Jack Nicholson Prepares for ‘The Shining’ Axe Scene in Rare Behind the Scenes Footage
Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ is inarguably one of the greatest horror films ever made (although many would argue—including Stephen King—that it’s not the best adaptation of its source material), featuring a ferociously great performance from Jack Nicholson. We’ve seen a lot of actors take the “method” approach, but it’s rare that we see their process as they prepare for a scene, especially one as intense as the famous axe scene from ‘The Shining.’ And thanks to this rare behind the scenes footage, you can watch how Nicholson got pumped up before he terrorized co-star Shelley Duvall.
In the film, Nicholson plays Jack Torrance, a father struggling with anger issues and a drinking problem, who takes his family up to the isolated Overlook Hotel for the winter, where he works as the caretaker while attempting to complete his novel. While there, the sinister paranormal entities lurking within the hotel prey upon Jack’s weaknesses, sending him into a murderous rage—and that’s where the axe scene comes into play.
The video above shows some behind the scenes footage of Nicholson getting into character and preparing for the intense scene, in which he’ll viciously try to attack his wife, Wendy, played by Duvall. The video itself has been online since 2011, but it’s surprising that it hasn’t gotten very much attention. Nicholson isn’t so much warming up for the scene as he is winding himself up into a frenzy, saying “C’mon, c’mon,” and bouncing up and down as he clenches his fists. You can see him become Jack Torrance right before your eyes, and the transition from “behind the scenes” into actual filming is almost seamless.