One of the biggest challenges director Mike Flanagan faced on “The Shining” sequel “Doctor Sleep” was a particularly brutal scene depicting the murder of a child, played by Jacob Tremblay.
The 13-year-old Tremblay, who starred in the breakout hits “Wonder” and “Good Boys” and first made his name in the Oscar-nominated “Room,” appears as Bradley Trevor, one of several prepubescent victims of the True Knot. That’s the group of supernatural near-immortals who feed on children who “shine,” led by the equal parts sinister and charming Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), as originally introduced in Stephen King’s novel of the same name.
“That scene in the book is one of the hardest I’ve ever had to read,” said Flanagan. “And it was one of the hardest scenes I’ve ever had to work on in a movie.” The scene is the sole testament to the True Knot’s menace, aptly raising the stakes for both the adult Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) and Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), a teenage girl who “shines” as Dan did as a kid.
“It is the entire engine for the risks, sacrifices and losses that Abra and Dan take for the rest of the story,” said Flanagan. “As far as depicting it, I didn’t want to flinch away from it but I also didn’t want to show so much of something so unpleasant that it would make people leave or knock them out of the movie.”
His solution was to frame the action from the chin up. But Tremblay’s performance — which was captured in just one take — was still convincing enough to bring the actors to tears.
“I edited more versions of that scene than any other in the film trying to find the right balance,” said Flanagan. “The problem is that Jacob Tremblay is so damn good. It’s just Jacob’s face, and holy crap does he sell it. His performance is horrifying to the point that Rebecca was speechless trying to act with him. She was crying while trying to do the scene with him. It traumatized us.”