Jack Torrance

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Jack Torrance
The Shining character
Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in the iconic "Here's Johnny!" scene from the 1980 film adaptation of The Shining
First appearance
Last appearance
Created byStephen King
Portrayed byJack Nicholson (1980)
Steven Weber (1997)
Brian Mulligan (2016)
Henry Thomas (2019)
In-universe information
Full nameJohn Daniel Edward Torrance
FamilyMark Torrance (father; deceased)
Brett Torrance (brother; deceased)
Becky Torrance (sister)
Mike Torrance (brother)
SpousesWendy Torrance (wife; deceased)
Alessandra “Sandy” Reynolds (ex-lover; deceased)
ChildrenDanny Torrance (son; deceased)
Lucy Stone (née Reynolds; illegitimate daughter)
RelativesAbra Stone (granddaughter)
Dave Stone (son-in-law)
Jackie Torrance (niece)

John Daniel Edward "Jack" Torrance is the villain protagonist in Stephen King's horror novel The Shining (1977). He was portrayed by Jack Nicholson in the novel's 1980 film adaptation, by Steven Weber in the 1997 miniseries, by Brian Mulligan in the 2016 opera and by Henry Thomas in the 2019 film adaptation of Doctor Sleep. The American Film Institute rated the character (as played by Nicholson) the 25th-greatest film villain of all time.[1] In 2008, Jack Torrance was selected by Empire magazine as one of the 100 greatest movie characters.[2] Premiere magazine also ranked Torrance on their list of their 100 greatest movie characters of all time.[3]


In novels[edit]

Jack grew up in Berlin, New Hampshire, where his father, Mark Torrance, worked in the Regional Community Hospital. He also has three older siblings: Brett, Becky, and Mike. He is a writer, former teacher, and debate team coach whose alcoholism and volatile temper costs him his teaching position at Stovington Preparatory School, when he assaults George Hatfield, a student and former member of the debate team, whom he catches vandalizing his car. Later, his drinking nearly ends his marriage to his wife, Wendy, after he breaks his son Danny's arm in a blind rage. He finally decides to quit drinking after a drunk driving crash in which he and a friend run over an abandoned bicycle in the road and realize they could've killed a child. He accepts a position maintaining the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado for the winter, hoping 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 Wendy and Danny, who is telepathic and sensitive to supernatural forces. Danny receives guidance from an imaginary friend he calls "Tony." Danny is also comforted by meeting the hotel's kindly cook, Dick Hallorann, who shares Danny's telepathic abilities.

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.

The Hotel is haunted by the ghosts of those who died violently within it and is itself host to a being of unknown origin, who wishes to coerce Jack into killing Danny. Apparently, the Hotel believes if it can harness the boy's "shining", then it can gather enough power to "break free" of the building in which it has somehow become trapped. Jack has encounters with ghosts of previous staff of the hotel, who insist he has always been working there and he must kill his family. Jack eventually succumbs to these supernatural forces, starts drinking again, and grows to hate his own wife and child.

Jack cuts off all radio communications and sabotages the hotel snowmobile, their only means of transportation. He then tries to kill Wendy, who knocks him out and locks him in a food storage room. Jack is later helped out of the 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 by 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 brings out his father's true self. Jack tells Danny to run and remember how much he loves him, before the hotel's power takes over again and forces Jack to bash in his own face with the mallet. Jack had forgotten to dump the boiler, which grows too hot and causes the hotel to explode. Jack is killed, but Danny, Wendy and Hallorann get out just in time.

In the sequel novel Doctor Sleep (2013), Danny (now going by Dan) learns that Jack is also the biological father of Lucy Stone, a woman whose daughter Abra has manifested “shining” abilities even stronger than Dan's. Shortly before he was fired from his teaching position, and unbeknownst to Wendy, Jack had a brief sexual encounter with a student teacher Sandy Reynolds at a party that led to Lucy's conception. Dan is thus Lucy's half-brother and Abra's half-uncle. This book gives Jack's middle name as Edward rather than Daniel.

