52 Little Known Facts about Shawshank Redemption

Mathew Burke

Stephen King has said that his original novella was a culmination of all the memories he had from watching prison movies when he was a child.

32. Voiceovers come in many forms

For this film, the voiceover narration was recorded before filming began and was then played on set to dictate the rhythm of each scene. The guide track was recorded in an Iowa recording studio by Morgan Freeman in only 40 minutes. Unfortunately, there was a minor hiss to the track which sound engineers in Los Angeles were unable to eradicate. Consequently, it had to be re-recorded in a proper studio; this time it took three weeks.

31. Muddy Waters

For the sewage tunnel sequence, Tim Robbins initially refused to immerse himself in the muddy water at the end of the pipe after a chemist tested the water and dubbed it lethal.

30. Not actors

While Mansfield locals were eager to be extras, many weren’t available during the day due to their jobs or were only available for one day, which obviously would not work in a prison film. So, extras were found at a halfway house, some of them real-life ex-cons.

29. Probably charged him more than a buck

Stephen King sold the rights to the novella Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption very cheaply out of his friendship with Frank Darabont. They had originally become friends when Darabont, as an aspiring filmmaker,  adapted a short story of King’s called The Woman in the Room (1983) (King has a policy stating that any aspiring filmmaker can adapt his short stories for a buck) and King was thoroughly impressed. They maintained a pen pal relationship and didn’t actually meet until Darabont optioned Shawshank.

King and Darabont

28. Snubbed by Forrest

Despite being widely considered as one of the greatest movies of all time, it didn’t receive a single oscar win, though it was nominated for 7 including best picture. In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #72 Greatest Movie of All Time. It was the first inclusion of this film on the list. It is currently the #1 movie of all time according to users.

27. Andy also worked for Enron.

The character Andy Dufresne had a cameo appearance in ‘Apt Pupil’, another Stephen King novelette. Andy handled the investments for Dussander, the Nazi in hiding.

26.  No streams here.

Despite its box office failure, Warner Brothers shipped 320,000 rental copies to US video stores, a figure a spokesman freely admitted was “out of whack” with the film’s performance in the theaters.

25. Method actors

To prepare for his role as Andy Dufresne, Tim Robbins actually spent some time in solitary confinement.

24. Speed is key

Frank Darabont wrote the script in just eight weeks.

23. First of many

This was Morgan Freeman’s first time narrating a movie.

22. Good choice

James Whitmore was cast in the part of Brooks because he was one of Frank Darabont’s favorite character actors.

21. Bang!

The sound of the warden shooting himself is the same sound of the man stamping “Approved” on Red’s paper.

20. Jake want a cracker?

When Andy goes to the library to begin work as Brooks’ assistant and Brooks’ crow, Jake, is squawking, Tim Robbins had to time his line, “Hey, Jake. Where’s Brooks?” so that the crow wouldn’t squawk over him, since the bird could not be trained to squawk on cue. Robbins was able to adapt to this and time his line perfectly by learning the bird’s squawking patterns, for which director Frank Darabont praised him. Robbins’ improvisation is noticeable as he watches the bird carefully while approaching it, waiting for it to squawk, and doesn’t begin his line until after it does so.

19. I still have no idea what those Italian ladies were singing about

The opera song that Andy Dufresne plays over the loud speakers is “Canzonetta sull’aria” from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro.”

18. Real Jail

The exteriors were filmed at the defunct Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio. The prison was in such poor condition, renovations had to be made prior to filming. However, most of the interiors were shot on a sound stage, because they determined it would be cheaper to build duplicates of the interiors rather than renovating the interiors of Mansfield.

17. Fan theory

Many critics have spotted many allegorical themes in the film, generally along the lines that Andy Dufresne is a latter day Jesus Christ. Frank Darabont refutes all such claims although he is delighted that so many people have read so much into his film.

16. Now I know.

Red says he has no idea what the ladies in The Marriage of Figaro are singing about. Actually, they’re composing a letter to the husband of one of them inviting him to an assignation with the other in order to expose his infidelity.

15. Smoking kills

Though Red traffics in and is often seen with packs of cigarettes (he gives packs to Heywood, Brooks Hatlen and Laundry Leonard), he is never himself seen smoking in the film.

14. The real Shawshank

The Shawshank prison, in the book and in the movie, was loosely based on Thomaston prison, an aging prison located in Thomaston, Maine. That real life prison closed in 2004 due to its small size and dilapidated structure.

Air View of Maine State (Thomaston) Prison.

13. Why only one?

Four different pinup posters adorn Andy’s cell in the novella: Jayne Mansfield, Linda Ronstadt, Hazel Court and Rita Hayworth. In the film just three feature: Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, and Raquel Welch (pictured).

12. Brooks got a few screws loose

Although it is never stated in the film, Brooks is in prison for murdering his wife and daughter after a losing streak at poker.

11. It’s all in the details

Warden Norton whistles Martin Luther’s signature hymn “Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott”, or “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

10. Approval from the man himself

Stephen King has considered this to be one of his favorite film adaptations based on his own work.

Stephen King approves.

9. Gilda

The Rita Hayworth movie the prisoners are watching is Gilda (1946).

8. Check in or check out.

Since filming schedule was very tight in Mansfield, Ohio anyone who held up production time were threatened to be fined. Both Tim Robbins and William Sadler showed up late once but were never fined. Filming in Mansfield, Ohio finished ahead of schedule.

7. By any means necessary

In the novella Red is paid for his smuggling activities not just through cigarettes, but actual cash that prisoners (including Andy) themselves smuggled into Shawshank by any means necessary.

6. All good things must end

As of July 23, 2016, the white oak tree featured near the end of the movie has fallen down on Pleasant Valley Road near Malabar Farm in Ohio due to strong winds. The oak tree survived a lightning strike occurred on July 29, 2011.

5. Sounds like Andy

The shoot was apparently fraught with “extreme tension” as there were constant differences between the actors, the producers, and the director. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Morgan Freeman said, “That was a strange production. There were moments of extreme tension on the set. Between the producers and actors, between the director and actors, between everybody. Just this personality stuff between different groups. Very strange. Let’s stop talking about that one.”

4. This was not 2017

There are only two female speaking parts in the entire film. One is the customer who complains about Brooks’ service at the grocery store and the other is the bank teller who attends to Andy at the bank following his escape.

3. Ah capitalism

There’s now a Shawshank Trail for tourists, and local businesses are right on the bandwagon. In that part of Ohio you can pick yourself up some Reformatory “Red” Wines, Shawshank Bundt Cakes and the local Two Cousins’ Pizza sells Redemption pie.

2. Yum

When Andy is making his escape, he crawls through a sewer tunnel filled with raw excrement. The sludge was actually a mixture of chocolate syrup, sawdust, and water, and even decades later the pipes still smell like cocoa.

1. “Just a stupid kid that committed a terrible crime”

In the movie, Red says the only guilty man in Shawshank when Andy asks him what he’s in for. The source novella explains in detail; Red’s life term is not because of a botched robbery-turned-fatal-shooting, he is serving three life sentences for murdering his wife, his neighbor’s wife and his neighbor’s son. Red disconnected the brakes on his car in order to kill his wife to collect on an insurance policy; he did not plan on two other people joining his wife for her ill-fated drive.

Sources 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9

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