11 Things You Didn’t Know About Shawshank Redemption

Written by B.Z

The Shawshank Redemption is a timeless story of hope, friendship, and, of course, imprisonment. Like any cult film, there is a rabid army of Shawshank fans online debating the correct pronunciation of Zihuatanejo and unearthing obscure film facts. A classic model for its prison-film contemporaries, Shawshank no doubt helped pave the way for the gritty realism of our very own prison drama series, “Cell”. In honor of perhaps the most memorable prison film of all time, below is a list of 11 cool things you may not have known about The Shawshank Redemption, no matter how many times you may have seen it on TBS. Check them out, then watch it again like a real Shawshank buff.

1. Animal Cruelty?

The ASPCA closely monitored all scenes between Brooks, the elderly library attendant, and his pet crow. They actually objected to a particular scene in which Brooks fed a live maggot to the crow. Apparently, this was considered “cruel” to the maggot (really?). In order to finish the scene per ASPCA guidelines, the crew used a maggot that already died of “natural causes.” Right.

2. Mini Morgan Cameos

Morgan Freeman’s son, Alfonso Freeman, has two notable cameos in the film. The photographs of a young Morgan Freeman on Red’s parole documents are actually pictures of Alfonso. Also, when the new batch of prisoners enters the prison for the first time, Alfonso is the young man taunting the inmates, “Fresh fish! Fresh fish today! We’re reeling ‘em in!”

3. Why You’ve Seen it 100 Times

This one’s a bit more obvious, but ever wonder why The Shawshank Redemption always seems to be on cable? Once the film’s VHS/DVD rentals and sales took off under Warner distribution, Ted Turner sold the rights to his own network, TNT, for a relatively meager sum. So blame Turner for your watching The Shawshank Redemption 100 times on TV even though you own the DVD.

4. Rob Reiner

Prolific actor and director Rob Reiner, who directed two other Stephen King adaptations, Stand by Me (1986) and Misery (1990), was initially interested in directing The Shawshank Redemption. He intended to cast Tom Cruise as Andy and Harrison Ford as Red.

5. Yoo-Hoo, Not Doo-Doo

The feces Andy crawls through in the sewer scene is actually chocolate syrup. Not that we would expect it to be actual dung or anything. Interestingly, a fan who has visited the Mansfield Reformatory, the former prison-cum-Shawshank set, noted that a section of that tunnel still smells like chocolate.

6. Biblical Allusion

In a subtle touch of cinematic symbolism, when Warden Norton examines the Bible in which Andy hid his rock pick, he opens it to the Book of Exodus, which tells the story of the Jews’ escape from bondage.

7. Set Design

The interior shots of Shawshank State Prison were taken on a set built from scratch. The cell block was created in an old warehouse not far from the Mansfield Reformatory (also known as the Ohio State Reformatory).

8. Inglourious Inmate

Brad Pitt was originally cast to play the role of Tommy Williams, the inmate who could have exonerated Andy. Instead, Gil Bellows got the part.

9. Final Scene

The final scene, in which Red finds Andy on a beach in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, was not intended to be in the film at all. Director Frank Darabont wanted the film to stay as true to Stephen King’s short story as possible, and refused to shoot the scene because it was not in the original story. Associates persuaded him to shoot the scene, but Darabont still wanted to cut it until positive reactions from test audiences convinced him otherwise.

10. Dollar Baby

Darabont became pen pals with King when he adapted his 1986 novel, The Woman In The Room, as part of the author’s “Dollar Baby” program that, for $1, grants student filmmakers permission to adapt his books and screen them at film festivals. They finally met for the first time when Darabont optioned The Shawshank Redemption. Darabont also directed King’s The Green Mile.

11. Identity Crisis

In King’s version, Red is an Irishman (hence the name). In casting Freeman for the role, perhaps Darabont didn’t remain too faithful to the author’s character detail, after all. So when Andy asks Freeman’s character why they call him Red and he replies, “Maybe it’s because I’m Irish,” it’s more than just a dry quip.

Watch more episodes of “Cell”.

Catch this Shawshank Spoof in Comedy Series, Blue Movies.

9 thoughts on “11 Things You Didn’t Know About Shawshank Redemption

  1. captain_h2o

    Any movie that makes you stop surfing and watch, even though you own it and could watch it unterrupted, is known as a comfort film. Sort of like “Clash Of The Titans” (the original)

    and it’s ‘Tee-^wha^-ta-nay-ho’

  2. Tim

    I toured the Mansfield Reforatory recently – very interesting. All of the buildings in the “yard” were torn down soon after Shawshank was filmed – including the building the inmates put a new roof on in the spring of 1949 – and the wall is gone also. The front – Wardens office, etc. and the cell blocks remain. Many areas are being refurbished with funds produced by tours and other events. They have Halloween tours. The tour takes visitors up to a guard tower. There's a real, newer prision behind the old reformatory. There's photos on Flickr and there's a web site.

  3. Tim

    Here's another thing I didn't know about the movie: the scene that's supposed to be in the hotel where Brooks hangs himself – and carves “Brooks was here” in the rafter and later Red carves “Red was to” – that was filmed at the prison – an office was made to look like a hotel room – and “Brooks was here – Red was to ” can be seen on the tour.

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