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Film

Watch fantastic rare footage of Jack Nicholson on set in 'The Shining'

@Russellisation

American filmmaker Stanley Kubrick is known for perfecting several particular skills, with his meticulous attention to the pre-production phase helping him to conduct a singular artistic vision. Covering almost each and every base of genre filmmaking during his 48-year career, Kubrick became recognised as one of the finest filmmakers of all time, famed for his versatility from the comedy of Dr. Strangelove to the science fiction epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

Each of Kubrick’s films shared this meticulous attention to detail that included masterful cinematography work, innovative lighting techniques and some of the finest acting performances cinema has ever seen. 

Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove, R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket, Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, Kirk Douglas in Paths of Glory; the capabilities of Kubrick to get the very best out of his actors was extraordinary. Whilst each of these aforementioned actors deserve their own praise, few truly compare to the terrifying performance of Jack Nicholson in Kubrick’s 1980 horror The Shining.

Set in the towering, fictional Overlook Hotel, located in the Colorado Rockies, the haunting tale follows Jack Torrance (Nicholson) and his family who opt to look after the hotel over the winter. Dwarfed by the towering presence of the building, however, Jack soon becomes engulfed by an evil, violent presence, influencing his temper toward his wife (Shelley Duvall) and psychic son. 

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Though Duvall gives a hauntingly authentic performance as the wife of the murderous protagonist, it is Nicholson who received all the plaudits for his screen presence, and, as the rare behind-the-scenes video shows, it’s not hard to understand why. 

Showing Nicholson psyching himself up to become a malevolent axe-murderer, the actor bounces around the room, fueled by the sinister evil of his character. Getting ready for the scene, Duvall enters the bathroom, walking right past Nicholson without making eye contact, whilst a production assistant avoids the actor’s mad flailing of the real axe used on the film’s set. 

Whilst this famous “Here’s Johnny” scene is one of the film’s most memorable moments, it displays merely the tip of the protagonist’s insanity, with Nicholson pulling off a magnificent performance throughout the film to bring the character to life. 

Nicholson’s cruel psychotic descent is a true marvel to watch, elevating the performances of his co-stars, particularly Shelley Duvall who radiates an unrivalled physical fear. The Shining is a mesmerising horror experience crafted by Kubrick but piloted by Nicholson, slowly twisting the direction of the film along with his own mutating psychology.

Despite his performance, Nicholson wasn’t even nominated for an Academy Award in 1980, with the award for Best Actor rightfully going to Robert De Niro for Raging Bull, all whilst Kubrick’s film was nominated for two Razzie awards in what might be the worst immediate response in cinema history.

See the performance, below.