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61 Epic Facts About The Shawshank Redemption

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It’s the movie with the highest score ever on the movie database IMDB, based on millions of reviews. If you have ever seen the movie, then you surely understand why.

It’s a tale of epic proportions that allows you to live through the experience of all the characters portrayed! In this post, You’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about The Shawshank Redemption.

1. The movie is based on a novella by Stephen King

The story of The Shawshank Redemption was written by Stephen King back in 1982 and was called “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” with the subtitle “Hope Springs Eternal.”

It was part of a collection released by Stephen King called “Different Seasons” and consisted of 4 novellas.

Stephen King different seasons

2. The story was based on a 19th-century Russian short story

In Russia, a man is wrongfully convicted of murder and banished to Siberia. The story eventually becomes a parable for forgiveness.

Sounds familiar? That’s because The Shawshank Redemption is loosely based on this Russian short story written by Leo Tolstoy in 1872.

3. All 4 novellas in Stephen King’s 1982 collection were turned into movies

Remarkably, The Shawshank Redemption wasn’t the only novella in the collection that was turned into a Hollywood movie. All 3 others were adapted for the screen as well. These are:

The Breathing method is at the time of writing (March 2020) still in production and will be released later this year with Scott Derrickson as director.

4. The role of “Red” was played by an unlikely actor

In the novella, Red is actually an Irish, middle-aged, greying redhead. The role was perfectly played by Morgan Freeman.

The reason?

Director Frank Darabont always had Morgan Freeman in mind because of his authoritative presence on screen and deep voice.

The result was an astounding performance that earned Morgan Freeman an Academy Award nomination for best actor in 1995.

facts about the Shawshank Redemption

5. The Red joke stuck though

In one of the scenes, Red is asked why his nickname is “Red,” obviously a funny remark to his hair color even though his surname is “Redding.”

In the movie, the joke is simply kept and Morgan Freeman answers the question in just the same way “Maybe it’s because I’m Irish.”

6. Other actors were considered for the role

The fact that Morgan Freeman was on the director’s mind to play the role didn’t mean he got it easily. A lot of other actors were considered to play the crucial role of Red in the movie.

Amongst them were Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman, Jeff Bridges, Robert Redford, Johnny Depp, Matthew Broderick, Charlie Sheen, Tom Hanks, and Kevin Costner.

Tom Hanks turned it down because he was busy filming Forrest Gump (1994), and Kevin Costner was busy filming Waterworld (1995).

7. Frank Darabont got an amazing deal on the script

To make a movie about Stephen King’s novella, Frank Darabont had to purchase the rights to it. he did so in 1987 for a measly $5,000.

He didn’t turn the script he purchased into a full-length movie until 1994, which is the year he wrote the entire script of the movie in about 8 weeks.

8. Stephen King never cashed out the check

Did Stephen King know this movie would become such a huge success?

Either way, he turned the check into a collector’s item that one day will be worth millions. He never cashed out the check and actually framed it.

As a joke, he sent the framed $5,000 check back to Frank Darabont with a subtle note saying:

In case you ever need bail money. Love, Steve.

Stephen King’s joke sent along with the framed check
Stephen King
The writer of The Shawshank Redemption story, Stephen King / Source

9. Frank Darabont could have become a millionaire on the spot

After spending 8 weeks on turning Stephen King’s novella into a full-length movie script, its value increased tremendously.

So much that famous movie director Rob Reiner offered to buy the script for USD 3 Million! Rob Reiner was the director of one of Stephen King’s other films in his 1982 series, “Stand by Me.”

Frank Darabont could have earned $9,359.37 per hour during the 8 weeks of creating the script for The Shawshank Redemption, but decided to decline the offer as he saw the enormous opportunity of actually directing a masterpiece himself.

Great judgment on his part!

10. The movie would have had these actors playing Red and Andy

If the deal with Rob Reiner would have gone through, Tom Hanks would have played the role of Red, and Tom Cruise would have played the role of Andy Dufresne.

Tom Cruise was still a viable candidate, however, but he refused the role because he only wanted to work with an experienced director (Which refers to Reiner).

Tom Hanks would have played the role of Red
Tom Hanks would have played the role of Red / Source

11. Want to visit the prison that the movie was filmed in? You can!

The prison that The Shawshank Redemption was filmed in was called the Ohio State Reformatory, which was built between 1886 and 1910.

