One of the most beloved films of all time, The Shawshank Redemption has become a cult classic since its release in 1994. Based on the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, the movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor (for Tim Robbins). But even die-hard fans may not know these 10 interesting facts about this classic film. For example, did you know…?
Based on a Stephen King novella
Stephen King’s novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, was published as a paperback original in 1982. It became a new monthly series in June 2008 and concludes in December 2011. The film adaptation of the novella by Frank Darabont premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 1994 and starred Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne and Morgan Freeman as Ellis Boyd Red Redding.
Frank Darabont was inspired by his prison experiences
Director Frank Darabont was inspired by his prison experiences and developed the idea for The Shawshank Redemption after directing a television movie about prisoners of war called Born on the Fourth of July. Frank was so passionate about his project that he negotiated for 20% of the film’s profits to go to Vietnam veterans, in order to provide more assistance.
Nominated for seven Oscars
It might be hard to believe, but The Shawshank Redemption has some interesting behind-the-scenes facts. It’s nominated for seven Oscars and even though the movie never won an Academy Award, it was voted into the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in December 2011.
Used profanity only once
The film was one of five that had been in contention for the Academy Award for Best Picture (along with Forrest Gump, Braveheart, The English Patient and Apollo 13). Stephen King called it his favorite film adaptation of his work, although he expressed some concern with the way the subject of friendship is treated.
Had two endings – one happy, one sad
Director Frank Darabont originally wanted a sad ending for the film, but he was overruled by test audiences who found the ending depressing. According to Darabont, one of the great polls was conducted where people were shown both endings, and they voted overwhelmingly for Red’s not being shot at dawn at the end of our film. They identified with him on some deep level that this guy did have some light left in him.
Used real prisoners as extras
Andy Dufresne, the protagonist of the film, was based on a real person. Stephen King, who had been visiting an abandoned prison in Maine and noticed one cell labeled with Dufresne as the inmate’s name, researched the story and found that an inmate at a nearby prison, who served time for murdering his wife with a hammer after being denied parole, was named Andy Dufresne.
Starred future Oscar winner Morgan Freeman
Before he became one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood, Morgan Freeman was very involved in Broadway theatre. After his Broadway success, he found his way into film and TV. In 1977, Morgan Freeman joined the cast of Benson and stayed for five seasons. A decade later, Freeman starred as Red in Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption.
Was filmed at an actual prison
In the opening shots of The Shawshank Redemption, a stone building rises over an old brick factory with a sign that reads Prisons Commission. It’s actually Mansfield Reformatory, which operated from 1872 to 1995. The film crew and extras were largely made up of actual prisoners, who enjoyed portraying their fellow convicts for extra income on the weekends. The prison cafeteria was used as the movie set for Tim Robbins’ iconic breakfast scene, complete with egg and toast courtesy of he inmates themselves.
Made Tim Robbins bankable
In 1996, The Shawshank Redemption was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won two. Robbins also won an Oscar for his performance. In 2010, the IMDB listed The Shawshank Redemption as the second greatest film of all time, only behind Citizen Kane by a close margin.
Has some real-life criminal connections
You may not know that this movie, set in 1947, was made by Frank Darabont who had also written and directed a previous Stephen King adaptation. The movie stars Morgan Freeman who had played the wise leader of the community in another film from earlier that year called Lean on Me. William Sadler, who plays the warden, is also known for his role as Lt. Det. Joe Gavilan on TV’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent.