The Shawshank Redemption is one of the most critically, well-received films of all time. It captivates all who watch it, whether they’re a fan of dramas or not. It’s certainly an adaptation worthy for the screen. However, as much as someone can pick about and dissect the film’s plot and themes for meaning, there are certainly things people don’t know about the movie in general. That being facts related to the production side of things. Here are some fascinating facts about The Shawshank Redemption you probably didn’t know about.
The Movie’s Based On A Stephen King Novella
Stephen King’s more well known for his horror writing, but he’s also written plenty of more dramatic tales. Many of them have received critical acclaim, both in written form and in their film adaptations. The Shawshank Redemption is no exception to this rule. It was originally titled Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, and was part of a collection with other stories, including Apt Pupil and The Body (this would later be adapted into the film Stand by Me). King had actually sold the film right to the movie’s director, Frank Darabont, for a mere $5,000. But he never cashed the check. Darabont and King were good friends. He even mailed the check back to him in a frame with the inscription, “In case you ever need bail money. Love, Steve”.
The Film Was Almost Directed By Rob Reiner
Before he had the chance to make the film, Frank Darabont was offered $2.5 million by Rob Reiner for the film right for Shawshank Even so, he turned the offer down. The movie likely would have been completely different had Reiner taken over the project. He wanted to cast Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise as Red and Andy. Darabont said that he felt this was his “chance to do something really great”.
Morgan Freeman Almost Wasn’t Red
Morgan Freeman’s eternally attached to the role of Red, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. But Red wasn’t originally supposed to be a deep-voiced black man like Freeman. In King’s original version, Red was an Irish man with red hair. The studio considered other actors, like Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and, of course, Harrison Ford to play the character. But Freeman’s natural charisma and soulful voice won him the part. Darabont added the line from Red, “Maybe it’s because I’m Irish,” as a nod to the character’s original description.
Charlie Sheen Wanted To Be In The Movie
Someone you may not have expected to have wanted to be in the movie was Charlie Sheen. He actually tried everything to get into the movie, even offering to be paid as little as possible. He even offered to do a 30-minute test reel to play Red. Unfortunately, Sheen was just took young to properly portray the characters.
Frank Darabont Was A Hand Stand-In
Tim Robbins was Andy in most scenes of the movie, but someone else performed his close-up hand shots. They were director, Frank Darabont. He was pretty particular about the way he wanted Andy’s hands to behave, so he did it himself in post-production. When Andy’s loading his revolver in the opening scene, or carving his name into his cell wall, that’s all Darabont.
Clancy Brown’s Portrayal
Clancy Brown portrayed the infamous Captain Hadley, head of the guards in Shawshank Prison. While prepping for the role, Brown was approached by several correctional officers to try to make his portrayal as realistic as possible. However, he didn’t want to distort the image of real correctional officers so he turned them all down. He knew he had to go all in on the evil aspects of the character. And that’s what helped make him such a memorable character.
There Was An Issue With Jake Eating A Maggot
One of the most famous characters from the book and movie, other than Red and Andy, was Brooks. He was taking care of a baby crow named Jake until he was strong enough to fly. And Jake has a great introduction scene when Andy finds a maggot in his food and gives it to Brooks after he had asked the newer inmate, “Are you gonna eat that?” Of course, they wanted to keep it in the film. But the American Humane Association stepped in. It was considered animal cruelty to the maggot for it to be fed to a crow. Eventually, the filmmakers found a maggot that had died of natural causes to feed to their crow.
The Crow’s Squawks Almost Ruined Takes
At one point in the film, Andy visits Brooks and Jake the crow in the prison’s library. He talks to the crow, who keeps squawking. Tim Robbins actually had to time his lines so that the squawks wouldn’t interrupt him and ruin the take. Robbins eventually got this down to a science so that Jake wouldn’t ruin any of their takes with his squawking. If you look at Robbins carefully in the scene you can actually see that he’s waiting for Jake before speaking in some instances.
The Movie Helped Out The Local Economy
A lot of Stephen King novels are set in Maine, but this movie was filmed in Ohio. They filmed in 13 different locations, and they all became tourist destinations to Shawshank fans. 18,000 people have gone to Ohio since 1994 to visit these sites, earning the local economy around $3 million. You can also buy some Shawshank paraphernalia or food. At Ohio’s “Shawshank Trail”, you can get Reformatory “Red” Wines or Shawshank Bundt Cakes. And at Two Cousins’ Pizza, you can get a slice of “Redemption Pie”.
The Movie Was A Commercial Flop
As much as the movie is considered a beloved classic today the film was considered a commercial flop. It only made $18 million at the box office, which didn’t even cover studio costs. The movie made $10 million more after being nominated for several Oscars, but that still didn’t help get it out of the hole yet. It was the 320,000 rental copies that Warner Home Video shipped across the US that finally made the movie profitable. Morgan Freeman actually speculated that the film’s name was hard to pronounce, which made it difficult for the film to become popular through word of mouth.
Some Of The Deleted Scenes
A much of a master The Shawshank Redemption is, it still had scenes on the cutting room floor. The movie included some scenes that helped to add more depth to the characters, such as Jake’s funeral, Tommy getting a visit from his wife, or Red having a panic attack while working at the grocery store. He actually hides in the bathroom because it feels like a cell to him. Even so, Darabont didn’t include any “bonus features” in the DVD release of the movie. He was actually just too embarrassed to show them and thought it would be better if people never saw them.
