MOTW: Five Interesting Facts about "The Shawshank Redemption"

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Two imprisoned men, Andy Dufresne and his friend "Red", bond over years in the prison of Shawshank. The two find solace in a life where only acts of decency and respect can redeem the men within the walls of Shawshank. The Shawshank Redemption was nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award in 1994.
Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures
February 19th, 2013

MOTW: Five Interesting Facts about "The Shawshank Redemption"

Released in 1994 and starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, "The Shawshank Redemption" is regarded by many as one of the best movies of all time. Despite its tremendous popularity, there are still many facts about the film that even avid fans may not know.

1. The film is based on an adaptation of a short story by Stephen King. The famous author has stated that the novella is actually a collection of his own memories of prison movies he watched as a child. King and Frank Darabont, the writer and director of film, had previously become acquainted when Darabont adapted another of King's short stories, "The Woman in the Room." It was King's policy to allow aspiring filmmakers to adapt his short stories for just one dollar. After reading Darabont's adaptation, King was impressed with the writer's talent, and the two became pen pals. They later met in person when Darabont purchased an option for "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption." After Darabont completed the screenplay, he was offered $2.5 million for the rights by Rob Reiner, who had read the script and was so impressed with it that he wanted the opportunity to direct the film on his own. While Darabont has stated that he gave the offer serious consideration, he ultimately decided the film presented the chance to do something great and turned down the offer. Despite its critical acclaim, the movie barely managed to bring in enough at the box office to cover the costs of production.

2. One of the most transcendent themes of the film is the need for reform in prison facilities. Exterior shots for the movie were filmed outside Mansfield State Reformatory, located in Ohio. At the time, the facility was in such poor condition that improvements were necessary before filming could start. Interior shots for the film were conducted on a sound stage because it was less expensive than performing the necessary renovations to the Mansfield facility. The set for the interior shots was actually built specifically for the film.

3. Morgan Freeman's son, Alfonso Freeman, makes more than one appearance in the film. Along with his portrayal of the younger Red in the photos that are attached to a set of parole papers, Alfonso was used as an extra in the film who taunts new inmates about the availability of fresh fish.

4. In the final scene of the movie, the audience sees Red as he locates Andy on a Mexican beach. Although the screenplay penned by Darabont stays mostly true to the original short story written by Stephen King, this scene is actually not in the original story at all. Initially, Darabont refused to shoot the scene because he wanted the movie to remain true to King's story. Associates managed to convince him to go ahead and shoot the scene, but he remained skeptical about keeping it in the final cut until it proved to be popular with test audiences. Another scene that is nowhere to be found in the original story is one in which Andy plays opera over the prison's PA system.

5. Viewers who pay careful attention to the film will notice that Alexandre Dumas' novel "The Count of Monte Cristo" is referenced in the film. The novel actually has quite a lot in common with the movie, including the fact that both detail the story of men who have been imprisoned for crimes they claim they did not commit. In both the book and the film, both men escape, locate a treasure they had learned about while in prison, and later carry out a plot of revenge against the people who had them imprisoned.

Although "The Shawshank Redemption" never earned an Academy Award, it is still considered one of the most memorable movies of all time for its portrayal of the true friendship that can develop between two men when faced with the prospect of losing all hope.