Captivating Facts About “The Shawshank Redemption” You Probably Didn’t Know

By: Lydia Iseh | Published: Nov 07, 2023

Whether or not you were around in 1994, there’s a great chance that you know about the iconic movie, The Shawshank Redemption. This 90s blockbuster survived a slow start to become one of the best-loved movies to grace the silver screen.

Behind the multiple awards and global acclaim are some captivating facts you’ll probably find out here for the first time. Brace yourself for some major surprises.

The Story Came From a Novella

Many people don’t know that the story behind the movie lived for over a decade before the film was produced.


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The Shawshank story came from Stephen King’s 1982 short story, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. The book, published as a standalone work, was one amongst a four-part collection, Different Seasons.

Stephen King Got $5,000 for the Movie Rights

The movie director parted with just $5,000 in exchange for Mr. King’s permission to make a movie from his novel.


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King still had the check with him years after the movie came out. We know this because he later got it framed and sent to the movie director Frank Darabont.

Frank Darabont Was Tempted To Sell the Movie Rights for a Much Higher Amount

Shortly after he got the movie rights, Mr. Darabont received a highly tempting offer. After reading the script, Rob Reiner, the Emmy award-winning actor and director, fell in love with the story.


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Reiner likely saw the film’s potential and wanted to direct it himself. He offered Mr. Darabont a massive $2.5 million for the rights, which he declined.

Morgan Freeman Wasn't Impressed With Darabont's Work

There were mixed reactions from the cast about Darabont’s work in the movie. While some, such as Tim Robbins (who played Andy), were pleased with his directing skills, others, such as Morgan Freeman, weren’t as impressed.


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Morgan talked about “moments of extreme tension” on the set. He also suggested that the cast and crew struggled to get along with one another.

Tom Cruise Could Have Starred as Andy

It turns out, if  Darabont hadn’t declined Reiner’s offer, the movie would have turned out markedly different.

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For example, Mr. Reiner, who had directed Stand By Me, the movie adaptation of King’s work, The Body, had other actors in mind. He would have preferred Tom Cruise to play Andy.


Johnny Depp Was One Amongst a Long List of Potential Andys

Tom wasn’t the only actor considered for the movie’s leading role. Probably more than a dozen names had been mulled to portray the character.

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Other top dogs in the movie industry were among these names, such as  Johnny Depp, Charlie Sheen, Jeff Bridges, Nicolas Cage, and Kevin Costner.


Tom Cruise Only Offered to Play Andy if Reiner Wasn’t Directing the Movie

Have you ever heard about an actor turning down a role because he wanted a different director? That’s what played out between Tom Cruise and Mr. Reiner.

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In what turned out to be a funny twist, Mr. Cruise announced that he would only play the role of Andy if Mr. Reiner left the saddle for a more experienced director. Mr. Reiner wasn’t going to accept that.


An Opera Piece Made an Unplanned Appearance in the Movie

Do you remember the scene where Andy is locked up in the warden’s office? He then plays a piece of opera music over the speaker.

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It’s Mozart’s music, specifically from “The Marriage of Figaro.” Mr. Darabont listened to opera music while working on the movie and added it to a scene.


Morgan Freeman Wasn’t the Top Contender for the Role of Red

Morgan Freeman wasn’t at the top of the initial lists of actor considerations for the role of Red.

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In the book, Red wasn’t just Irish; he also had red hair. Mr. Freeman shockingly made it to play the role because Mr. Darabont preferred his acting skills.


Morgan Freeman’s Son Played a Role in the Movie

In the movie, there’s a scene where Red appears before the parole board for his final hearing. He later describes this scene as his best piece of acting.

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During this scene, we get a glimpse of his parole form with a photo that shows the young Red, who has a striking resemblance to Freeman. It was his son, Alonso Freeman.


Alfonso Freeman Is Also the Fresh Fish Guy

The parole form isn’t the only time we get to see Alonso Freeman in the movie, as he also appears in a scene earlier in the film.

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When Andy arrives at Shawshank, the movie shows some inmates yelling, “Fresh fish! Fresh fish!” Alonso portrays the inmate in the front.


Darabont Was Inspired By Another Movie

Director Darabont needed some inspiration to pull through the Shawshank job. He admitted to getting some good ideas from another movie: Goodfellas.

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Darabont loved certain elements of this mob-style movie. So, he didn’t hesitate to infuse inspiration into the shots, editing, and voiceovers. You can spot the similarities if you watch both films with a keen eye.


One of Stephen King's Favorite Numbers Made It to the Movie

It isn’t unusual for King to embellish his works with a common element. Several of King’s books have the number 237 appearing in one way or another.

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Darabont decided to continue the legacy by giving the number a spot in the movie. In one scene, just before Red is questioned, the guards shout, “Open 237!”


The Movie Was Shot in Ohio

Although the movie described events that happened in Maine, the actual shots were taken in Ohio. Three locations in Ohio hosted the cast and crew; Ashland, Upper Sandusky, and Mansfield.

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After the movie, these towns benefited immensely from the popularity that came with hosting the movie.


Darabont's Hands Did Some Acting

The movie’s opening scene showed Andy’s hands loading a revolver in a close-up shot. There’s also a scene where Andy carves his name onto the prison walls. Those hands weren’t his; they were Darabont’s.

Source: Legendary Movie Scenes/ YouTube

The director played the part of post-production too. He wanted the hands to move in a certain way that Tim Robbins didn’t quite get, so he had to do it himself.


The Crew Shot One of the Scenes for Nine Hours

Can you guess what scene it was? If you did, you would probably be wrong. The scene that took nine hours to shoot seems like one of the easiest scenes in the movie.

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It was the scene where Andy and Red held their first conversation. Red had to continue throwing a baseball for the entire period. Due to the strain on his joints, he had to support his arm with a sling afterward.


The Shawshank Prison Wasn't a Real One

The movie wasn’t shot in a real jail, contrary to how real the movie set seemed. The prison’s interior was shot on a soundstage, not an actual prison.

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On the other hand, the prison exterior was filmed on the premises of a formerly active but abandoned prison, the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield.


The Movie Performed Poorly At the Box Office

The movie had an incredibly slow start and posted poor numbers at the box office. It grossed a little less than $18 million, a pretty unimpressive showing.

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It took the help of its rental and premium cable value to meet its production costs and churn in some good returns.


Morgan Freeman Claimed to Know Why

In an interview, Morgan Freeman explained why he believed the movie didn’t perform as expected at the box office. He blamed it on the title, which he thought was terrible.

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He had suggested that the title retain the name Rita Heyworth, just like Stephen King’s novella. Whatever the case, it’s good to know that the movie has recovered well to clinch a spot among Hollywood’s greatest classics.