The Truth Behind THE SHINING’s Spooky Final Photo
I've watched The Shining many times (recently forwards and backwards) and each time I have a question: is the picture at the end of the film, where Jack Nicholson is revealed in the past, a photo that Kubrick took? Did he gather that many extras for a picture?
No! The truth is revealed: it was a touch up job (this, youngsters, was long before Photoshop). The Overlook Hotel, a Tumblr dedicated to the movie, has found the original photo tucked away in a 1980s text called The Complete Airbrush and Photo Retouching Manual. The final film image uses only Jack's head and collar and tie.
Interestingly, close examination of images from the film reveals that two different photo-composites were used: one for the long tracking shot which pushes down the hall towards the photo, and a different one for the extreme close-up. Nicholson’s composited head rotates from one photo to the next, and his shoulder shifts, partially obscuring the woman holding the cigarette behind him.
When we talk about film craft and how it's changed over the years, this feels like a perfect example. The modern world offers filmmakers so many forms of digital trickery to create phony photographs in movies, but they always look like shit. If I had the wherewithal I would start my own Tumblr of just horrible, cheap, lazy Photoshop jobs in modern films; almost every single movie that has an old photograph in it does it badly. Stanley Kubrick did it with such care that it looks better now than any modern state of the art fake picture.
The real guy, before being erased from history.