Regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, The Shawshank Redemption follows Andy Dufresne’s life in prison, and how he navigates through relationships during his prison time. These surprising facts about the movie might compel you to see it in a new light.
Morgan Freeman Wasn’t the Sole Option
Many actors like Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, and Robert Redford were considered to play the part of Red in the film. Ultimately, actor Morgan Freeman was cast to play the part owing to his natural demeanor and voice.
The Brouhaha Over Maggots
The Shawshank Redemption uses live animals in some of its scenes. For instance, one of the prison staff named Brooks is shown to own a pet crow. Since a live animal was being used for the shoot; certain scenes were closely monitored by the American Human Association (AHA).
The AHA, once again, raised their objection during filming the scene where Brooke feeds his bird a maggot. They felt that it was cruel to the maggot. Ultimately, the live maggot was replaced with a perished one and the scene was shot to everyone’s satisfaction.
Watch Out for Number 237
All the works of Stephen King are interconnected with a series of Easter eggs (hidden items in films). One such Easter egg throughout some of his books is the frequent appearance of number 237.
Therefore, it was natural for the filmmakers to include it in the movie as well. In the movie, the guards can be heard shouting “Open 237!” before they start questioning Red about Andy.
Unraveling Red’s Past
The literary and screen versions of the film differ in many aspects. For instance, in the film, when Andy asks Red why he was in Shawshank, he simply says that he took certain lives.
The book, on the other hand, probes the narrative further before establishing Red’s reason to be in the prison. In the book, Red plans to take the life of his wife but ends up inadvertently taking the lives of his neighbor’s wife and his neighbor’s son too.
The Movie Was Good for Local Economy
Did you know The Shawshank Redemption helped in boosting the local economy of some Ohio cities? The movie was filmed in multiple locations across Mansfield, Ashland, and Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Following the movie’s release, these shooting locations began witnessing a huge surge in tourists.
This helped to revive the local tourism and improve the livelihoods of the locals. According to the Mansfield/Richmond County Convention and Visitors Bureau, tourism across these destinations has pumped over three million dollars into the local economy.
It Was a Box-Office Dud
Though The Shawshank Redemption is now considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made, it was a financial disaster when it was initially released. The film performed rather poorly at the box office, grossing only a sum of $18 million.
It didn’t even recover its production cost. While the film eventually managed to rake in another $10 million, it was still branded as a flop. The film started earning profits after it switched its distribution mode to home video.
There Was More Than One Freeman
You would be a little shocked to know that there was more than one Freeman in the movie. Let us explain that to you. The mug shots of young Red that you see in the image below is not of Morgan Freeman.
They, in fact, are of his real son, Alfonso Freeman. Alfonso also appears in a few scenes in the movie. If you didn’t catch him, you can always watch the movie again.
Timing the Performance With a Bird
Brook’s crow, Jake, plays a major part in the movie. In the scene where Andy reaches the library to assume his new position as Brook’s assistant, Brook’s crow is heard cawing.
Most of us know that how unruly crows can be. In order to avoid overlapping his lines with the bird’s caw, Andy had to recognize its cawing pattern so as to say his lines smoothly. We have to say that he did a fine job!
Filming a Scene for Nine Hours
Acting, as we know, can get tricky at times. There are certain scenes that get shot within a minute, while there are scenes that require retakes after retakes to get them right. One such seemingly simple scene in The Shawshank Redemption required close to nine hours of filming.
The brief conversation scene between Andy and Red, wherein Red throws a baseball with Heywood, left the crew exhausted as it took them nine hours to get it the way they had envisioned it to be.
It is a common fact that many scenes from the movie get chopped in the editing room or are asked to remove by the censor boards. This was the case with many of the scenes in The Shawshank Redemption.
There were quite a number of scenes that were cut in order to better fit the film’s narrative. One of the scenes that didn’t end up in the movie was of Red having a panic attack in a grocery store.
