It’s one of the world’s scariest movies and has chilled and thrilled audiences for 35 years.
Horror classic The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall and Danny Lloyd, established Stanley Kubrick as one of the finest directors of his generation.
As Halloween is celebrated today, the hit movie – adapted from Stephen King’s first hardback best-seller – is sure to be watched over and over again.
Now in an exclusive interview, twins Lisa and Louise Burns, who sent shivers down viewers’ spines as the Grady daughters, have spoken about their experience working on the classic movie.
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Twins Lisa and Louise Burns, who sent shivers down viewers’ spines as the Grady daughters, have spoken about their experience working on the horror classic The Shining
The sisters (pictured), now 46, have revealed that Jack Nicholson, who plays Jack Torrance in the film, acted as a father-figure and mentor for the then 10-year-old girls from London, England
They reveal how Nicholson, despite his maniacal performance and playboy reputation, acted as a father-figure and mentor for the then 10-year-old girls from London, England.
The pair say Nicholson took naps on the floor between scenes to stay in character, talked about missing his daughter Jennifer from his first marriage to Sandra Knight and appeared to be a more devoted family man than his public image ever personified.
Lisa, who today is a lawyer and Louise, a published scientist, both 46, also revealed their role in the hit flick did more harm than good to their fledgling acting careers.
They claim they were turned down by a number of acting schools because they’d been in the horror movie.
‘Oh my God, we loved it,’ Louise and Lisa Burns say about their once in a lifetime gig working with Kubrick.
‘Everyday felt like we’d been invited to a very exclusive party and we were the youngest, luckiest people to be there.’
The two sisters said they relished every moment working at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, England with the legendary filmmaker.
‘Stanley wanted us on set every single day, so between scenes we would play with Danny and Jack,’ said Louise.
The Shining tells the tale of aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance (played expertly by Nicholson), who agrees to become a caretaker for the Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies, and takes his wife Wendy and son Danny along for the ride.
Soon, Danny develops a psychic ability, which allows him to see the hotel’s horrific back-story, while Jack becomes influenced by supernatural forces that put his family in grave danger.
Nicholson’s career defining portrayal of unhinged family man Torrance and his delivery of the unforgettable line, ‘Here’s Johnny’, has stayed with audiences for over three decades.
The pair say Nicholson took naps on the floor between scenes to stay in character, talked about missing his daughter Jennifer from his first marriage to Sandra Knight
Louise has fond memories of her time on set with Nicholson, she said: ‘I clearly remember sitting on Jack’s knee and joking with him.
‘We talked about his daughter Jennifer a lot because she was in America and wasn’t able to visit Jack. We played chess and just generally chewing the cud.
‘Jack wasn’t a strange man at all, he was just a regular person, in fact he was very sweet.
‘He really missed Jennifer, he broke up with his wife Sandra some 12 years earlier, and Jennifer was in the US with her.
‘But at that time, he was actually going out with Anjelica Huston and Jack really wanted Anjelica to play Shelley Duvall’s character, Wendy Torrance, who was his on-screen wife.
‘Sometimes he would lie on the floor and fall asleep because he was so tired from jetting back and forth to see Anjelica in America.
‘They were extremely long days and I think Stanley would have had Jack work until the matchsticks fell out of his eyes, so he needed to nap between scenes.’
Despite his grueling schedule, the girls say Nicholson never complained.
‘Jack was a big film star at the time but he never acted like a big film star and never had any tantrums or said, “I’m too big for this”, he really never ran the fame game at all,’ said Lisa.
‘We’d see Jack acting on set and he wasn’t anything like his character in reality.
‘For Jack, it was like putting on a mask. One minute he would be completely normal and then suddenly he would be Jack Torrance.
‘Jack is a brilliant method actor who is so comfortable with his own identity that he can afford to let it wash away.’
In the film, they terrify little Danny Torrance (pictured) when they chant, ‘Come and play with us, Danny, forever, and ever, and ever,’ in their English accents before the film flashes to their dead and bloody bodies
Lisa, who today is a lawyer and Louise, a published scientist, both 46, also revealed their role in the hit flick did more harm than good to their fledgling acting careers
In the years since The Shining was released bizarre stories about life on set have fueled rumors claiming actress Duvall was tormented so badly by Kubrick that her hair fell out and she became ill and lost weight, but Lisa and Louise disagree.
