40 Thought-Provoking Facts About The Shawshank RedemptionBy Jennifer Snow
Most people have seen The Shawshank Redemption. The film is about Andy Dufresne, a banker wrongly accused of a double murder and sentenced to life in the Shawshank prison. While most of us know the story all-too-well, many people are surprised to hear that it was based on a book by Stephen King.
Even if you were aware that the film was based on King’s book, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, we can guarantee you’ll be surprised by at least a few of the facts we have gathered for you in this article. Read on to learn all the secrets and surprises that lurked behind the scenes of The Shawshank Redemption.
The Original Tommy Williams
Gil Bellows, who played Tommy Williams, a prisoner studying for his GED, wasn’t supposed to play a role in the movie. It’s just that the person who was supposed to play this part dropped the offer. Why did he do that? And who was that person?
The person who was supposed to play the role was Brad Pitt. Yes, you read that right. Unfortunately, he had to turn down the part to star in Interview with the Vampire. So, Gil Bellows got the role of Tommy, and the rest is history.
Pictures on the Wall
Aside from all those posters in Andy’s cell, a few photos are interesting too. You may think the art director chose those photos just for the general aesthetics, but that’s not what truly happened.
Tim Robbins, who played the role of Andy, was responsible for the photos on his cell wall. Our hunch is that he chose those photos to help him embrace his character. It’s so cool that they allowed him to do what he needed to do to get into character.
You’ve probably noticed that Red’s character always has cigarettes on him wherever he goes. It’s no secret that cigarettes are common currency among prisoners. So, it’s not surprising to see them in Shawshank. Their presence does, after all, make it more believable.
Although there are a lot of scenes where we can see Red taking a cigarette, that doesn’t mean he smokes. In fact, if you watch the film carefully, Red is never really seen smoking a cigarette. Did someone catch him doing so? Tell us if you did.
TNT’s Television Rights
In all honesty, The Shawshank Redemption was not a hit when it was first released. It had such a low box office opening that TNT was able to purchase television rights for the film at a very cheap rate. They hit the jackpot right there.
The movie gained popularity over time, eventually skyrocketing and earning the network a lot of money in the process. TNT has been able to charge a high advertising rate, despite having paid a cheaper rate to obtain the rights to the film. It shows that a good movie with a strong storyline will get the recognition it deserves eventually.
Good working relationships are essential if you want to have a harmonious environment. That’s proven and tested. There’s something about a healthy environment that makes you want to do your best, and this was true for the cast of The Shawshank Redemption.
You can’t expect to see much love or softness in the movie because it’s a drama/crime film. However, according to Tim Robbins, behind the camera, the actors portraying each character developed a strong bond with one another. This was true even of those who played antagonists when the cameras were rolling.
In many cases, actors must audition to have a hope of getting a role in a movie. We don’t know what happens in auditions, but let’s just say their acting skills are tested. While every audition is challenging in some way, The Shawshank Redemption pushed one of its actors in ways he’d never been pushed before.
Frank Medrano played the part of Fat Ass in the movie. His character faced a sad ending when he was beaten to death. He claims it was the worst audition he’d ever had, but he doesn’t regret doing it because it taught him how to live a healthy lifestyle – what a story!
Who is Allen Greene?
If you’re one of those people who waited until the lights turned on in the cinema before going out, you would have noticed The Shawshank Redemption is dedicated to Allen Greene. Since we didn’t have smartphones back when the film came out, you might have been left wondering who this guy is. Well, we have the answer for you!
Allen Greene was a close friend and literary agent to Frank Darabont, the director of the film. Unfortunately, he died before Shawshank was completed. He was the one who got Darabont the rights to the book, so without him, the film may never have been made. So, of course, the director wanted to honor his friend who, sadly, never got to see the final cut.
Do you know the classical music piece Andy played in that famous scene where he turns up the volume? If you don’t, then let us answer that for you! It was “Canzonetta Sull’aria” from The Marriage of Figaro, a famous piece by Mozart.
What happened in the movie wasn’t supposed to happen. It was supposed to play in the background, but Robbins had other things in mind. He was the reason why Andy turned the volume of the music up and drew some attention – it truly was a brilliant idea.
It was indeed a surprise cameo for Actress Raquel Welch. Don’t get us wrong – she wasn’t physically in the movie. She was more there in spirit, thanks to a poster of her from One Million Years BC. Let’s just say she was there but not there.
Her poster was adored by all the inmates in the prison. We can’t blame them – her beauty radiates so much that it reaches us even today! In a way, she played a crucial role, and we hear that she was indeed a big fan of the movie.
