A look back at The Shawshank Redemption

After more than 10 years since the release of The Shawshank Redemption movie the cast and crew look back at the success of the movie.

The movie in general

Frank Darabont's (director)

"Shawshank was definitely a slow build. It landed with a hollow thud at the box office. It was very telling to me that, at the following year, we were the top rental of 1995 on video. And somehow it seeped into the culture, it seeped into peoples hearts. Word of mouth has now bought it to a place of great esteem.

"Shawshank was something that spoke to my heart. A lot of people have said 'gee, it would never have dawned on me pick that story as a movie, it didn't seem very cinematic'. To me it seemed the most cinematic, because it dealt with the human heart.

"I tried to do what I always try to do when adapting the work of an author who is great, and that is to maintain the voice of the author.

"In order to keep [Stephen] King intact as an author I really needed Red to be telling us this story. Luckily I had Morgan [Freeman] to be our guide through the story. You have Morgan Freeman telling you a story, you get a great edge, because he has this wonderful integrity."

Stephen King (novella author)

"I know Frank from when he was doing student films. He wanted to make a film out of a story of mine called The Woman in the Room. It was just a glorious film, and he came to me later on and he said he wanted to take a shot at adapting Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption as a film. And I said 'sure, go ahead Frank', and he did the screenplay pretty much on spec, and he sent it to me and I read it, and I thought it was just amazing, just a mind blowing piece of work. But I thought it'll never me made.

Niki Marvin's (producer)

"Its was almost a disaster. We got teased quite a bit in the press about it being one of the worst titles for a film."

Gill Bellows (Tommy)

"It didn't do well at the box office. It was the quietest seven academy award nominations I'd ever heard of in my life.

"I still think its the best scrip that I ever read. I think it's the most complete piece of work in script form that's out there.

"I read [the novella] when I was twelve years old. I think sometimes you wonder how things are going to evolve into a creative work. And when you have a historical relationship with a piece of literature and then you have a emotional connection with the script and you manage to get the role, that's perfect. It's a great point of departure."

James Whitmore (Brooks Hatlen)

"I don't think too many people saw it then, when it was released at the theatres. And then they did [later], and it kinda caught on.

"It was a great story, a real, as they say, a 'page turner', a 'what happens next'."

Tim Robbins (Andy Dufresne)

"I would venture to say that all of the best movies were virtually ignored when they first came out. Citizen Kane and It's a Wonderful Life both tanked at the box office.

"Here you have a movie where people are basically allowing for forgiveness to happen, allowing for redemption to happen. It really gives one hope about the possibility for forgiveness and redemption for all of society."

Bob Gunton (Warden Norton)

"Stephen King and Frank [Darabont] in his distillation of that story had captured something, some deep longing, some deep reality, that is universal."

The character of Red

Frank Darabont: "Stephen King's description of Red, was of a white guy, Irish. All of this time I had a certain picture in my head. When they said 'Morgan Freeman' I thought Morgan Freeman? What a minute, that's a great idea! Morgan's core as a human being, his integrity, his decency. He was so much the character. It was such a brilliant bit of casting."

James Whitmore: "I can't say enough about Morgan [Freeman] he really was somehow the spine, the engine that seemed to run that picture".

Tim Robbins: "I just loved him [Morgan Freeman], I thought he was not only a really amazing actor, but also a great person and a really special friend to me. I just remember that smile. A great smile."

The character of Andy

Frank Darabont: "He [Tim Robbins] was a bit of a mystery, and consequently a very intriguing actor to me, a very fascinating actor. And it really seemed like a good match for the role of Andy, because Andy also is a bit enigmatic."

Tim Robbins: "I thought it was really important that Andy always looked like he had a secret. And he did. In the story and in the script Andy did have a secret, that was behind the poster."

Frank Darabont: "[Andy] comes, he changes the place and he goes. That's classic myth figure stuff."

Morgan Freeman: "I think Red was almost always intrigued by Dufresne. You just never know what was going to come out of him. And with just a little help he was as effective as all hell."

Frank Darabont: "What's brilliant about what [Stephen] King wrote is that you really get to know Read, you really get to know the one man who most befriended Andy, the mythic hero. And who's life was most affected, in a fundamental way."

The prison

Terence Marsh (Production Designer): "I suppose the biggest challenge was represented what Stephen King had written and what Frank had in his vision, putting that in visual terms on the screen, to the satisfaction to both of them."

Stephen King: "When the set decoration is good, when it's right, when they get the sense of the book, through what is between the lines, or what is behind the lines even, then it becomes walking into your own head"

Terrence Marsh: "The challenge was finding the prison basically. Which I think we found, the prison a main character and works in its strange dreamlike way."

