As a hybrid sequel of both Stephen King’s novel The Shining and Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation, Doctor Sleep reintroduces fans to the seminal story's characters. Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd in the original film, and Ewan McGregor in the 2019 sequel) is all grown up now, and battling many of the same demons he first faced in that haunted hotel. This includes the spirits of the Overlook Hotel — like the decaying woman in the bathtub and those two blue dress wearing sisters — which, in this version of the story, is still standing. However, the villain you will leave Doctor Sleep thinking about isn’t from the original Shining at all. “Rose the Hat,” played by Rebecca Ferguson, is the dangerous and magnetic leader of a children-murdering cult called True Knot, is original to Doctor Sleep.
Rose, whose wardrobe is part-Olsen twin, part-Stevie Nicks, has one motto: “Eat well. Live long.” Alas, when Rose says “eat well,” she means “consume the life force of children with psychic abilities, at any cost.” It’s hard to reconcile Rose’s soft, soothing voice with that of a predator hellbent on killing the youth for her own gain, but that’s exactly what makes the Hat so frightening: She has no regard for human life, and yet, you kind of want to hang out with her on the roof of her trailer.
Over the phone, Refinery29 spoke to Ferguson about how far back Rose the Hat’s history really goes, and why she has a little bit of sympathy for the budding horror icon even though she eats...children.
Refinery29: The members of the True Knot have such unique physicality, how did you get into character?
Rebecca Ferguson: We had no green screens [on set]. Everything was in its original habitat or on stage. We had an incredible movement coach named Terry Notary, who also worked with Andy Serkis on Planet of the Apes. He helped us create this creature who feeds off steam, and helped each of us in the True Knot to find out individual way of [behaving] and moving.
We don’t know much about Rose’s history, but we do know that the members of the True Knot are capable of living for a very long time, if they feed. Did you create a backstory for Rose?
Stephen King is an incredible writer. You can Sherlock Holmes your way through the history of Rose. It doesn’t take you far back with Rose, but [in the movie] she does talk about the gladiators, about the fall of the Roman Empire [with True Knot member Grandpa Flick, played by Carel Struycken]. I think in her storyline it works out for her to be about 600 to 700 years old. Nothing is written in stone for Rose, and I love the idea that her story is all up for interpretation.
Rose has such a cool style. What do you think of her very specific look?
When you read the book, Rose’s style isn’t described as a hippie style. I had created my own mood board for Rose without talking to the costume designer at all, or the hair designer, and all of us had the same idea. When we saw all the mood boards, we were all filtering this Woodstock, hippie-esque sexual creature, which was great. Selfishly, I love being barefoot and wearing comfy clothes.
"It’s like Kubrick was the mom and King was the dad, and it was a divorce. Now, Mike is bringing the child together that is Doctor Sleep."
What was your relationship to The Shining before working on Doctor Sleep?
I had seen [the movie] when I was younger and [watched it again] to prepare for Doctor Sleep. The connection between the book and movie is all due to Mike Flanagan. He decided to follow the book as closely as he could, but it gave him a freedom as well. He got the blueprint [for The Shining] from Stanley Kubrick, so he could recreate what has already been created. It’s like Kubrick was the mom and King was the dad, and it was a divorce. Now, Mike is bringing the child together that is Doctor Sleep. We recreated the exact copy of the Overlook because we had the same architectural drawings that Kubrick had, so we could enter into the same exact world. On my end, I got to be a new character who got to see this environment for the first time, which was so great as well.
Do you have a favourite Rose moment in the movie?
Grandpa Flick is cycling away. It’s one of the most beautiful scenes for me because it shows me the love and care of the True Knot, and how important they are to each other. They’re not without emotion. They just hunt. Do you cry when you eat a hamburger at the same time? The evil is the outcome of the action, and what she and her group have to do in order to get [their victims] to release the steam. For her it’s nothing more than hunting.
Do you think that Rose is evil? Do you have any sympathy for her?
She’s a predator. She’s highly intelligent. She’s a force. She’s 100% devoted to everything which I think makes people a little bit Godlike. The grandiosity of her, her selfish needs. Equally as much she loves. Rose focuses so much on her need and her wanting that she forgets to see her surroundings.
I think if you look at it from an everyday person perspective, you take away [someone’s] children and their family, you take their village...there are so many dreadful things that can happen to people. I don’t know where Rose would end up [after all this]. She would have to find new followers, reconnect with people. Without people, without a purpose, in this life, we are nothing.
Have you thought about any other iconic King roles you would love to play?
I don’t know. I don’t want to wish away the wonderful feeling I’m sitting on right now, having played one of the most iconic female antagonists Stephen King has ever created. I’m happy at this moment. It’s like eating a lovely dinner and then discussing what we should have next for lunch.
There’s been a push for more women in heroic roles on screen, but what are your thoughts on bringing more women villains to movies?
I think it’s important to portray human beings in every environment, whether we are heroes or victims, survivors or assailants. The worst thing we can do [with feminism] is assume that we always have to play the part of a heroine, or powerful. Being a human being, whether you have a vagina or a penis, is about being vulnerable. It’s being in love, and loved, or scared, or weak. It’s everything that is a human being, and that’s what is important for me to see. When I play a villain, I want to see the sadness and fear in her as well. When I play a wonderful human being, I want to find her fear, her addiction, and her sadness as well.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Doctor Sleep is in theaters November 8.