‘All those rumors were complete rubbish and totally unfounded. There’s been a theory that violence on screen meant violence on set, but we now know that is not true at all,’ says Lisa.
‘We’ve always thought Shelley made an extremely good Mrs Torrance because she came across as being very meek and subservient, but she wasn’t at all like that in real life.
‘She wasn’t stressed out and she didn’t lose weight, she was a naturally long, thin, beanpole of a woman.
‘Shelley was a great method actor too, so she just embraced the role.’
The twins admit that the question they have been asked most over the years is, ‘Was Jack Nicholson really creepy?’.
Louise says: ‘He wasn’t creepy at all, he was acting. When you meet him in real life he’s just a normal person.’
In the film the two young girls are murdered violently with an axe after their hotel-caretaker father develops cabin fever.
They terrify little Danny Torrance when they chant, ‘Come and play with us, Danny, forever, and ever, and ever,’ in their English accents before the film flashes to their dead and bloody bodies.
Since its release in 1980, The Shining has become one of the most quoted horror movies of all time, with phrases like ‘Red Rum’ and ‘Here’s Johnny’ a hit with fans of the genre.
And despite mixed reviews and an Oscar snub for Nicholson as Best Actor, it still tops the list of best all-time horror movies list and will be a firm favorite this Halloween.
Thanks to Kubrick’s knack of scaring the audience witless The Shining was given an 18 rating in England for being a thriller with violence and blood.
But it never felt creepy or weird for the girls when they were young.
The Shining tells the tale of aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance (played expertly by Nicholson), who agrees to become a caretaker for the Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies, and takes his wife Wendy and son Danny along for the ride
The pair said Nicholson (pictured on Wednesday) appeared to be a more devoted family man than his public image ever personified
The twins even celebrated their 11th birthday on set and Kubrick’s wife, Vivian Kubrick, gave them each an autograph book that she had everyone sign.
Fittingly Mrs Kubrick signed her signature with fake blood that they used in the film.
‘What was so wonderful to us was that Stanley had found the time to celebrate the 11th birthday of two children he was never going to meet again. It really did feel like we were all family by then,’ said Louise.
Lisa added: ‘Stanley also gave us a tiny bottle of the blood, which he called Kensington Gore, and it was the same blood that we had to lie in during our death scene.’
Kubrick is renowned for his extreme attention to detail and for multiple retakes of the same scene, much to the frustration of his cast, but that wasn’t the case for the Grady Daughters’ death scenes.
‘Us lying in the blood was one of the last scenes shot for the movie and I remember being worried, not because of the blood, but because it was going to be cold,’ says Louise.
‘Stanley was such a perfectionist and had planned exactly how he was going to pour the blood over us, so our main concern was just staying really, really still.
‘We only had one set of blue dresses, so we had to get it right the first time otherwise the blood would ruin the dresses.
‘I remember that was very challenging for Stanley because he liked to do many takes.’
‘Those two dresses have since been cleaned and are touring the world, but if you look closely you can still see some blood stains on one of them.
‘We really hated them, they were horrible to wear and quite scratchy. Neither of us were particularly ‘girly’ as kids, so they weren’t our kind of clothes.’
Since its release in 1980, The Shining (scene from the film above) has become one of the most quoted horror movies of all time, with phrases like ‘Red Rum’ and ‘Here’s Johnny’ a hit with fans of the genre
In the years since The Shining was released, bizarre stories about life on set have fueled rumors claiming actress Shelley Duvall (pictured) was tormented so badly by Kubrick that her hair fell out and she became ill and lost weight, but Lisa and Louise disagree
The twins also reveal their casting as the Grady Daughters was an accident, as Kubrick had never intended to use twin sisters.
‘Stanley was the kind of person who didn’t know what he was looking for until he found it,’ said Lisa.
‘We’d never been to stage school but we had done some TV work before and so we had an agent and she called our mum and said, “Stanley Kubrick is looking for sisters.”
‘Stanley was never looking for twins, but we went along anyway.
‘If we hadn’t auditioned then the roles would probably have gone to two girls of different ages, like the characters in the book.
‘It certainly worked in our favor because Stanley decided twins were just spookier.’
Danny Lloyd was just five years old when he was cast as Jack Nicholson’s son, Danny Torrance.
Kubrick was very protective of him and it was decided he was too young to be told what the movie was really about.