It remained in operation up until 1990, just a few years before the movie was shot. It was closed under the “Boyd Consent Decree,” as the result of a prisoners’ class action suit citing overcrowding and inhumane conditions.

Remarkably, the prison can be visited 4 days a week from 11 am to 4 pm from April 1 to September 2, and in the winter months on weekends from February 2 to March 31, and holiday tours on weekends from November 23 to December 23.

Ohio State Reformatory
Ohio State Reformatory / Wiki Commons

12. The Shawshank Redemption wasn’t the prison’s only appearance

It was used twice while the prison was still in operation, including scenes in the movies “Harry and Walter Go to New York” from 1975, and Tango & Cash from 1989.

Apart from documentaries from the Travel Channel and National Geographic, the facility was used several times after it was closed as well for various purposes. Most notably movies such as “Air Force One” (1997) with Harrison Ford, and “Escape Plan: The Extractors” (2018) with Sylvester Stallone.

13. Morgan Freeman got injured during the opening scene

Morgan Freeman is a nice guy that goes with the flow. He doesn’t complain easily, and when it took 9 hours of throwing a baseball on the prison yard to shoot the opening scene, he didn’t complain as well.

Perhaps he should have complained though, as the next day he arrived to work with his arm in a sling.

Opening scene of The Shawshank Redemption
The opening scene of The Shawshank Redemption / Source

14. Tim Robbins learned a lot about crows

When Andy gets a job in the library to work as Brook’s assistant, he had to time his lines perfectly.

To do so, he actually had to study the squawking pattern of Brook’s crow so his lines wouldn’t be squawked over by the crow.

15. Who is the young Morgan Freeman?

We can briefly take a look at the mugshot of a young Morgan Freeman on his parole papers. But is this really him?

No, it’s actually his son, Alfonso Freeman.

16. Alfonso Freeman had a cameo in the movie as well

Alfonso Freeman is, just like his father, also an actor known for roles in Seven, Nurse Betty, Ten ’til Noon, The Bucket List, and…The Shawshank Redemption.

He’s the convict shouting: “Fresh fish! Fresh fish today! We’re reeling ’em in!”

17. This movie gave Frank Darabont his inspiration

It’s another all-time classic, and it’s a movie that director Darabont played every Sunday of shooting the Shawshank Redemption.

So what was the movie? Goodfellas! Martin Scorcese’s epic crime-drama starring Ray Liotta, Robert de Niro, and Joe Pesci.

The main reason he watched the movie is that he wanted to get inspiration regarding the voice-over narration and the passage of time, which he surely got!

18. This is when you know you need to lose weight

One of the characters in the movie is simply referred to as “Fat Ass.” Jon Favreau was one of the actors auditioning for that role and felt horrible doing so.

he recalls it as “the worst audition he ever did” and it inspired him to start losing weight.

facts about the shawshank redemption

19. The film was considered a failure initially

It’s not because nobody liked it, but because it only grossed USD 18 million initially. That wasn’t enough to cover the budget of USD 25 million.

The next year, when the Oscars were coming up, the movie was able to get in the green as it accumulated another USD 10 million.

20. It did break a record though

Even though the movie wasn’t considered to be a huge success during the box-office period, it did become immensely popular afterward.

One of those interesting facts about the Shawshank Redemption is that it became the most-rented movie ever, and over 320,000 rentals were shipped to stores all over the United States.

That’s also one of the main reasons it became the first movie on IMDB to accumulate over 2 million ratings. Pretty astounding!

21. The evil guard must remain evil

Clancy Brown, who plays the role of Captain Hadley, was offered several invitations from real-life correction officers to study them and the environment they have to work in.

He declined every offer.

The reason?

He feared the character of Captain Hadley, which is inherently evil, would too much resemble the non-evil correctional officers he would study.

22. Why was Brooks incarcerated?

The movie never reveals why Brooks was actually incarcerated. Stephen King’s book does though. He allegedly murdered his wife and daughter during a losing streak at poker.

This fact wasn’t mentioned in the movie because the viewer would lose all sympathy for the character, especially in the touching scene in which he takes his own life.

Andy and Brooks shawshank redemption

23. Why was Red incarcerated?

In the movie, Red mentions that he was incarcerated for murder. The book goes into much more detail as to why he was in there.

First of all, he cut the brakes on his car so his wife would die in a car crash. This is to collect an insurance check. Additionally, he never meant to but he also killed his neighbor’s wife and her son.

So Red actually committed 3 murders according to the book.