Stephen King’s Inspiration
You might wonder, how does Stephen King make such stories? Right? He touches on unusual topics and issues that we don’t often see with other writers. This baffles but excites us at the same time. He wrote Cujo and It, but he was also responsible for Stand By Me and Gerald’s Game.
According to King, Shawshank was loosely based on the movies he saw when he was still young, specifically old prison movies. We don’t know how he remembered those times, but one thing is for sure – Stephen King is a brilliant author. No question about it.
We are not actors, but we know how hard it is to play a role with which you don’t have first-hand experience. You have to embody a new persona, which would be a challenge for any one of us. That is why we applaud artists who play a wide range of roles in movies.
Tim Robbins, who played Andy in the movie, had to do a lot of work to embody the role completely. For him to be able to act like a prisoner, he went into solitary confinement – that’s one step beyond being a professional!
The internet was not something we could access everywhere back when Shawshank came out. In the mid-90s, wifi was not a thing, and nor were smartphones. Still, this hasn’t hampered the movie’s popularity in the online world.
It was the first movie title ever to surpass two million votes on IMDB. If you think about it in terms of the major superhero films, two million is not that big, but for a mid-90s drama, it really tells you something. It just shows how powerful this movie was.
Despite the fact that the film was not particularly well-received when it was initially released, it received a total of 42 award nominations. Isn’t that impressive? Sadly, those nominations never materialized into awards in the end.
Still, those 42 nominations are impressive as we are talking about prestigious award bodies, including the Golden Globes and Academy Awards. It got nominated for seven Oscar awards and two Golden Globes. If you think about it, the nominations the movie got are already proof of how great it is, right?
Brooks’ Unclear Crime
Throughout the movie, Brooks’ crime wasn’t blatantly stated. The only thing we know is that he committed a severe one. We observe that many movies do that, and it keeps us clinging to the story out of curiosity. Thankfully, Stephen King holds the answers.
After losing many times while playing poker, he allegedly murdered his wife and children in a fit of rage. Even thinking about it makes us sad and scared. In reality, for certain people who are unable to regulate their emotions, anger and frustration are a dangerous combination.
Frank Darabont’s Inspiration
Have you seen Goodfellas? It was Frank Darabont’s biggest inspiration. He watched the movie at least once a week while he was directing Shawshank. Through this, he discovered many elements that he uses in the movie.
Darabont loved the way Goodfellas showed the passage of time and used voice-over narration to bring the viewer into the story. So, he worked those elements into Shawshank. We’re glad he did because they truly do make for a brilliant adventure in storytelling.
The Best of Stephen King
We’re all aware of how strange Stephen King’s books can get, but we’re not complaining. His work is just fantastic. His book helped develop cinema technology and special effects, as filmmakers were determined to bring his horror-filled works of fantasy to life.
When asked which film adaptation is his favorite, he named The Shawshank Redemption among the top contenders. Stephen doesn’t require any fancy CGI – outstanding acting is enough. It shows that good acting will always be more important than special effects.
Morgan’s Favorite Role
It would be difficult for an actor with such a distinguished acting career as Morgan Freeman to choose his favorite film. He did once say, though, that The Shawshank Redemption might well be his favorite film. We can’t help but agree with him that the storyline was top-notch.
Although Freeman didn’t get any awards for his work in The Shawshank Redemption, the movie still has a place in his heart, and that says something. In case you didn’t know, he has appeared in a lot of movies that won him an award.
Frank Darabont’s Movie Debut
Frank Darabont’s directorial debut was not supposed to be The Shawshank Redemption. It was going to be a horror picture in the style of Child’s Play, but he didn’t like the premise and was worried about his future as a filmmaker.
It’s amazing that he put his life on the line for Stephen King’s novel. We believe it’s because of the storyline. Fortunately, he was successful, and after the script was circulated, several renowned actors and filmmakers expressed interest in participating in the production.
The Unseen Tension
Although it’s evident that there was a strong relationship among the people working on the set, there were still days when disagreements would occur – after all, life isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. Morgan Freeman told the press that there were days when “extreme tension” arose between the actors, producers, and staff.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he said the atmosphere was “very strange.” This just goes to show that even if the actors have good chemistry on screen, it doesn’t always mean that they are on good terms. Sometimes, though, creative tension can make relationships stronger, and perhaps that is what makes the movie even more profound.
The Crew and Their Fines
Aside from “extreme tension” on the set, the crew also faced other problems like fines. Yes, they struggled with penalties on the set. Their shooting schedule in Mansfield was so tight that the crew was warned that arriving late or delaying production would result in a fine.
This turned out to be a good thing, though. With the trouble of getting a fine lurking in the shadows, crew members and actors realized that arriving on time was worth the extra effort. In fact, they finished filming in Mansfield ahead of schedule – talking about effective motivation!