Instead, Danny was told they were making a drama and the cast and crew went to great lengths to hide horror scenes from him.
During one scene, actress Duvall is running and screaming whilst carrying Danny in her arms.
Lisa recalls how Kubrick made Duvall carry a life-sized dummy so Danny wouldn’t hear her blood-curdling screams.
She said: ‘Danny was just a normal little boy and was a very sweet child. His parent’s worked on the railroad and it was his first acting job. We would play with him a lot, just like we would our own brother.
‘He had a lot more scenes than us, but it didn’t matter to us at all. We were very well entertained.
‘He did a great job, but he never knew what the movie was really about, he didn’t know it was a horror movie at all.’
Danny Lloyd (pictured with Nicholson in a scene from the film) was just five years old when he was cast as Jack Nicholson’s son, Danny Torrance. Kubrick decided he was too young to be told what the movie was really about
The twins recently attended a reunion of cast and crew for The Shining’s 35th anniversary in London.
Danny, now a college professor, couldn’t make it but sent over a video message saying he wished he could have been there.
‘It was great to see everyone, but it really didn’t feel like 35 years had passed at all,’ said Lisa.
‘It’s a strange thing when you make a movie. You spend every day with that group of people for eight or nine months, and then when the movie’s done, you never see them again. It’s a very strange thing to experience, especially as children.’
Both sisters relished their roles, but their dreams of becoming successful actresses were squashed when they were turned away by the prestigious acting academy, RADA (The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art), in London.
Louise had hopes of pursuing her acting career much further, but she lost her confidence.
‘When I was younger it was a huge dream of mine to be a movie star like Judy Garland or Greta Garbo, real movie stars.
‘I went to an audition for RADA and they said they couldn’t accept me because I’d been in the movie, that made me a professional actress and they didn’t accept professionals.
‘The woman wouldn’t even audition me and that was a huge knock for me, so I decided to be a scientist instead.’
Lisa agreed: ‘It was hard to get seen because of that. We would probably have had more luck if we’d just lied.’
Despite the pitfalls the girls say they enjoyed being part of such a global success.
The image of Lisa and Louise standing in the hotel corridor holding hands and chanting to Danny has become iconic.
Despite mixed reviews and an Oscar snub for Nicholson as Best Actor, the move still tops the list of best all-time horror movies list and will be a firm favorite this Halloween
‘Everyday felt like we’d been invited to a very exclusive party and we were the youngest, luckiest people to be there,’ Louise and Lisa Burns say about their once in a lifetime gig working with Kubrick
‘It’s amazing where we’ve seen ourselves. There’s a cartoonist who has featured us in The New Yorker and our characters have appeared in an episode of Family Guy and we say, ‘Come and play with us Stewie, forever and ever and ever.’
‘The sad thing is, they never ask us to do our own parts, they always get someone else in to do it, which is a shame. We’d have loved to do that.’
The sisters still travel the world for horror conventions and love meeting fans.
‘We met a fan in Canada who had a tattoo of us on each leg,’ said Louise. ‘We’ve also met people who have us on either arm and then when they put their arms together we’re holding hands. To us, that kind of thing is an incredible compliment.
‘People also dress up as us for Halloween and that’s always a nice plaudit.’
The twins admit they were surprised that they only got 30 seconds in the final cut of the movie, despite filming for so long on set.
‘We did have another line which was cut from the movie, it was a nursery rhyme, it was a little bit like Mary had a Little Lamb,’ said Lisa.
‘We were on set a lot, and the great thing about that was that you got to really see how a movie is made.’
The girls also remember a problem with the axe used by Nicholson to smash through a bathroom door in one of the movie’s most terrifying scenes.
‘They couldn’t use a real axe,’ recalls Lisa, ‘but the fake axe wouldn’t cut through the bathroom door. Come to think of it, the door was fake too. It’s just smoke and mirrors the whole time.’
Lisa added that even the snow was fake and never melted.
‘It was plastic and it stank and they had an awful problem getting rid of it.’
Both Lisa and Louise, who still live in London, were sad to hear the news of Kubrick’s death in 1999.
‘I remember being really sad because just a few weeks earlier I’d thought to myself I should really try and get back in touch with him,’ recalls Louise.
‘I remember thinking how I’d missed a great opportunity. I will never let another opportunity like that pass by.’
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