- NOTE: This page is only about the version of Jack Torrance in Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film adaptation. For his literary counterpart, as well as the version in the 1997 TV adaptation, see here.
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|“||All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…||„|
|~ Jack Torrance's papers written after losing his sanity, and one of the most famous movie quotes of all time.|
|~ Jack Torrance appears after chopping down the door that Wendy was hiding behind — another famous line.|
John "Jack" Torrance is the central antagonist of the 1980 psychological horror film The Shining and a posthumous character in its 2019 supernatural horror sequel Doctor Sleep, both based on the respective Stephen King's 1977 and 2013 novels of the same name.
He is a former teacher, aspiring writer and a recovering alcoholic who lives with his wife Wendy and his son Danny, the latter of which wields a special psychic power known as "the Shining". Jack is offered the position of caretaker of the Overlook Hotel for the winter season, but during his time there, slowly falls into insanity due to cabin fever and the evil influence of the ghosts inhabiting the place, such as the Hotel Caretaker, leading him to turn on his own family.
In The Shining, he was portrayed by the legendary Jack Nicholson, who also played Daryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick, The Joker in Batman, Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in A Few Good Men, Jimmy Hoffa in Hoffa and Frank Costello in The Departed. In Doctor Sleep, he was portrayed by Henry Thomas, who also played a young Norman Bates in Psycho IV: The Beginning.
Unlike his more sympathetic literary counterpart, Jack is almost a threat and unsympathetic character right from the very start. He has a disturbing and unsettling demeanor even when he was simply applying for the job as a caretaker in Stuart Ullman's office. It's also revealed early on in the film that he broke Danny's arm when he was younger, and Jack acts as though it never happened.
Jack was a writer who accepted the job of winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel, despite being informed of the building's grisly past and reputation as a cursed place (which he shrugged off as a superstition) and he took his wife Wendy and son Danny with him to the hotel and thought that the solitude of the place would help inspire him in his writing as well. He shows his first sign of going insane about a month after his application when he verbally abuses his wife Wendy for "distracting" him from his work.
Not long after, Danny has communicated with him about their experiences in the hotel. Danny uses his Shining ability to tell that Jack wants to hurt both him and his mother, implying that Jack has already gone insane. He has one of his more sympathetic moments in the film when he has a nightmare about killing Wendy and Danny, before waking up, screaming and crying about it to Wendy.
However, when a silent Danny walks in on and reveals the neck injury that he received from the old woman in Room 237, Wendy accuses Jack of abusing his son again. Jack is surprised and confused by this. Jack bitterly goes downstairs to the Hotel's abandoned pub to brood about his family, whispering to himself that he'd sell his "goddamned soul" for a glass of beer.
Not long after this Lloyd the Bartender mysteriously appears (implying the Overlook Hotel may have taken up Jack's deal) and offers Jack fine alcohol on the house. Jack accepts the bourbon, breaking the alcohol abstinence he had been taking for the past few months. Lloyd and Jack act as if they've known each other for years, as the latter tells Lloyd that he's not happy with both his family and his life, and claims that he injured Danny's arm three years ago, whereas Wendy claimed that it was only five months ago. This implies that this wasn't the first or last time that Jack injured Danny or Jack lied to make himself look better.
When Jack goes back upstairs, Wendy immediately apologizes for accusing him and immediately tells him about the woman in Room 237. He insults her and calls her crazy instead of accepting the apology before she makes herself serious. He then checks the room where he finds a beautiful woman in the bathtub. With a sinister grin on his face, he lustfully embraces the woman as she seduces him and they start kissing, blatantly cheating on his wife, before discovering that the beautiful woman is actually the ghost of a hideously deformed old lady. In shock, he escapes the room as the ghost cackles wickedly.
