15 Things You May Not Have Known About 'The Shawshank Redemption'

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Columbia Pictures

You know Red and Andy, but did you know Shawshank was probably the smartest dollar director Frank Darabont ever spent?

1. The film is based on Stephen King’s novella “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption,” which was published in a short story collection called Different Seasons. Two of the other short stories in the collection were made into films, Stand By Me in 1986 and Apt Pupil in 1998. Only one of them, “The Breathing Method,” has not been turned into a movie. 

2. King’s novella shares several plot points with a nine-page short story by Russian writer Leo Tolstoy called “God Sees the Truth, But Waits.” Both are about men sent to prison for murders they didn’t commit.

3. Director Frank Darabont got a good deal on the rights to King’s story. He bought the rights from King for $1.

4. Castle Rock Entertainment, the studio that made Shawshank, was co-founded by Rob Reiner—director of another King adaptation, Stand By Me—and is named after the mythical Maine town that provides the setting for many of King’s books. After director Frank Darabont pitched Shawshank to the studio, Reiner originally offered $2.5 million for the script to star Tom Cruise as Andy Dufresne and Harrison Ford as Red. 

5. Darabont wrote the script in eight weeks before pitching it to Castle Rock Entertainment. He decided to drop the “Rita Hayworth” part of the novella because actresses sent their resumes in for consideration thinking it was a Rita Hayworth biopic. During the casting process, Darabont even received a call from an agent who represented a supermodel; he swore the script was the best she had ever read and that she’d be perfect for the (non-existent) part of Hayworth.

6. Although the film is set in Maine, the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio stood in for Shawshank Prison. The structure was slated to be torn down, but the production delayed the demolition for a year. After the film wrapped, all the buildings in the complex were torn down except the cellblock and main administrative building, which were preserved for historical purposes.

7. The scene where Andy first approaches Red about the rock hammer as Red plays catch in the main yard took nine hours to shoot. Freeman continued to play catch for the whole nine hours without complaining and showed up the next day with his arm in a sling. 

8. Darabont says his main source of inspiration was Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas because of its use of voice-over narration and editing techniques. 

9. Originally, all of Morgan Freeman’s voiceover was recorded before any of the film was shot. The fact that much of it syncs up to the onscreen action (see: the scene on the roof where the inmates drink beer) isn’t simple editing. Darabont would play back the recorded voiceover on set during each take for the actors to specifically play off of the audio. But the audio quality of his voiceover was too poor to include in the movie due to tape hiss, so Freeman had to re-record the entire voiceover in post-production. 

10. Every take of the film’s signature shot of Tim Robbins raising his arms outstretched in the rain after Andy breaks out of prison was out of focus except the one in the film. It was the final take shot for that scene.

11. The visual joke of Andy’s rock hammer being tucked into the Bible right after the first page of the Book of Exodus came from the film’s prop master, Tom Shaw.

12. None of the close-up shots of Andy’s hands or feet are Tim Robbins. They’re director Frank Darabont.

13. In the original novella, Red is described as a middle-aged Irishman.

14. The mug shot of young Red isn’t Morgan Freeman. It’s actually a photo of his son. 

15. The tree where Red finds Andy’s letter isn’t in Buxton, Maine. It’s in Ohio’s Malabar Farm State Park.

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