The Shawshank Redemption was released on September 23, 1994. Sadly, it opened to only 33 theaters. After a couple of weeks, it was released to another 910 theaters. These limited cinema releases didn’t help them with their box office numbers.
Compounding their bad luck was the fact that, on October 14 1994, Pulp Fiction was released. Both films received seven Academy Award nominations that year, and they have their own supporters. Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption were also included in the top ten of IMDB’s top 250 films.
Andy and the Warden
If you haven’t seen the movie, we suggest you look deeper at Andy Dufresne’s character. He seems like an underdog in the film, and his character is full of symbolism. First, you can translate Andy’s name to courageous. His initial A.D or Anno Domini means the year of the Lord. Is this a coincidence? Apparently not!
On the other hand, Warden Norton symbolizes Lucifer, which technically means “bringer of light” but which also has a darker meaning in the Bible. The connection was evident when the warden said his favorite Bible verse, “I am the light of the world…” And honestly, we can’t deny that we hated his character in the movie.
The Meaning of Red’s Name
We enjoyed this film for several reasons, one of which is the abundance of symbolism. For example, Red’s full name – Ellis Redding – is brimming with hidden meaning. Redding is a Germanic name that means “counsel” or “advice,” and Ellis is a Welsh form of the word “elus,” which means “benevolent.”
If we put it together, his name means “benevolent counselor,” which perfectly fits his character in the movie. We don’t know how much symbolism lurks in the film, but we admit that these brilliant works require in-depth research.
Do you know anything about Miranda Rights? In 1966, the Miranda V. Arizona case appeared before the Supreme court, the same year the story ends in the movie. You might notice them saying Miranda and wonder who it was. Well, now you know.
They wanted the movie to be more realistic and historically accurate, so they added the reading of Miranda rights on the scene at the end when they had to arrest Captain Hadley – that’s what you call a happy ending, right?
More Details About Warden Norton
In Stephen King’s novella, there were multiple wardens during Andy’s time in the prison. However, it would have been impractical to have so many actors playing the role in the movie. So, what was their solution?
Warden Norton appears to have numerous personalities, as you noticed throughout the film. He can be kind to Andy one day and then act disgustingly the next. The filmmakers combined the excellent and terrible wardens in the book into one individual who appears to have multiple personalities.
The Count of Monte Cristo and Shawshank
There is an obvious similarity between The Shawshank Redemption and The Count of Monte Cristo. Both characters were imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit, and they escaped through a complex plan that took them years to carry out. Cool, right?
However, the protagonist in The Count of Monte Cristo is more like a mixture of Andy and Red. Also, the filmmakers gave a nod to their obvious inspiration by mentioning The Count of Monte Cristo in The Shawshank Redemption. Guess they really did get inspiration from this brilliant Dumas novel!
The Rock Wall
In the scene where Andy leaves directions and money for Red, the rock wall you see was handcrafted by the show’s art department. They created it months before they started to shoot for the movie to ensure it would look natural in the film.
It’s astonishing how much effort they put into making everything in the movie look real. The enterprising owner of the land sold the remains of the wall on eBay. And the tree, despite being struck by lightning in 2011, is still standing.
Locations of the Movie
Do you know the beach on which Andy and Red are reunited? If you don’t know, it’s a beach in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. This location used to be a tiny fishing community. However, it became a tourist attraction after the movie was released.
It looks stunning in the movie. We wonder how they decided where to shoot this scene and what other places they considered using. Just so you know, the beach they showed at the very end was in the Virgin Islands.
An Alternate Ending for Shawshank
As we mentioned, the ending was about Andy and Red seeing each other on the beach. But that wasn’t supposed to be the ending. Frank Darabont’s idea of the ending was far from what is shown in the movie. He wanted to show Red getting on a bus and going off into the sunset.
However, the executives at Castle Rock weren’t on the same page as Darabont. They thought reuniting Andy and Red would give audiences a happy ending, and they couldn’t think of anything better than that. We believe both ends tell a story, and we wouldn’t complain either way.
Andy’s Greatest Mistake?
We wouldn’t have this incredible story if Andy hadn’t thrown his pistol in the river. It was the dumbest move he made, but he had no way of knowing. Andy’s gun would have passed a ballistics test, proving his innocence. The victims were, in reality, killed with another man’s gun – Elmo Batch.
Andy’s own honesty is part of what causes his downfall. He tells the truth throughout his court case, but no one believes him. He goes through many awful experiences because of his determination to remain honest no matter what. Is this his biggest mistake or his greatest character trait?
