17 Things You Never Knew About ‘The Shawshank Redemption’

We all know the story of The Shawshank Redemption; chances are, most of us have seen it at least once since it’s perpetually aired on TV. While it seems to be universally adored (and rightly so), there’s so much more to the movie than the average fan knows.

1. Ouch! It took 9 hours to shoot Andy and Red’s first conversation (with Red throwing the ball) in the prison yard; Morgan Freeman continued to pitch the baseball for 9 hours without complaint. 

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The next day, he arrived to set with his arm in a sling.

2. Stephen King sold the film rights for “Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption” very cheap, but never actually cashed the check.

Years after the film came out, King had the check framed before mailing it to Shawshank director Frank Darabont with a note reading, “In case you ever need bail money. Love, Steve.”

3. Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman, and even Robert Redford were considered for the part of Red, who is a middle-aged Irishman in the original story… 

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Darabont had Freeman in mind all along because of his presence, demeanor, and, of course, that voice.

4. …which is why Morgan Freeman says in the film, “maybe it’s ’cause I’m Irish.” 

The line made sense in the story, but was kept for the film as a joke.

5. The mugshot of Red attached to his parole papers looks just like a young Morgan Freeman for a reason: it’s Freeman’s son, Alfonso in the photos. 

Shawshank Redemption
Columbia Pictures

Alfonso Freeman also appears in the film as a convict yelling, “Free fish! Free fish today!”

6. Did you ever catch Stephen King’s trademark? After Andy’s escape, the guards shout “Open 237!” as they approach Red’s cell. 

The Shining
Warner Bros.

237 is also the iconic room number in King’s The Shining, as well as the amount of change the boys of King’s Stand By Me were able to gather ($2.37).

7. Definitely not passing the Bechdel test: only two women have speaking roles in the film. 

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One is the customer left unsatisfied with Brooks at the grocery store, and the other is the bank clerk who attends to Andy after his escape.

8. The close-up shots of hands are actually director Frank Darabont’s.

Shawshank Redemption
Columbia Pictures

Like James Cameron in Titanic, the director used his own hands for the close-up shots of loading his revolver, as well as the scene where Andy carves his name into the wall. He thought that only he could do exactly what he wanted for those shots.

9. Tim Robbins initially refused to jump into the muddy water at the end of the sewage pipe. 

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A chemist had tested the water and declared it lethal. Robbins eventually sucked it up (we sooo wouldn’t).

10. When Captain Hadley is arrested at the end of the film, the officer making the arrest can be seen reading Hadley his Miranda rights off of a piece of paper. 

This is because, as Red states, Andy broke out in 1966, the same year as Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, which declared that people must be read their rights before placed into police custody.

11. The name of the Stephen King novella was changed from Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption to prevent confusion. 

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When word spread that the novella was being adapted, many actresses and supermodels became interested in the part of Rita Hayworth, mistaking the film for a biopic.

12. The film’s name change didn’t stop one agent who claimed he read the script and loved it before requesting his supermodel client be considered for the “lead role,” Rita Hayworth.

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13. Rob Reiner loved Frank Darabont’s draft of the script so much that he actually offered Darabont over $2 million for the rights, so he could direct it himself. 

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Thankfully, Darabont rejected the offer after having seriously considered it; Reiner wanted Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise for the leads.

14. The American Humane Association were so strict in their supervision of scenes involving Brooks’ crow that, at one point, they objected to Brooks feeding the crow a maggot. 

Shawshank Redemption
Columbia Pictures

They declared it cruelty to the maggot, and the scene couldn’t be filmed until they found a maggot that had perished from natural causes to feed to the crow.

15. And Tim Robbins had to time his line, “Hey, Jake, where’s Brooks?” in order to prevent the crow from squawking over him. 

Shawshank Redemption
Columbia Pictures

The crow couldn’t be trained to squawk on cue, so Robbins really had to master his timing. You can even catch him watching the bird extra carefully as he approaches it, not speaking until after he hears it squawk.

16. When the cut-out hiding space for his digging tool was discovered in Andy’s Bible, it’s clear the book is open to Exodus. 

Shawshank Redemption
Columbia Pictures

The word literally means “to escape or depart.”

17. Though Red only says that he committed murder in the film, we know the real story (thanks to the novella). 

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In the original version, Red is serving three life sentences for murdering his wife, along with his neighbor’s wife and son. He cut the brakes on his wife’s car in order to collect her insurance, which accidentally killed the other two when she crashed.

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