About the Recording Glitches
The movie had its own fair (or unfair) share of recording glitches. The voice-over by Morgan Freeman, despite being recorded prior to the filming, ran into some technical difficulties. Apparently, the recording had a hissing sound to the track when played out loud.
The sound engineers of the film tried their hardest to remove the noise but were unable to do so. Ultimately, the entire narration had to be re-recorded in the end.
The Title Change
We told you earlier that The Shawshank Redemption is based on one of Stephen King’s novella Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption. The literary title was condensed to simply The Shawshank Redemption for the movie.
The reason behind doing away with the Rita Hayworth bit in the movie’s title was that a large number of people were confusing the movie with actress Rita Hayworth’s biopic. Because of this, the filmmakers thought it would be best to drop the Rita Hayworth bit to prevent the ongoing confusion from escalating further.
The Shawshank prison looks utterly convincing and almost real, except for the fact that it’s not. Most of the prison scenes were actually shot at a constructed set within an abandoned electric factory called the Westinghouse Electric factory.
Some of the prison sequences of The Shawshank Redemption, particularly the scenes shot in more confined prison cells, were actually filmed at the shuttered Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield — a jail that had been ordered shut due to inhumane living conditions!
Easter Eggs Galore
Stephen King, as we mentioned before, loves to leave Easter eggs across his writings. These Easter eggs bind all his novels together by serving as the commonality. Though The Shawshank Redemption takes place in Maine, it is mentioned in his other writings including novels, novellas, and short stories.
To give you an example, Shawshank is mentioned in the film Dolores Claiborne, which is again based on another novel written by King.
Ex-Cons Were Extras
The Shawshank Redemption, as we told you earlier, helped boost the local economy. The locals of Mansfield were excited when they learned that it would be filmed in their hometown.
A lot of them even made an appearance in the film as extras. Unfortunately, many of the extras could only commit for one day owing to their jobs. To solve the issue, the casting department of the movie visited halfway houses of the town (where many ex-prisoners resided) to play the part of extras in the movie.
Portraying the Correctional Officer Realistically
In the movie, actor Clancy Brown plays the role of a correctional officer named Captain Hadley. Before he began filming, Brown was approached by many real-life correctional officers, who wanted to work closely with him to make his portrayal as close to reality.
The actor, however, dismissed them all. He portrayed the character as per his interpretation, making Captain Hadley one of the hated and cruelest characters in the movie.
How the Sewage Was Made
Andy Dufresne, in the movie, is shown to be escaping from the Shawshank prison through tunnels and sewers. In many of the scenes, he is seen crawling through a pipe dripping with human excrement.
Before you assume the worst, you should know that the sewage was not real — it was artificially manufactured by the set design crew. The sewage was in fact made using a mix of chocolate syrup, sawdust, and water to make it look as realistic as possible.
Shawshank Souvenirs Are Still Up for Sale
The Shawshank Redemption fans can actually buy all the souvenirs and memorabilia related to the film. As we mentioned before, the movie helped in rebooting the local economy, thereby raising the standard of living of the locals.
The locals saw a massive opportunity and began capitalizing on the Shawshank Redemption wave. As of now, there is a Shawshank Trail in Ohio, where travelers can buy things such as Shawshank bundt cakes, redemption pie, and more.
Charlie Sheen Wanted a Role!
Actor Charlie Sheen, who was one of Hollywood’s biggest actors at that time, wanted to be a part of The Shawshank Redemption! Sheen was mesmerized by the way The Shawshank Redemption was written!
Apparently, he wanted to be associated with the movie so badly that he even agreed to do it for a token amount. He further agreed to share a 30-minute test reel to convince the makers. The makers eventually changed their minds and went ahead with casting Morgan Freeman in the role of Red.
Left Out of the Academy Awards
The Shawshank Redemption has been nominated for countless awards including seven Academy Awards nominations. If you have seen the movie, this may not seem like a surprise. Surprisingly, the movie was not nominated for an Academy Award in the production design category.
Apparently, the jury at the Academy Awards confused the prison set (in an abandoned manufacturing plant) with the real prison, thereby striking off the movie from the aforementioned category.