24. The movie that made Morgan Freeman a popular narrator

This was the first time that Morgan Freeman narrated a movie, and it didn’t just make him an extremely popular narrator for decades to follow, it’s also one he won’t easily forget.

All recordings were made before the shooting even started. he made an initial recording in a studio in Iowa, but something was wrong with it which sound engineers in Los Angeles weren’t able to resolve.

The result?

he had to do the recordings all over again, this time in a proper Los Angeles recording studio!

Luckily, Morgan didn’t complain.

25. The recordings were played on set

Something which sounds logical was indeed rather unusual. While the film was being shot, Morgan Freeman’s recordings were actually played on set.

Having these recordings played made the actors more in tune with the rhythm of the movie, and most probably, felt as if history was being made while listening to Morgan freeman’s voice!

26. What opera song was played over the radio?

In another one of those epic scenes, Andy Dufresne grabs the opportunity to play an opera song over the prison’s speakers.

The song he plays there is “Canzonetta sull’aria” from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”

There are two interesting facts about this scene:

  • It was actually Tim Robbin’s idea to let Andy increase the volume of the music.
  • The scene wasn’t supposed to be in the movie as it wasn’t essential for the plot, but the director thought it embodied the story of the movie so he left it in.

27. The hands you see aren’t those of who you think they are

In the opening scene, you can see Andy Dufresne loading up a gun with bullets. These are actually the hands of the director Frank Darabont, not those of the actor playing Andy, Tim Robbins.

There’s another instance like this in the film when Andy carves his name on his cell wall.

Both these scenes in which you see Darabont’s hands were shot before the actual shooting of the film started.

28. Better be prepared

Tim Robbins was given an amazing opportunity to shine as he was given the role of Andy, the role that was considered for some of the most famous actors around.

And he did take it seriously indeed!

To prepare for the role, he voluntarily spent several days and nights in solitary confinement to understand what it’s like.

Obviously, this isn’t the real thing as he went in there voluntarily, but it shows how committed he was to this role, which he played to perfection.

And receives life sentence shawshank redemption

29. Frank Darabont bought rights for $1 before

Stephen King has an amazing policy when it comes to adapting his stories for the screen. His policy states that any aspiring filmmaker can get the rights to his stories for just $1.

Frank Darabont took advantage of this policy when he adapted “The Woman in The Room” in 1984.

30. He got a discount because Stephen King liked it

The policy can’t be used forever, and when Frank Darabont wanted to adapt “The Shawshank Redemption” for the screen, he had to pay just like anybody else.

One of the most interesting facts about the Shawshank Redemption is that because Stephen King liked the adaption of Darabont’s previous work (the one he acquired for $1) so much, he was able to get a heavy discount.

They had a pen-pal relationship for several years and didn’t actually meet until Darabont showed interest in purchasing the rights for the Shawshank Redemption.

31. Tom Hanks passed but accepted his next offer

Because Tom Hanks was busy working on Forrest Gump, he reluctantly had to pass for the role of Andy Dufresne.

He didn’t refuse the next role though and gladly accepted the role of prison guard “Paul Edgecomb” in “The Green Mile.”

The Green Mile is another one of Stephen King’s novels that was adapted to the screen by Frank Darabont, and which remarkably takes place in prison as well.

32. Brad Pitt almost starred in The Shawshank Redemption

Another one of those famous actors that were considered for a role in The Shawshank Redemption was Brad Pitt. the role he was offered was that of “Tommy Williams,” which was eventually played by Gil Bellows.

The reason Brad Pitt refused the offer?

He played the lead role in “Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles” (1994).

33. The movie wasn’t even close to the top 10 in AFI’s list

Even though it’s considered to be the best movie of all times by the general public (who can freely vote on IMDB), it didn’t rank so high in a list compiled by AFI.

According to critics at the American Film Institute, The Shawshank Redemption is the 72nd best movie of all time.

The shawshank redemption facts

34. It was close to being the best on the list of Empire Magazine

In another list called the “top 500 movies of all times,” compiled by Empire Magazine in 2008, The Shawshank Redemption ranked 4th.

Important note about this list: 10,000 readers were able to vote along with just 50 critics and 150 of Hollywood’s finest.

35. The casting of Brooks was relatively easy

Brooks is one of the most defining characters in The Shawshank Redemption. His release and subsequent suicide are epic scenes that perfectly convey the profoundness of being incarcerated for 50 years.

In that sense, it was easy for Darabont to cast James Whitmore for this role as he was one of his favorite character actors.

