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John Daniel "Jack" Torrance is a fictional character, the protagonist/main antagonist in the 1977 novel The Shining by Stephen King. He was portrayed by Jack Nicholson in the 1980 movie adaptation of the novel, and by Steven Weber in the 1997 miniseries. The American Film Institute rated the character (as played by Nicholson) the 25th greatest film villain of all time. In 2008, Jack Torrance was selected by Empire Magazine as one of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters. Premiere Magazine also ranked Torrance on their list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
In novel 
Jack Torrance is a writer and former teacher who is trying to rebuild his and his family's life after his alcoholism and volatile temper cost him his teaching position at a small preparatory school. Having given up drinking, he accepts a position maintaining the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado for the winter, in the hope this will salvage his family, re-establish his career, and give him the time and privacy to finish a promising play. He moves to the hotel with his wife, Wendy, and young son, Danny, who is telepathic and sensitive to supernatural forces. Danny receives guidance from an imaginary friend he calls "Tony."
It is later revealed that Jack's father, also an alcoholic, was abusive towards his family. A flashback scene in the novel shows his drunk father brutally bashing Jack's mother with a cane.
Danny finds out that the Overlook Hotel is haunted from cook Dick Hallorann, who is also psychic (in fact, it is he who coins the term "the shining" to describe the powers he and the boy possess) and who teaches Danny to use his gift to defend himself and his family from the evil forces at work in the old building. However, Jack succumbs to both cabin fever and his drinking problem, and allows the hotel to convince him to hate his own wife and child (in fact, a good part of Jack's insanity is caused by the hotel's demonic entity, which uses its supernatural powers to psychologically torture them). Jack has encounters with ghosts of previous staff of the hotel, who insist he had always been working there, and must kill his family so he can be promoted to a managerial position.
In fact, the Hotel is not only haunted by the ghosts of those who died violently within it, but the entire Hotel is itself host to a being of unknown origin, who wishes to coerce the father into killing the boy. Apparently, the souls and, perhaps, special abilities of those killed in the building belong to the entity, and the Hotel believes that if it can harness the boy's "shining" (a recurring supernatural ability in the Stephen King universe coined for those individuals who simultaneously exhibit clairvoyant and psychic abilities), then it can gather enough power to "break free" of the building in which it has somehow become trapped.
Jack pursues Wendy, who knocks him out as he tries to kill her. She locks him up in a storage room, and realizes that she is stranded there at the hotel (Jack had cut off all radio communications and also sabotaged the hotel snowmobile, their only means of transport). Jack is later helped out of the food storage room by the ghost of the previous caretaker, who murdered his own family before committing suicide.
Jack then brutally attacks Wendy with a roque mallet he found, although she escapes. He is interrupted with the arrival of Hallorann, whom he almost beats to death.
Jack finds and confronts Danny and is about to kill him when his son reaches through the hotel's power and redeems his father moments before the hotel's boiler explodes, demolishing the building. Wendy, Danny and Hallorann escape, but Jack dies inside.
In film 
Jack Torrance is portrayed in a less sympathetic manner in the 1980 film. In the novel Jack is a tragic hero whose shortcomings lead to his defeat, while the film implies that he is insane from the start. It also leaves out his traumatic childhood.
The film's first major deviation from the source material occurs when Jack attacks Hallorann. Instead of merely injuring him with the mallet, Jack brutally kills Hallorann with an axe wound to the heart.
In the film, Jack hears Danny scream, and chases his son to a hedge maze outside the hotel (while in the novel, topiary animals come to life and threaten Danny). Danny walks backwards in his own footprints to mislead Jack, then jumps to a side path and slips out of the maze. While Wendy and Danny escape the hotel in Hallorann's Snowcat, Jack gets lost trying to pick up Danny's tracks, sits down to rest, and quickly freezes to death.
Jack redeems himself in the book, while in Kubrick's film he succumbs to his demons and is ultimately damned (much to Stephen King's chagrin). The film ends featuring an old photograph of a dance at the hotel from the 1920s that shows Jack in the event.
In the miniseries 
Author Stephen King was unhappy with some liberties that the 1980s film director Stanley Kubrick took with the novel, and decided to produce a three-part miniseries of his vision of the story. While well received by King fans, it received mixed reviews from critics.
In King's film version, Jack Torrance is presented more sympathetically than in Kubrick's film. Torrance in the King miniseries is similar to the character in the novel, but the ending is changed. In the book, Jack redeems himself, and the boiler explodes due to the hotel's negligence. In the miniseries, Jack sacrifices himself by causing the boiler to explode in order to destroy the hotel.
The miniseries ends with a scene not in the book: Danny graduates from high school, while his spectral father looks on. It is revealed that Danny's imaginary friend "Tony" is, in fact, Danny from the future communicating with his past self, a point briefly touched upon in the book but totally omitted from the Kubrick film.
- "AFI'S 100 YEARS…100 HEROES AND VILLAINS". Retrieved 2011-09-20.
- "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters| 73. Jack Torrance | Empire". www.empireonline.com. 2006-12-05. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
- "100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time". Filmsite.org. Retrieved 2011-09-20.