The Shawshank Redemption. It's one of the best Stephen King adaptations ever made, forever linked to the already impressive filmographies of Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. Here we look at 10 things you never knew about The Shawshank Redemption.
It's not a biopic.
Ok, of course this is something you already knew about The Shawshank Redemption but as the movie was gearing up for production, this was actually very unclear. Frank Darabont had to shorten the movie's name from King's original title, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, after agents kept pitching actresses for the lead.
Stephen King licensed the story for a dollar.
Since 1976, the prolific author has offered the Dollar Baby deal. The Master of Horror will let aspiring filmmakers adapt his short stories for a single U.S. dollar. Contrary to how some have interpreted this, King still retains the rights to the stories. It's more of a license for noncommercial use. Nevertheless, Darabont was one of the beneficiaries of the Dollar Baby deal. Eventually King was sent a $5000 check for the movie, but he never cashed it. He framed it and sent it to Darabont.
Rob Reiner wanted to direct.
The filmmaker responsible for This is Spinal Tap, The Sure Thing, When Harry Met Sally, and A Few Good Men was so in love with Frank Darabont's script for The Shawshank Redemption, he offered to buy it for $2.5 million so he could direct it. Reiner, of course, is no stranger to Stephen King stories: he directed Stand by Me, adapted from the King novella The Body, and 1990's Oscar-winning Misery.
Tom Cruise could've starred.
Rob Reiner wanted to put Tom Cruise, who he'd just worked with in A Few Good Men, in the lead role of Andy. He was interested in casting Harrison Ford as Red.
At least a half dozen A-Listers were considered for Andy.
The pivotal lead role was offered to Tom Hanks, who was already committed to Forrest Gump, and Kevin Costner, who was making Waterworld. Other actors reportedly considered include Nicolas Cage, Johnny Depp, and Charlie Sheen.
Red is an Irishman with red hair in the book.
Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford were all considered for the role of Red, but Frank Darabont has said he always had Freeman in mind. In the film, when Andy asks him about his nickname, Red replies, "Maybe it's because I'm Irish."
Morgan Freeman's son is in the movie...Twice...
The mug shot of a young Red attached to his parole papers? That's Morgan Freeman's son, Alfonso Freeman. He also has a small speaking role in the movie. It was his first acting gig. He's since appeared in several movies and television shows, including a handful with his father, like Seven, Nurse Betty, and The Bucket List.
Goodfellas influenced the Shawshank Redemption.
Frank Darabont has talked extensively about his love of the movie Goodfellas and how certain elements influenced Shawshank, like its use of voiceover, the famous steadicam shots, and the editing. In one interview, he described how the mob movie classic helped him battle burnout. "I'd pop in Goodfellas and get inspired again."
The movie was not a box office hit.
It's a popular classic now, but like many classic movies before it, The Shawshank Redemption's initial box office performance was underwhelming. It made just $18 million, much less than the grosses of 1994 hits like Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump. Shawshank found its audience on home video and later, with premium cable airings.
Morgan Freeman prefers the original title.
During a 2016 appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Morgan Freeman blamed the movie's original lackluster reception on its "terrible title." "When I complained, they said, 'It won't fit on the marquee.' I said, 'So what?'" He suggested they simply put "Rita Heyworth..." on theater marquees. "But they chose not to so it took a while for it to catch on." Of course, everything turned out well. As Freeman observed: "You can't walk down the street without somebody telling you it's their favorite movie."