36. The fictional Shawshank Prison

Even though the Shawshank Prison, which is often set in Maine, is the only time it appears as the main playground of Stephen King’s imagination, it is often referred to in his books.

Several characters are referred to as “doing time in Shawshank.” It also appears in one of the movies of Stephen King’s books, Dolores Claiborne (1995), as she yells to her husband the he “will do time in Shawshank for touching their daughter inappropriately.”

37. It’s based on another real prison

Also located in Maine, the Shawshank Prison in Stephen King’s books is loosely based on a real prison called “Thomaston Prison.”

The prison was closed down in 2004 because it wasn’t big enough and the infrastructure had really deteriorated over time.

38. The movie did very well for the locals

The movie is set in three different locations in Ohio. The towns of Mansfield, Ashland, and Upper Sandusky share the 13 locations that the movie was shot in.

Ever since the movie was released, tourism to this remote area has steadily increased. So much that over 20,000 fans made a visit on its 25th anniversary, and made an estimated USD 3 million for the local economy in 2013.

39. Tensions were high at the set

Frank Darabont was a first-time director back in 1994, and he wanted to create a masterpiece. he was offered USD 3 million which he refused because he felt this would be something special.

So it’s normal that tensions on the set were high. The strict schedule and treats of being fined for arriving late at the set didn’t help either.

More importantly, Darabont had, according to Morgan Freeman, the annoying tendency to repeat the same scene over and over again, even though it was perfect already.

As an actor, I think everybody prefers Clint Eastwood’s method!

40. The white oak is no more

At the end of the movie, Red is led to a white oak where he digs up a box. In this box, he finds some cash and a letter from Andy, asking him to come over to Mexico, the place he went to after his successful escape.

Unfortunately, the white oak has fallen due to a storm in 2016. It had, however, survived a lightning strike earlier in 2011.

41. It gets friendlier in time

When Morgan Freeman’s character Red appears before the parole board, it first happens after serving 20 years of his life sentence. The second time after 30 years and the final time (when he actually gets released) after 40 years.

He is told to sit down in 3 different ways:

  • At 20 years: “Sit.”
  • At 30 years: “Sit Down.
  • At 40 years: “Please sit down.

Watch the clip of these amazing scenes here:

43. It has a connection with another epic movie

One of our famous movies of all time is Pulp Fiction. The Shawshank Redemption has 2 interesting connections to this cult film:

  • It was released to 930 movie theaters the day Pulp Fiction was released on October 14, 1994.
  • It received an equal amount of Academy Award nominations, namely 7.

On top of that, both movies gained cult status and are widely considered to be some of the best movies of all time.

44. It had a different title in Taiwan

The movie wasn’t released as “The Shawshank Redemption” in Taiwan. It was actually released with the title: “1995: Fantastic.”

Most Taiwanese people thought that this prison drama would be an action movie. We’re pretty positive that they weren’t too disappointed that it isn’t.

Obviously, the movie was released in 1995 in Taiwan and not in 1994.

45. There’s another connection to Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood is one of the most iconic actors of all time and directed some of the best movies as well.

Both Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins have won Academy Awards for best supporting roles in movies directed by Clint Eastwood. Morgan in “Million Dollar Baby,” and Tim in “Mystic River.”

46. Morgan Freeman didn’t like the title

The original title of the book was “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” and one of the main opponents about the title that was actually used, “The Shawshank Redemption,” was Morgan Freeman. He actually complained about it but to no avail.

The reason it was shortened?

Because people would think it’s a movie about Rita Haywood herself and it wouldn’t be accepted if it turned out not to be.

The exact opposite happened as it took a long time before the movie became popular!

47. This probably influenced the opinion for the movie’s title

When the word got out that an epic movie was being shot using a script from the book “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” director Frank Darabont received multiple audition requests from actresses, models, and agencies for the role of Rita Haywood.

Perhaps this influenced the director’s mind about the title a bit?

Rita Haywood

48. Charlie Sheen liked the script alright

When Charlie Sheen got his hands on the script, he did whatever he could to get a role in the movie. He offered to work at minimum wage and offered to do as many auditions as were needed to convince the producers to get the part.

Nothing helped and shortly after, Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman were cast as Andy and Red.

49. What beer are they drinking?

If you’re a man, then we already know what your favorite scene of the entire movie really is! That’s right, the scene in which the convicts are drinking a beer together like buddies on the roof.