Frank Darabont: "We were casting empty prisons in the same way we were casting actors."

Clancy Brown (Captain Byron Hadley): "It was not a nice place. This correctional facility was shut down for cruel and inhuman punishment. It was a seriously bad monument to mans inhumanity to men. We spent 4 or 5 months there."

William Sadler (Heywood): "There are ghosts there. This place resonates with the ruined lives of thousands and thousands of people. The prisoners and the victims, and the guards who spent their entire lives watching these people."

Tim Robbins: "I remember walking into the cell block with my son, and he said 'Daddy I don't want to be hear, it is a very sad place'. And it was true, you could tell walking into this place, the memories where there. The voices has faded, but the feeling was still there."

David Proval (Snooze): "What I remember was being piled onto a bus in Mansfield, Ohio with a bunch of actors, and suddenly feeling right about this detailed research that Frank Darabont and Niki Marvin did, because whether intentional or not, the ride from the airport to Mansfield felt like we were going to somewhere where we weren't getting out that fast."

Niki Marvin (Producer) : "When the movie opens you need to feel like those guys have really been together for a very long time. So the rehearsal period allowed the actors to get to know each other."

Mark Rolston (Bogs): "I remember the first table read we had. Hearing Morgan [Freeman] do the voice over, we were in this mess hall at the prison. His voice was reverberating around these walls, and that was the first time that a lot of use felt that this was something great."

Gill Bellows (Tommy): "I thought Morgan should have won the oscar for the table reading. It was unbelievable."

James Whitmore (Brooks): It was just like flowers opening with the sun, you know, because they were being directed by someone who was very sensitive, very gentle, and he knew what he was doing. He knew what he wanted."

William Sadler (Heywood): "Watch especially those scenes around the table. Watch how people listen. You can feel it. That's why the scene lifts off the page."

Morgan Freeman: "I give what I got off the page. I can't get what your gonna give me off the page. You and I wanna take that page and twist it. That's the fun of it".

When Andy plays the music over the prison PA system

James Whitmore: "Who would have thought that Andy Dufresne would turn that prison inside out. Playing classical music on the PA system."

Tim Robbins: "I love the idea of music being a salve, something that heals. I believe that to be true. I love that it's an ultimately defiant act: to pipe music throughout the prison doesn't seem like such a radical thing, but I love the simplicity of it: music as a rebellion."

Morgan Freeman: "That's defiance. 'I'm free to do this, I'll pay the price'. That's defiance to me. 'I hope this goes well, I hope they like what I'm doing'."

Frank Darabont: "Everything that happens in the movie happens in that scene. He gets trapped in this place. He does the best he can. He tries to share his soul with the others."

Tim Robbins: "People feel trapped all the time. You don't need the brick and the mortar, and the bars, to be in prison."

Morgan Freeman: "We live so many institutionalized areas of our lives. Maybe one of the most fortunate things to happen to Andy was to go to Shawshank. It forced him to reach for parts of himself that no other form of existence would have forced him to reach for. Strength, courage, fortitude. He would never have had to find them."

The character of Brooks Hatlen

Frank Darabont: "There's a theme of institutionalization throughout the story and the movie. Which King talks about with impunity, as a novelist. But a screenwriter has to make that physical. Hence the character of Brooks Hatlen is much expanded from the character in the book. He was about a paragraph or so in the novel and he is a substantial role in the film."

James Whitmore (Brooks): "All of the development of Brooks was quite moving. He had become institutionalized That was his life. That was where he had made his peace on this earth. All of a sudden it was taken away from him. He had to deal with the outside world, that was shattering to him."

Morgan Freeman: "Dying in the joint aint the big fear. It's getting out. And just being crushed, being run over, being trampled, being mashed, like road kill."

Frank Darabont: "Tommy getting killed is a great example of taking what Stephen King has done and turing up the heat dramatically where possible. I think some people have gone back and read the book and been surprised to realize that Tommy didn't get killed. When I got to that point in the adaptation I remember thinking that I need to whack this kid, I need to kill him."

Gill Bellows (Tommy): "By having Tommy die on screen in the way that he did I think that Frank created two significant steps that weren't in the novella. Which is that you have a very clear enemy. You may have been ambivalent about your sense of who the warden is, and of what Andy was up against. But its altogether clear that from the moment that Tommy gets killed you know that this is a bad man who will do whatever he needs to do."

James Whitmore (Brooks): "The bad guys, they go their dues."

