Films

10 Facts That Make The Shawshank Redemption A Modern Day Classic

Arushi Sinha - 62 weeks ago

Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption was inspired from Stephen King’s Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption which was published as the first of the 4 novellas in the 1982 collection called Different Seasons. In an interview to filmmaker Mick Garris, Darabont had revealed that the rights to King’s novella were procured five years before the film went on sets. Darabont could manage the rights to the novella thanks to a short film done by Darabont earlier which was based on King’s story.

(Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins in a still from The Shawshank Redemption)

The initial journey for Darabont was paved with hiccups. Ernie Malik, was employed as the production publicist for The Shawshank Redemption and in the book The Shawshank Redemption: Tracking the History of the World’s Favourite Movies he recalls that it was Rob Reiner who initially wanted to direct the film. “Frank owned this script for five years. He wrote it in eight weeks. He brought it into Castle Rock. One of the heads of Castle Rock at the time was Rob Reiner. Rob Reiner had just finished directing A Few Good Men, which hadn’t come out in theatres yet. He read the script, and the story I heard was that he pushed a check across the table to Frank for 1.75 million dollars. And he said, “Frank, this is the best script I have ever heard. Thank you very much. I am going to direct it. Frank tore the check up in front of Reiner and said, “No, I am going to direct it.” Frank stuck to his guns and finally Castle Rock assigned the project to him.

Not many know that Tom Cruise was in contention for the role of Andy Dufresne because of his proximity to Rob Reiner. Later Nicolas Cage and Kevin Costner, too, were considered but it was Morgan Freeman who batted for Tim Robbins.

The Shawshank Redemption might have flopped in the era of hyper masculine Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, but it grew on television and streaming steadily to become a global cult. The film is rated number one (tied with The Godfather) in IMDB’s 250 Top Rated Movies list. Frank Darabont’s film represents the concept of breaking free from confinement and institutionalised imprisonment for an entire generation. As the film completes 25 years, here are ten details that tell you what sets The Shawshank Redemption apart.

(Director Frank Darabont, Tim Robbins and James Whitmore in a behind the scene still from The Shawshank Redemption)

1. In different countries, the film’s title translates into A World Outside, The Wings of Freedom, Walls of Hope, Angel's Hope, Fantastic and Dreams of Escape.

2. Frank Darabont filmed The Shawshank Redemption in a real prison - the Ohio State Infirmary, a 100-year-old building. When filming began, it was an uncomfortable, overcrowded place. Interior sets were built and crews worked overtime to make the set ready on time. Real inmates feature as extras in multiple scenes during this film. This location is now a tourist attraction where paranormal TV shows often get filmed.

3. Red, played by Morgan Freeman, lives in cell number 237 - same as the hotel room of Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic The Shining. Freeman’s role is that of a Black Irishman, which is why the slang-like name, Red. Initially, Darabont wanted to cast classic stars that had played Irishman parts like Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall. But neither was available. It was producer Liz Glotzer, who went beyond racial tropes for this part and suggested Morgan Freeman.

(Cinematographer Roger Deakins and Frank Darabont in a behind the scene still from The Shawshank Redemption)

4. The sewer pipe that Andy uses to escape from prison was not filled with real shit. The film’s art team used chocolate syrup mixed with sawdust and water to create the effect of yucky, thick muck. The stream where this pipe ends had water with lethal toxicity levels according to a local chemistry expert in Ohio. Tim Robbins, who had to plunge in this water, was not thrilled at the prospect, but did so after he was immediately promised a hot shower. This scene was wrapped up with very few takes.

5. The Shawshank Redemption is adapted from Stephen King’s novella, Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption. King has a habit of giving away rights for his novels at very cheap prices so that filmmakers gravitate towards his stories. Though it is yet to be certified but it is believed that he famously never cashed the check paid for The Shawshank Redemption.

6. The film ends on a good note, as Red meets up with Andy on the outside in his beach paradise, but when Darabont wrote his screenplay, he followed King's novella quite closely for the ending. It was originally going to end with Red just getting on the bus, hoping to find Andy somewhere in Mexico. In the novella, Andy and Red meeting after their years in prison is not stated obviously. In fact, a couple of characters meet with sad endings in the novella. But in the film, Darabont created a definitive, positive ending where both protagonists participate, keeping its finale to cinematic flourish.

(Morgan Freeman, William Sadler, Larry Brandenburg, and Brian Libby in a still from The Shawshank Redemption)

7. In an extensive report that was published in Vanity Fair about the impact of The Shawshank Redemption since its release, the writer reached out to Tim Robbins, who had most interesting anecdotes to share about the film. Nelson Mandela, perhaps the modern world’s most famous prisoner, told him that he found its story easy to relate to, because of its resonance with life in prison. As a famous quote from the film goes, “Geology is the study of pressure and time. That’s all it takes, really. Pressure and time.” With time, this film has gone on to become the world’s favourite movie despite being a dud at the box office upon its release.

8. In testimony to its impact on lives of prisoners, the blind Chinese dissident, Chen Guangcheng, famously broke out of an electrified Chinese jail in 2012 and headed to the US Embassy for asylum, hobbling on a broken foot. When his escape charged China’s dissidents and opposing voices, the Chinese internet police tried to suppress three terms from the country’s search engine and micro blogging platforms - blind person, embassy and ‘Shawshank’. Darabont’s film has become synonymous with breaking free from institutionalised prison and confinement in our times.

9. Liz Glotzer had a special fondness for prison based movies. She loved Darabont’s verbose and wordy script, and passed it on to Reiner, who immediately envisaged a mega production with Tom Cruise. A struggling script writer aiming to become a director, Darabont was tempted. He took the plunge and decided to go ahead and make the film by himself. Reiner turned mentor on the project, and the rest began to fall in place for this physically demanding production.

10. Roger Deakins filmed The Shawshank Redemption. He was also the cinematographer to Tim Robbins’ Oscar winning directorial, Dead Man Walking, a death row drama starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon. Deakins works regularly with Coen Brothers, Sam Mendes and Dennis Villeneuve amongst others. At 70, he is amongst the oldest Oscar winners ever, having finally picked up an Academy award for Blade Runner 2049 two years ago.

Tags

Frank Darabont / Tim Robbins / Morgan Freeman / The Shawshank Redemption / Rob Reiner / Castle Rock / IMDB / Stephen King

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of The Film Hashery.

Sign up to get access to the stories behind films and conversations on cinema worldwide.