Frozen Jack Nicholson: Actor or Prop?

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Remember the famous scene from The Shining, where Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance dies, frozen in the snow in front of the hotel. What do you think, was it really Nicholson or just a prop?

As per the Blu-Ray commentary, the producers stated that they actually used a prop to shoot this scene. The prop was a dummy made out of wax, which was very realistic, but it wasn’t really Jack Nicholson. There are photographs, though, which suggest that Nicholson was, at least for a moment, actually in the snow.

This article is going to reveal everything about the controversy surrounding Jack Torrance’s final moments in the movie. The scene is, now, a part of film history and we are going to reveal all the known information about how Kubrick and the team actually filmed the scene.

Was Jack Nicholson Frozen at the End of The Shining?

The famous ending scene from The Shining sees Jack Torrance dying in the snow after failing to kill his wife and son in a fit of madness caused by being isolated in the hotel. The scene has gone down in film history and the shot of Jack Torrance’s frozen body, with that silly expression, is known even to those that haven’t seen the movie.

For years, people have debated whether the scene was shot with the actor or with a prop. Some claimed that it was actually Jack Nicholson with make-up inside the snow, and some recent set photos suggested the same.

These images were, as it was said, previously unpublished and they seemed to suggest that it was actually Jack Nicholson on the set. But, as it turned out later – it seems – the producers actually used a prop, which explains the wooden mechanism, which kept the prop in place. This was seemingly confirmed by one of the producers on the Blu-Ray edition of Kubrick’s classic.

How Did They Make ‘Frozen Jack’?

As far as we know, the producers used a lifelike wax prop of Nicholson and additional makeup to make the prop more lifelike. People commented that while the prop did look realistic, there were some unnatural details and elements which reveal, to those with a trained eye, that it was a prop and not the real actor.

What Is The Shining All Bbout?

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a sober alcoholic and a failed writer, takes a job as a caretaker at a remote hotel in the Rocky Mountains during the winter months while the hotel is closed. He hopes that the privacy that the hotel offers, as it snows every year, will give him the peace he needs to be able to write his projected book.

He takes his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and his six-year-old son Danny (Danny Lloyd) to the hotel. The hotel possesses evil forces, which Danny perceives even before they arrive at the place. Danny has an ability to see into the future (which is called shining according to the hotel’s chef Dick Halloran, played by Scatman Crothers, who also possesses Danny’s ability).

Danny’s visions are conveyed through his fictional friend “Tony”. Danny describes Tony as “the little boy who lives in my mouth” for Halloran during a confidential conversation between the two.

Once snowed in and settled in the hotel, Danny is tormented by visions of the murders that took place in 1970 where the then-winter caretaker Delbert Grady (Philip Stone) murdered his wife and his two daughters.

Out of consideration for his father, however, Danny says nothing about these views of his family. Eventually, Jack’s frustration, spasm, and bitterness towards his family turn into pure madness, and the butler at the hotel, the ghost of Delbert, puts increasingly crazy plans in Jack’s head.

When Wendy expresses their desire to leave the hotel, Jack is asked to “rebuke” his family by Delbert. Danny, who foresaw that evil would eventually win over his father, contacts Halloran through his ability. Halloran quickly realizes that something is wrong and flies back to Colorado where the hotel is located.

At the same time, Wendy happens to see what Jack has written on his typewriter. Everything that stands side by side is “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” (Kubrick actually used different phrases for the international releases of the movie, each in a different language).

Jack sees this and asks what she thinks of his book. Jack then becomes threatening but says that he should not hurt her, he should just break her skull.

She manages to knock him unconscious with a baseball bat and pulls him to the kitchen’s large pantry where she locks him in. Wendy tries to escape but discovers that Jack has destroyed both the auxiliary radio and their snowmobile.

Jack talks through the pantry door with Delbert who unlocks the door from the outside and frees him. When “Tony” simultaneously takes over Danny’s body control, he both shouts “Redrum” and writes this with lipstick on the bathroom door. Wendy sees this in the mirror and realizes that he wrote “Murder”.

Jack starts hacking through the door with a fire ax into the family’s living room. Wendy and Danny lock themselves in the bathroom and Wendy pushes Danny out the bathroom window but can not get out himself.

Jack starts to slam the bathroom door and creates a hole where he sticks his head in and shouts “Here’s Johnny!” but backs away as Wendy stabs him in the hand with a knife.

Jack suddenly hears the sound of a snowmobile and leaves the room to investigate. It’s Halloran coming. Jack kills Halloran in the lobby and starts chasing Danny in the hotel’s hedge maze. Wendy looks for Danny but instead encounters a number of ghosts and large amounts of blood that, among other things, rush out of one of the hotel’s elevators.

Meanwhile, Danny Jack lurks in the maze by walking backward in his own footsteps in the snow. Danny runs back to his mother and then they escape together in Halloran’s snowmobile while Jack freezes to death in the maze.

The film ends with a zoom-in on a photograph from 1921, the year in which the hotel opened, where Jack is a caretaker. He has thus always been the hotel’s caretaker, even though he does not perceive it that way.

Was The Shining Received Well?

The Shining was initially received rather lukewarm, with many critics criticizing different aspects of the movie. And while most of them did praise Jack Nicholson’s performance and the production, the film itself wasn’t all that beloved initially. Later on, though, the film’s value was reappraised and the film is today considered a masterpiece and a classic of the horror genre.

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