When he gets back, he lies to his wife about not seeing anyone in the room, in order to cover up his tracks, claiming that Danny injured himself. When she asks for them to leave the hotel, he berates and insults her, claiming that he absolutely refuses to leave the hotel before storming off in a rage. When he gets to the barroom, it's now filled with ghosts before reuniting with Lloyd and asking for a drink. He starts exploring the place before a waiter accidentally spills lemonade all over him. The waiter apologizes and takes Jack to the bathroom to clean him up.
There, they have a friendly conversation, before Jack recognizes him as Charles/Delbert Grady, the previous caretaker, and reminds him of what he did. Grady then claims that he "corrected" his family and that Jack needs to "correct" his. Jack is then seduced by the hotel, and unlike the novel where he was being brainwashed against his will by the spirits, he willingly agrees to kill his family.
After Jack attempts to murder Wendy, she locks him in the pantry for her and her son's safety. He's quickly let out though by the spirits and gleefully attempts to kill his wife and son with his iconic ax instead of a rogue mallet. When Dick Halloran arrives to help, Jack murders him with the ax.
During a fearsome manhunt, he maniacally and gleefully chases Danny with his ax through the snowy maze until Danny outsmarts him by leaving a false trail, allowing him and his mother to escape. As he stumbles around in the maze, all Jack can do is scream and yell incomprehensible gibberish, showing just how far his mental state has degraded. Jack is ultimately left to freeze to death in the giant maze outside the hotel, clearly having gone way too far to redeem himself.
The film ends by featuring an old photograph of a ball at the hotel from July 4, 1921, that shows Jack at the event. What does this exactly mean is beyond anyone's speculation and is likely up for the viewer to think about.
- The scene where Jack broke down the door and yelled: "Heeeeere's Johnny!" as he did so was unscripted, yet kept in the film.
- The catchphrase "Heeeeere's Johnny!" at the time of the film's release had a doubly iconic meaning, being the introduction to the long-running host of The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson. It even became a popular Internet meme.
- In the film adaptation of the sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep, Jack appears in flashback scenes where he is portrayed by Henry Thomas. He also breifly cameos as the bartender.
- Jack starts out clean-shaven, but as he descends into madness, he grows a five-o-clock shadow to reflect this.
- It is believed that Jack starts wearing his iconic red jacket once he reaches the climax of his insanity.
- He makes a small cameo appearance on the screen of the drive-in cinema before the screen gets destroyed by the F-5 tornado in the 1996 film, Twister.
- Jack makes a brief cameo appearance in The Shining level in the 2018 film Ready Player One, chasing Aech. However, Jack is seen backward as his face isn't seen at all.
- Interestingly, Jack Nicholson was actually approached to appear in Ready Player One, possibly reprising the role of Jack for his cameo appearance. However, Nicholson desisted as he has retired from acting since the release of How Do You Know in 2010.
- Similarly to how Danny Lloyd, who played the young Danny Torrance in The Shining, appeared in Doctor Sleep in a cameo appearance, Jack Nicholson was actually considered to appear in a cameo appearance in Doctor Sleep. However, like in the case of his offered Ready Player One cameo, Nicholson declined because of being retired. Director Mike Flanagan ultimately felt that it was better that Nicholson didn't return, as he would not have been able to reprise the role of Jack partly because of his age, and partly because the audience would have felt dissatisfied with just a cameo appearance of him. Nevertheless, Nicholson approved and liked the film.
- Before Jack Nicholson was cast, Harrison Ford, Robert De Niro, and the late Robin Williams were considered.
- The Simpsons story "Treehouse of Horror 5" has a segment titled The Shinning where the Simpsons family has to take care of Mr. Burns' winter lodge. Homer discovers that Burns and Smithers cut off the lodge's beer supply and cable TV and with some convincing from a dead Moe (playing the role of Lloyd), he goes Jack Torrance on his entire family in exchange for a beer at Moe's ghost bar. There are several references to the movie which include the blood elevator, Homer having to ax down three doors, and the entire family freezing to death watching a portable TV.
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