“C’mon you f#ck! C’mon death! Die! Axe murderer! Kill!!”
That’s my best transcription of Jack Nicholson’s loopy warm up dialog seen in the above clip, taken from “Making The Shining.” Director Stanley Kubrick let his then 17-year-old daughter Vivian wander the set during the making of this classic film, and captures a lot of the magic that went on. This scene of Nicholson warming up, Method-style, is a brief highlight.
I’m tickled that Nicholson is in his own mad little world, while the crew at Elstree Studios (where most of the film was shot), go about their business, occasionally swerving aside--careful with that axe, Eugene! I mean, Jack!
This is, of course, a warm up for the now iconic scene where Jack Torrance chops his way into the bathroom where his wife Wendy is hiding. And has there been a better axe in the door scene since? Can any film do so now without referencing Kubrick? I would say no.
If that piqued your interest, there’s even more behind the scenes footage kicking around YouTube, including Kubrick typing away, Nicholson schmoozing it up, Shelley Duvall pointing out her hair is coming out from the stress of filming, Kubrick’s mom visiting the set, the early use of Steadicam and video assist, Kubrick being kind of a dick to Duvall, and much more, including this observation from Nicholson: “The average celebrity meets in one year ten times the amount of people that the average person meets in their entire life.”
Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.