Clancy Brown (Captain Byron Hadley): "I remember once I was having one these weak actor moments when I'm trying to rationalize my whole thing: getting to why this guy is such a creep all the time and it just seemed so one note. And Bob Gutton turned to me and he said 'Well it's a memory play. Its is a story told through Red's eyes. The characters that are the most in depth like Andy and some of the other prisons are going to the characters he knows best. And you and I [Hadley and the Warden] play the icons. We're symbolic of what they are struggling against. We are the personification of Shawshank., and why it is so corrupt and awful. That becomes very liberating because you know you can't go too far, because all you do is colour in the memory that Red has, and make it even more vivid."

Frank Darabont: "For me sometimes the most satisfying things are like when Tim and Morgan are sitting in the shadow of the prison wall and they just talk about Mexico for seven minutes. That's really what the movie is, right there."

Final sequence

Frank Darabont: "We shot the final sequence on the beach of the island of St Croix. To me it felt like arriving, just like Andy and Red had arrived. There was this incredible blue water and it was so warm. And suddenly everyone was letting this sign of relief out, this burden go."

Niki Marvin (Producer): "The entire crew and cast where running and splashing in the water, just being free. The script ended on the bus with Morgan saying 'I hope the pacific is as blue as it is in dreams... I hope...'" It was actually Castle Rock who said 'guys, you can't do that'. You've got the last 20 minutes of the movie, which is about these two men getting together and you can cheat the audience out of that."

Morgan Freeman: "When those two men see each other again, it's like you get the feeling that the where only living for that moment: when they would come together again. It's such a love story. It's so complete as a love story. They're just two guys who fit. It's a balance."

Gill Bellows (Tommy): "Because it's a friendship that transcends time and space, race, and is as deep a love story in terms of friendship as you'll find on screen."

The script

Thomas Newman (Composer): "Everyone talks about the Shawshank script as being such a great script. It has scale and it had a sense of epic emotion. It was a very exciting thing to think about doing."

Tim Robbins: "I don't think anyone really did know what kind of chord the movie would strike. I would challenge anyone that said that they knew."

Clancy Brown (Captain Byron Hadley): "For everybody who saw it they were shouting about it from the mountain tops."

Dr Drew Casper: "As far as The Shawshank Redemption goes, that to me was a revelation. It brought me back to what classical hollywood was all about. The emphasis was on characters and a story, emotions, and something to say: in this case moral values, in a very bereft time, and very cynical time."

Tim Robbins: "I was realizing after a while grown men where coming up to me and telling me how important it was to them. If you think about it: how many movies are really about two guys, friendship, long term. No sex, no romance, no violence, no caper. Simply about long term friendship. We're starved of that type of picture. I think this movie gives us hope, says if you have patience if you have hope, if you have persistence, you can find your own Zihuatanejo. You can find your place in the sun."

William Sadler (Heywood): "And what Shawshank did better than any other movie that I know of, is it told the story of a man in a hopeless situation, who never let go of it, and won, in the end. And won huge."

Mark Rolston (Bogs): "People like to have hope. Having a best friend, somebody who would stick by you, and wait for you. My god, I don't know that all of us have lives that rich."

Gill Bellows (Tommy): "If you have a place in you mind or in your heart that you can go to, inspire of everything that you're dealing with in your life, and feel ease, and peace, bliss even, then they don't have you."

Bob Gutton (Warden Norton): "You either go to get busy living, or get busy dying. I think it is powerful the parallel of Brooks going out in the world and not being unable to get busy living. And Red going through the same steps on the same room. Facing all of the same challenges of a newly paroled inmate. Choosing despite his deep deep fears, to get busy living."

Shawshank: 

4 Comments

Seeing the movie a few times

Seeing the movie a few times has brought home the incredible job the writer did of finding just the right words. Knowing the outcome of the movie, the duplitious nature and double meanings become visible and takes on that extraordinary new dimention that create depth of caracter that so few movies bother to portray. I love the green moss on the wall behind Tim while he tells Morgan about MExico. The metaphors are sprinkled graciously, is in plentyful supply, but always subtle and enhancing the movie. That very slendril, almost promise, of greener pastures is just tantalising in that moment. A truly superb work, terrific balance and almost unbearable agony at watching the dehumanisation presented as normal life for those inmates. It is only the soothing voice of Morgan that gives the capacity to move with the movie to the next phase step by step. Highly recommended - to watch at least three times.

Really Realistic!

This movie is really interesting, long although it is well done and exhibits the story very realistically, Despite my one question how was the poster put back on if the hole was clearly very narrow how did he turn to put it on, anyway it is a movie i could watch over and over again. Fantastic Movie

Amazing film

This has to be the greatest film of all time, Ive managed to watch it four times in the last month and every time I watch it Im amazed by the powerful story and brilliant filming.

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