The Trailways Coach
Towards the end of the movie, one can see Red hop onto a Trailways Bus. The hardcore fans of the movie would be happy to know that the Trailways Bus from the movie is still operational.
At present, it is owned by Montogomery, Alabama-based Capital Trailways. Fans of the movies can visit the actual location where the memorable scene was shot in Butler, Ohio. This bus route is just one of many filming locations that make up The Shawshank Trail tour.
The Ending Was Planned Differently
The film’s writer and director, Frank Darabont, had a different ending planned for The Shawshank Redemption. Initially, he wanted to conclude the movie with Red looking out for Andy. The executives at Castle Rock production company, however, thought it to be too abstract and grim.
They suggested that the movie should end with Andy and Red reuniting. Darabont gave in to the idea but added his own touch to the scene. The final scene shows them from a distance as they finally find each other.
Change of Location
The movie ends with Andy and Red uniting and deciding to spend the rest of their life in a Mexican city named Zihuatanejo. At one point in time, this city was a quaint little fishing village until it saw a boom in tourism thanks to its pristine beauty.
Zihuatanejo’s tourism boom hampered the original shooting plan of the film. The makers felt that as it was getting overcrowded day by day, it was wise to change the shooting location to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
About the Wardens
The book and movie, as we reiterated earlier too, differ in many aspects. One such aspect is the number of wardens in the book and the movie.
While the book has many wardens during Andy’s prison time, the movie features only one warden so as not to confuse its audiences. This decision gave many shades to the personality of the single warden, instead of introducing multiple wardens to the storyline.
Adding Relevancy to the Film
The writers of the film made it more relevant by adding Miranda Rights to the script. In the movie, Red mentions that Andy broke out of Shawshank in 1966. In the same year, the Supreme Court delivered its landmark judgment in the Miranda v. Arizona case.
Under this judgment, it said that a defendant must be duly informed of their rights during their arrest. These rights are known as Miranda Rights. This legal warning was incorporated in one of the scenes in the movie, making it more relevant and accurate.
Red Can Mean Many Things
The name of the character Red in the movie is laden with symbolism. These coded meanings helped in building and consolidating the traits of his character in the movie. Red, whose full name in the movie read Ellis Redding, is shown to be kind and nurturing especially towards Andy.
Apparently, Reding in the German language translates to counsel. It was something Red was frequently seen doing throughout the amazing film.
The Set Had a Tense Vibe to It
Every film set carries different energy. Each film set, in that way, is no less than an energy field carrying the energy of positive or negative kind. The energy on the set of The Shawshank Redemption can be best described as tense, as per the various insiders involved in the filming.
Apparently, every day at the set involved extreme disagreements between the different stakeholders involved in the film adding to the tense environment on the set.
Frank Darabont Wasn’t the Original Choice
The film’s director, Frank Darabont, was not the original choice for The Shawshank Redemption. Darabont, was in fact, expected to make his directorial debut with another film named Child’s Play but he began to feel it was best to opt out of the project due to its risky subject matter.
He took a chance and went ahead with The Shawshank Redemption. Luckily, it proved to be a shrewd career move for him, making him one of the sought-after directors post the movie’s release.
If you jog your memory, there is a scene in The Shawshank Redemption where prisoners are watching Gilda. Though in the novella, they are shown to be watching The Lost Weekend.
The makers of the movie also wanted to stay true to the literary device but they couldn’t as the said movie’s right was owned by a different studio. Hence, they replaced the film with Gilda (played by Rita Hayworth). It is as if the Rita Hayworth part was retained in the movie, albeit a bit differently.
Adaptation of a Book
The Shawshank Redemption is a screen adaptation of Stephen King’s best-seller novella Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption. The said story was a part of a collection of four novellas titled Different Seasons.
It is interesting to note that two other novellas from the collection were also turned into movies, namely Apt Pupil and The Body. Though Stephen sold the screen rights for his novella for five thousand dollars; he never actually cashed the check.