But what beer are they drinking up on the roof of Shawshank Prison?

It’s called Stroh’s beer, created by the Stroh Brewery Company located in Detroit, Michigan.

shawshank redemption drinking beer

50. Morgan Freeman’s idol refused his role

Do you know who one of Morgan Freeman’s idols was during the time he was attending movie theaters as a kid?

Sidney Poitier. He was actually offered the role of Red but turned it down as he didn’t feel like playing a convict would set a good example.

This must be one of the most remarkable facts about The Shawshank Redemption, as Morgan Freeman got the role that his childhood hero refused, and absolutely nailed it as nobody else could.

51. Tim Robbins is really tall, but wasn’t tall enough!

Tim Robbins is really tall with his 6’5″ but that wasn’t enough it seems. Multiple camera angles were used to make him appear even taller than he already is.

Especially in shots together with fellow actor Brian Libby who plays the character “Floyd” and who is just 1 inch shorter than Robbins.

52. Was the voting on IMDB rigged for a while?

There are a lot of Batman fans in the world, and they feel strongly for their beloved hero. So much that it’s possible they did whatever they could to get the movie “The Dark Knight” to the first spot of IMDB shortly after it came out in 2008.

Their tactic?

Downvoting the movie that held the number 1 spot for a very long time, “The Godfather.” Oh yeah, they also upvoted “The Dark Knight” obviously.

After the hype died, The Shawshank Redemption was able to slip into first place on the most popular movie database online.

53. Is Andy a bit tired at the end of the movie?

If you pay attention to this detail, you’ll notice that Andy gets bigger and bigger eyebags near the end of the movie. Perhaps he’s just tired of being in prison and this is how it’s reflected?

Not quite. The real reason is from the sleepless nights he had hammering away in his cell, digging his tunnel for escape.

54. Andy stole a huge amount of money

So Andy stole a total of $370,000 during his 20 years of incarceration. This would definitely not be enough to survive for the rest of your life in the 2020s.

Being it the year 1966 in the movie, if we calculate with inflation, this amount is the equivalent of over $3 million.

This is definitely more than enough for a middle-aged man to live off the rest of his life in Mexico (where he escaped to).

55. The director wanted the movie to end differently

If it were up to the director, we wouldn’t have seen a reunion between the friend Andy and Red at the end of the movie at all.

His idea was to make it an open ending in which Red simply looks for Andy and that was the conclusion. This way, the viewers would still have open questions such as whether or not Andy made it and if he was still alive, etc.

Instead of depicting the meeting between the two up close, we can see it from afar, which is arguably the best ending that could have been used.

56. Where did Andy escape to?

The exact location as to where Andy escapes in Mexico is a place called Zihuatanejo, which was at the time in 1966 a small, paradise-like fishing village, northwest of Acapulco.

At the moment, Zihuatanejo has welcomed tourism and it’s now a resort-city with multiple hotels, crowded beaches, and restaurants.

57. A sh*tty figure of speech was used

Red didn’t believe in Andy’s dreams of escaping and living the good life ever again. In fact, he referred to it as “Sh*tty pipe dreams.”

The funny thing about this is that he was absolutely right. To make his dreams come through, he needed to crawl through a pipe filled with sh*t.

Shawshank redemption escape

58. The sewer wasn’t actually filled with excrement

One could argue that shooting the scene by having the actor actually crawling through raw sewage would be more realistic. But they didn’t take it that far.

In fact, the sludge was actually a mixture of chocolate syrup, sawdust, and water, and an urban legend would have us believe that this sewer still smells like chocolate, decades later.

59. The final scene wasn’t filmed in Mexico at all

It was filmed on a small island called Saint Croix, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and more specifically, on the Sandy Point National Wildlife Range.

60. Since March 2020, The Shawshank Redemption is on Netflix

If you have a subscription to Netflix, then you’re in luck. Along with the classic that gave director Frank Darabont so much inspiration during the shooting of the movie, Goodfellas, The Shawshank Redemption can be seen on Netflix since March 2020.

61. The real Shawshank story didn’t end well

Did you know that there’s a real inmate that escaped the prison the movie was shot in back in 1959?

His name is Harold Frank Freshwaters and he managed to escape the Ohio State Reformery prison after winning the trust of the guards.

Unfortunately for him, after an escape that lasted 56 years, he was recaptured in 2015 and sent back to prison.

A truly remarkable story of the real-life And Dufresne!

facts about the Shawshank redemption

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