Morgan Freeman’s Destiny
Who would have thought that Morgan Freeman wasn’t supposed to play the role of Red? We can’t imagine anyone playing that role! However, in King’s book, Red was an Irish guy with red hair – very far from Freeman’s physique. Thankfully, the filmmakers were able to see past the physical attributes of the character, and Freeman got the role.
There were other actors that the studio considered to play the character, including Clint Eastwood and Paul Newman, but in the end, Darabont chose Freeman. Except for his physical appearance, everything from his voice to his natural charisma was perfect for the role.
The Number 237
If you are an avid fan of Stephen King’s work, you’ll notice the number 237 is always present in his writings. From The Shining to Stand by Me, this number is hidden in plain sight everywhere. We don’t really know the reason behind it, but it adds to our curiosity.
In The Shawshank Redemption, director Frank Darabont decided to include the number 237. He most likely wanted to connect it to other works of Stephen King. If you’re keen to check it out, pay attention when Andy enacts his escape plan – you should hear the guard yell for someone to open 237.
We all know that Red allegedly committed a murder, which is why he was imprisoned, but who did he murder? Red’s past was unclear in the film. However, he seems so gentle and compassionate that you just can’t imagine him murdering anyone in cold blood.
Luckily, you can get answers in the book. It’s normal for filmmakers to cut a lot out when transforming a story from the page to the screen. We’d be in for awfully long films if they didn’t! So, if you’re curious about Red, we recommend checking out Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.
Sometimes, directors ask a lot of actors, and sometimes, those actors are just not able to deliver. In the scene where they show a close-up of Andy’s hand, it wasn’t actually Tim Robbins’ hand but director Frank Darabont’s. That’s how badly he wanted that shot to be just right.
Also, when Andy was loading the revolver in the opening scene and carving his name on the cell wall, it was not his hand but Darabont’s the whole time. So, Darabont technically had a cameo in the film!
Shawshank’s Box Office Results
We already told you that the movie was a flop at first. The film’s initial box office gross of $18 million was insufficient to meet the studio’s expenses. Despite earning $10 million more after being nominated for several Oscars, the film was still considered a disaster.
The success that it eventually gained was all thanks to Warner Home Video. They risked shipping 320,000 rental copies of the movie across the US. Luckily, this earned them the attention of home viewers, making the film a classic.
The Person in the Mugshot
Have you noticed Red’s mugshot in the movie? We hate to pop your bubble, but it wasn’t Morgan Freeman. Can you guess who it actually was? We won’t keep you in suspense! It was his son, Alfonso Freeman. Aside from the mugshot, he had another cameo in the film where he is seen shouting.
This film was made long before filmmakers had the technology to digitally adjust how old an actor looks. In case you’re wondering, this wasn’t Alfonso’s first time getting a cameo in one of his father’s movies. He also appeared in Seven, playing a fingerprint technician.
The Old Librarian’s Pet
Brooks, the old library man, has a pet crow named Jake. When he starts working in the prison library, Andy has to talk to the crow. Since technology and editing were not yet advanced, Tim Robbins had to time his lines so it would seem like he really was conversing with the bird.
Because Andy and the crow kept on having scenes, he became familiar with the squawking pattern of the crow. If you look closely at every scene where these two appear, you’ll notice that Andy is waiting for Jake’s squawk. Perhaps Tim Robbins could have had a career as a crow whisperer!
The Infamous Nine-Hour Scene
Being an actor is hard labor. We think they have life easy, but the demands can be surprisingly extreme. They generally have to do each scene repeatedly just to get that one perfect shot. In The Shawshank Redemption, the actors were truly put to the test with a grueling nine-hour scene.
The scene where Red and Andy were talking for the first time while Red was throwing a baseball back and forth to Heywood took nine hours. Nine hours for a shot that lasts less than four minutes! Can you imagine that? This is what we call commitment.
Not everything you shoot will be used in the film or television show. The Shawshank Redemption was a classic masterpiece, but many scenes were cut towards the end. These scenes could potentially add depth to the movie, but they chose not to include them.
One particular scene was the funeral for Jake (Brooks’ pet crow). Another scene involving a visit from Tommy’s wife was also deleted. We don’t know for sure what happened, but still, the movie is top-notch.
The Story of the Extras
Extras are like the spices you need to make delicious food – they add flavor, richness, and color. Though they play minor roles, extras are still needed to make the film’s world come alive. Many of the extras playing prisoners in The Shawshank Redemption were actually ex-convicts.
Alamy Stock Photo
Locals were supposed to play the inmates, but they dropped out after one day of filming to resume their usual 9-to-5 employment. It’s safe to say that these guys didn’t need any acting lessons to play their roles!