement in the “Doctor Sleep” movie, but book readers know he is going to make an appearance.

In King’s 2013 “Doctor Sleep” novel, Jack plays a crucial role in the story’s climax. Danny returns to the Overlook Hotel (the film trailer ended with scenes from this part of the movie) to defeat the novel’s primary antagonist, Rose the Hat (played by Rebecca Ferguson in the upcoming movie), and he ends up doing so with the help of Jack’s ghost. Before Danny leaves the Overlook, he makes peace with his dead father.

Should Flanagan’s “Doctor Sleep” adaptation remain faithful to King’s novel, then moviegoers should expect to see Jack Torrance back on the big screen this fall in both flashbacks and as a ghost in the third act. Exactly how Jack will appear remains the biggest mystery about the “Doctor Sleep” movie going forward. Flanagan either secretly hired an actor to take on Nicholson’s famous role or is using CGI to recreate Nicholson’s image.

ScreenRant is already banking on the former and has a theory that Flanagan cast his frequent collaborator Henry Thomas in the role. The actor has appeared in Flanagan’s “Gerald’s Game,” “Ouija: Origin Of Evil,” and “Haunting of Hill House,” and he’s suspiciously missing from the “Doctor Sleep” credits on IMdB despite revealing last year that he has a role in the movie. Thomas could not name the part but he did mention his character is a “very bad dude,” which certainly describes Jack. Flanagan cast new actors to portray Wendy and Dick, so it appears likely he did the same for the legendary role of Jack.

Warner Bros. will open “Doctor Sleep” in theaters November 8.

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