Problem With Recording
Morgan Freeman’s voice over for the film is iconic. Even so, it must have been really annoying that he needed to record it twice. The first time took him 40 minutes and was played out loud during filming to help set the rhythm of each scene. Unfortunately, the recording had a hiss in it that the sound engineers just couldn’t fix. So, Freeman had to come in and do a second recording. Except this one took three weeks to finish.
Not A Real Prison
It might not be that surprising that The Shawshank Redemption wasn’t filmed at a real prison. It was filmed at a reformatory, the abandoned Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield. But this building was primarily used to film the exterior shots. They did film the interior shots on a sound stage. It was cheaper to build a replica of the inside as opposed to renovating the decaying jail.
The Set Almost Burned Down
The set of Shawshank’s prisoner cell block was built from scratch using plastic sheets over windows and lamps to simulate daylight. This setup was quite hazardous. At one point, one of the lamps got too close to one of the sheets and caught fire. Fortunately, Darabont and an extra were on their way to get coffee and extinguished the fire before it became a bigger problem.
The Sewage Was Tasty
During the climax of the movie, Andy escapes from prison by digging a hole in his cell and then crawling through the sewers. Climbing through miles of elbow-deep sewage is obviously disgusting. Which is why it’s probably a good thing Tim Robbins didn’t actually have to do that. The sludge was actually a fake waste mixture of chocolate syrup, sawdust, and water. Some people say that the popes still smell like chocolate today.
The Extras Were Former Convicts
In order to keep Shawshank from looking abandoned, extras were needed to fill up space. Originally, the inmates were to be portrayed by local inhabitants, but they left after one day of shooting to return to their regular jobs. So, Darabont needed a solution. The production team ended up recruiting people from a halfway house. A lot of the inmates in the movie were actually former convicts.
The Original Ending
Originally, Darabont didn’t even want to show Andy and Red’s reunion in the movie. The final scene was supposed to be Red getting on the bus and going off into the sunset, presumably to go find the field Andy had talked about. But the executives at Castle Rock wanted to please the audience with a happy ending. The ending we got was the compromise.
They Changed Filming Locations
As mentioned before, the movie ends with Andy and Red reuniting, doing so on a beach in Zijuantanejo, Mexico in 1966. At the time this movie was released, the town was just a small fishing village. But after the movie was made, it became a vibrant, tourist destination. They actually changed their filming location for this final scene from Ohio. Although, it wasn’t filmed in Mexico. The beach at the end was actually in the Virgin Islands.
Plenty of people are probably very familiar with The Shining or Stand by Me, either in film or written format. Especially if you’re familiar with Stephen King’s work. And you’ll probably notice that the number 237 keeps appearing in all of his writings. Darabont decided to keep that number in this story, making Andy Dufresne’s cell number 237.
Shawshank References In Other Books
Stephen King does love the state of Maine. Most of his books and stories are even set there, in fact. So, of course, Shawshank is no exception. His books are actually somewhat interconnected. There are references to King’s other works throughout his body of work, and there are multiple references to Shawshank Prison within his stories. In Dolores Claiborne, based on a King novel, Dolores yells at her husband that he’ll do time in Shawshank. It’s also mentioned in other stories such as The Fifth Quarter, Needful Things, and Sun Dog.
That Famous Rock Wall Was Sold
The rock wall where Andy had left his directions and money for Red was actually hand-made. The art department had built it several months before filming and left it exposed to the elements to make it look more real and weather-beaten. The wall stood for several years before it was sold on eBay by the farmer that owned the land. The tree in the scene is also still there, although it was struck by lightning in 2011.
Introducing The Miranda Rights
The story of The Shawshank Redemption ends in 1966. That was the same year that the landmark Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona occurred. That’s why every defendant is read their rights during their arrest. When Hadley is read his rights at the end of the film when he’s arrested, they would have only recently been implemented.
Red’s past in the film isn’t completely clear. He’s only known to have committed murder, but the who and the why isn’t clear. King decided to go into detail about this. Red is actually serving three life sentences for murdering his wife, as well as his neighbor’s wife and son. He cut the brakes on his wife’s car to collect insurance money, but the accident also took the other two people’s lives.
The Meaning Behind Red’s Name
The movie is actually packed with symbolism. And one of the more obvious, yet also sneaky, ones is Red’s full name, Ellis Redding. Ellis comes from the Welsh word elus, which means benevolent. And Redding is a Germanic name meaning “counsel” or “advice”. So his name basically means “benevolent counselor”. That fit pretty well for what Red does for Andy throughout the course of the film.
The Meaning Of Andy’s Conflict With The Warden
Another thing that was staring us in the face was Andy’s conflict with the warden. Andy can be translated to mean courageous. Additionally, his initials, A.D., can be used for anno Domini. Which means “Year of our Lord”. It makes it clear that Andy is supposed to be more of a savior or Christ-like figure. In comparison, the warden represents Lucifer. His continuous uses of Bible verses, especially “I am the light of the world…” helps to exemplify this point. Especially since Lucifer actually means “bring of light” in Latin.