In the climax of the novel, Jack's ghost intervenes to help Dan's friend Billy Freeman, and Lucy and Abra Stone defeat the main antagonists, Rose the Hat and the True Knot, at the site where the Overlook once stood. After the battle, Jack and Dan make peace with each other before he, Billy, and Abra left the location.

In film[edit]

Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson) is portrayed in a less sympathetic manner in the 1980 film. The film's first major deviation from the source material occurs when Jack attacks Hallorann. Instead of merely injuring him with the mallet, Jack kills Hallorann by planting an axe in his chest. Jack hears Danny scream as he kills Hallorann, and chases his son to a hedge maze outside the hotel, while in the novel, topiary animals come to life and threaten Danny. In the film, Danny walks backwards in his own footprints to mislead Jack, then jumps to a side path and slips out of the maze. Wendy and Danny escape the hotel in Hallorann's Snowcat, while Jack gets lost trying to pick up Danny's tracks, sits down to rest, and freezes to death. The film ends featuring an old photograph of a ball at the hotel from July 4, 1921, that shows a man who strongly resembled Jack at the event.

In the 2019 film adaptation of Doctor Sleep, Torrance's likeness (Henry Thomas) is taken by The Bartender at the Overlook for an interaction with the adult Danny (Ewan McGregor), which is expanded in the director's cut to include a following scene in the bathroom. Thomas also portrays Torrance in flashback sequences.

In miniseries[edit]

Author Stephen King was unhappy with director Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film adaptation of the novel, particularly Nicholson's portrayal of Jack Torrance:

The character of Jack Torrance has no arc in that movie. Absolutely no arc at all. When we first see Jack Nicholson, he's in the office of Mr. Ullman, the manager of the hotel, and you know, then, he's crazy as a shit house rat. All he does is get crazier. In the book, he's a guy who's struggling with his sanity and finally loses it. To me, that's a tragedy. In the movie, there's no tragedy because there's no real change.[4]

King then decided to create a miniseries based on his vision of the novel, with Jack Torrance as a more sympathetic character. Torrance in the miniseries is similar to the character in the novel, but the ending is changed. In the miniseries, Jack redeems himself, and the boiler explodes due to the hotel's negligence. In the book, 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.

In opera[edit]

An opera based on Stephen King's 1977 novel originated with Eric Simonson, who directed the premiere production of the opera, and Minnesota Opera Artistic Director Dale Johnson. Paul Moravec and Mark Campbell planned to design their opera to adhere to King's novel, unlike the 1980 film adaptation. Jack and the other characters were portrayed similarly like in the novel, and it was approved of by King.

In play[edit]

A new play directed by Ivo van Hove and written by Simon Stephens,[5] based on the 1977 book, is coming to the West End in 2023, and Ben Stiller is reportedly in talks to play Jack Torrance in a stage adaptation.[6][7]


  1. ^ "AFI'S 100 YEARS…100 HEROES AND VILLAINS" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 7, 2011. Retrieved September 20, 2011.
  2. ^ "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters| 73. Jack Torrance | Empire". www.empireonline.com. December 5, 2006. Archived from the original on September 4, 2011. Retrieved September 20, 2011.
  3. ^ "100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time". Filmsite.org. Archived from the original on July 8, 2010. Retrieved September 20, 2011.
  4. ^ Libbey, Dirk (February 4, 2016). "Stephen King's Biggest Problem With Stanley Kubrick's Version of The Shining". Cinema Blend. Archived from the original on July 2, 2017. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
  5. ^ Hershberg, Marc. "'The Shining' Could Be Coming to Broadway". Forbes. Archived from the original on November 24, 2020. Retrieved August 23, 2019.
  6. ^ Ben Stiller in talks to star as Jack Torrance in ‘The Shining’ play Archived October 5, 2022, at the Wayback MachineNME
  7. ^ Ben Stiller to Play Jack Torrance in a Stage Adaptation of Stephen King’s THE SHINING – GeekTyrant