Movies & TV Shows

How Writing One Doctor Sleep Scene Changed Mike Flanagan’s Life

Though it is a key theme throughout his works, Mike Flanagan recalls how writing one Doctor Sleep scene put him on the path towards a sober life. The sequel to The Shining marked Flanagan’s second dive into the world of Stephen King, his first being the acclaimed adaptation of Gerald’s Game led by Carla Gugino. Scoring similarly positive reviews from critics, audiences and King alike, Doctor Sleep currently remains Flanagan’s last King-based work following the shelving of his spinoffs and Revival adaptation, but it did leave one major impact on his life.


In response to a fan’s question about the film, Mike Flanagan took to Tumblr to offer a detailed recollection of his time on Doctor Sleep. The writer/director recalled how the King movie adaptation changed his life by finally putting him on the path to sobriety, recalling his efforts to include this theme from both of King’s novels in the film and “vividly” recalling how writing one scene changed his life for the better. See what Flanagan shared below:

When he wrote DOCTOR SLEEP, he was decades sober. The story of DOCTOR SLEEP is the story of recovery. This was something that Ewan knew very well, and why he was perfect for the part. He knew what the journey felt like. He wasn’t alone – there were a number of cast and crew members on this shoot that were sober. In fact, just about all of the actors who played main characters were sober. I was still drinking at the time, though it had already become obviously problematic in my life, I hadn’t taken any meaningful steps to change it. I had been writing about addiction for a decade. It was all over my work, going all the way back to ABSENTIA. I didn’t realize just how much I was writing about myself, and I still can’t believe it took me this long.

I vividly recall writing the scene between Dan and Jack at the bar. My wife pointed out to me after the fact that she could see it then, that something was changing in me when it came to drinking. Something was waking up, and I was processing a desperate need to sober up. That scene represents an internal conversation that is profoundly personal to me. It’s still my favorite scene of the movie. I’ve been sober now for over 4 years. DOCTOR SLEEP helped me finally make that decision. I finished the shoot sober, and came home to my life with a lot of uncertainty and insecurity. But with the unflinching support of my incredible wife, and some amazing friends, my life started to really blossom. It was pretty immediately evident that this was one of the best decisions I’ll ever make.

Related: Mike Flanagan’s Dark Tower Dream Can Save Stephen King’s Most Wasted Story

Addiction Has Been A Key Flanagan Theme For Years

Ewan McGregor in Doctor Sleep

As Flanagan notes, the concept of addiction has been a key theme of his projects throughout the years, though it is interesting Doctor Sleep put him on the path towards sobriety. Just prior to getting the greenlight for the Shining sequel, Flanagan had been in the middle of shooting The Haunting of Hill House for Netflix, which reflected the struggle over sobriety through the lens of Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s Luke Crain, addicted to drugs as an adult in the hopes of grappling with his terrifying childhood memories of living in the titular house. Though initially thought to be on a downward spiral in the present timeline of the show, the end of the horror series saw Luke and his siblings celebrating his two years of sobriety, with the group having seemingly come to terms with their past in Hill House.

Doctor Sleep, itself, remains one of Flanagan’s biggest explorations of addiction and sobriety to date. The opening chapters of the King Shining sequel adaptation memorably saw an adult Danny Torrance, played by real-life teetotaler Ewan McGregor, seek help to recover from his alcoholism after leaving a single mother and her baby for dead after a night of drinking and drugs with her. The Doctor Sleep scene Flanagan mentions above, in which Danny meets with the spirit of his father in the Overlook Hotel, proved to many audiences to be a haunting reflection on the generational cycle of addiction, made all the more authentic thanks to King, Flanagan and McGregor’s personal experiences.

Flanagan’s drive for sobriety would again become a major thread with his Netflix miniseries Midnight Mass, a show which he has often described as deeply personal, especially in regard to Zach Gilford’s Riley, a venture capitalist who spends four years in prison after killing a woman in drunk driving accident. Even outside of being an effective creative connection between Flanagan and Doctor Sleep, knowing how the film put him on a path for personal growth is sure to be a heartwarming story for fans of the filmmaker. Audiences can revisit the chilling Doctor Sleep scene with the film available to stream on HBO Max now.

Next: Stephen King Finally Has His Perfect Director (Despite Doctor Sleep Bombing)Source: Mike Flanagan/Tumblr

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