There are a handful of movies that have pretty much become the benchmark of filmmaking. The Godfather. Citizen Kane. Chinatown. The mere mention of these films are enough to make any cinephile’s heart race, yet there’s another classic movie out there that, for some fans, beats them all: The Shawshank Redemption.
Whether you agree not, there’s no denying that Shawshank, adapted and directed by Frank Darabont, is a work that resonates beyond the screen. Yet while the tale of Andy Dufresne is more-or-less a straightforward one, the story behind the scenes is more shocking than any Stephen King novel could ever be.
1. Despite it being a quick conversation, Andy’s first scene with Red (where Red is pitching a baseball) took nine hours to film. Morgan Freeman threw the ball for every take, and the next day, he showed up to set with his arm in a sling.
2. The unforgettable scene where Andy plays opera over the prison loudspeaker was actually thought up by Tim Robbins. It remains one of the only scenes in the film not adapted from the novella.
3. In the novella, Red is actually a middle-aged Irishman, and actors like Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford were initially considered for the role. Writer/director Frank Darabont, however, had always envisioned Freeman as Red. He left the line, “Maybe it’s ’cause I’m Irish” in as an homage to the original character.
4. Only two women speak in the entire film: the customer that complains about Brooks at the grocery store, and the bank teller that helps Andy at the end of the film. Many critics believe this was one of the reasons Shawshank performed poorly in theaters.
5. Clancy Brown, who played the sadistic Captain Hadley, received offers from real-life corrections officers to help him make his portrayal more realistic. Brown turned them all down, citing his desire to avoid associating corrections officers with an evil character.
6. Andy’s famous crawl through the prison’s waste pipes actually might not have been so bad after all. Rather than human waste, the sludge present here was a mix of chocolate syrup, sawdust, and water.
7. The mugshots attached to Red’s parole papers were not photos of Morgan Freeman, but rather, ones of his son, Alfonso. The son made a brief cameo (below, left) in the film as the prisoner shouting, “Fresh fish! Fresh fish today! We’re reeling ’em in!” at Andy.
8. Darabont originally wanted the film to end with Red on his way to the field in Maine, though studio executives insisted on a satisfying reunion for the audience. They ultimately compromised, which is why we view Red and Andy’s reunion from a distance.
9. Stephen King’s original novella was called Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, though “Rita Hayworth” was dropped from the film’s title for fear that audiences would mistake it for a biopic. In fact, several actresses even reached out to audition for the role of Rita Hayworth in the early stages of production.
10. Believe it or not, the character of Andy Dufresne isn’t unique to Shawshank. Andy makes an appearance in Stephen King’s 1982 novella Apt Pupil, where he manages the investments of Dussander, the story’s antagonist.
11. Several significant scenes were cut from the script’s final draft, including a funeral for Brooks’ crow Jake, and a conversation between Tommy and his wife that leads him to turn his life around. There was also a scene where Red has a panic attack at the grocery store, giving more depth to his struggles in the outside world.
12. Rob Reiner offered to buy Darabont’s script for $2.5 million, but he ultimately turned him down, saying that the film was his “chance to do something great.” Reiner eyed Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise for the roles of Red and Andy, respectively.
13. The Shawshank Redemption was the first film in which Morgan Freeman served as a narrator, and he recorded all of his lines in just 40 minutes. However, an audio issue popped up during post-production, and Freeman was forced to rerecord his lines over the course of three weeks.
14. The hands shown loading the revolver in the film’s opening scene, as well as those carving Andy’s name into his cell, belonged to Darabont, not Tim Robbins. Darabont felt that only he could convey what he wanted to express in close-ups, and so he did it himself.
15. Of the other actors considered for the part of Andy Dufresne, Tom Hanks and Kevin Costner came the closest to landing the role. Hanks eventually passed to star in Forrest Gump, and Costner chose instead to focus on Waterworld, leaving Tim Robbins to snatch up the part.
16. While monitoring scenes involving Brooks’ crow, the American Humane Association deemed that feeding him a maggot was cruel to the tiny larvae. The AHA then made the production seek out a maggot that had died of natural causes to shoot the scene.
17. Because Jake couldn’t be trained to squawk on cue, Tim Robbins studied the frequency of the bird’s cries to time his line, “Hey, Jake. Where’s Brooks?” perfectly. This conscious delivery is evident in the film, as Robbins doesn’t begin speaking until after Jake caws.
18. To create the Shawshank State Penitentiary, the defunct Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio, was used as the prison’s exterior. The interior scenes, however, were shot on sound stages, as the OSR was too run down to even attempt to renovate.
19. While the people of Mansfield were more than willing to be film extras, their daily work schedules prevented most of them from helping out. To remedy this, the production gathered extras from local halfway houses, most of who were former convicts.
20. Following a surge in popularity, Ted Turner sold Shawshank‘s television rights to TNT, his own network, for much less than a film of its caliber would normally cost. This discount is one of the primary reasons why the film is shown almost daily on TNT.
21. Surprisingly, The Shawshank Redemption was a box-office bomb, grossing $16 million on a $25-million budget. However, following its seven Academy Award nominations and a dedicated rental video campaign, the film recouped its losses and became a Hollywood classic.
Despite its seven nominations, however, The Shawshank Redemption‘s awards season was mostly overshadowed by another breakout picture that was also hiding a number of secrets from its audience.
1. A 30-year-old Tarantino wrote the script to the Pulp in a dingy, one-room Amsterdam apartment over three months in 1992. Since Google Docs weren’t exactly available in ’92 he wrote the entire script in a dozen beat-up composition notebooks.
2. Everyone remembers that infamous, profanity-laced wallet Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Jules, owns. Well, Tarantino didn’t need to search for this kitschy treasure, as he had already owned the wallet himself and put it in the film! Good on you, Quentin.
3. After Tarantino failed to successfully bunny-sit for his friend/typist, Linda Chen, he named Amanda Plummer’s character Honey Bunny to honor Chen’s deceased pet (R.I.P. to the original Honey Bunny).
4. As hard as it is to believe, Uma Thurman originally turned down the historic role of Mia Wallace. But Tarantino begged her over the phone to take the role, desperately reading her the script aloud. Obviously his persistence worked.
5. There’s a fan theory that the bandage on the back of Marsellus Wallace’s neck was used to cover the spot from where the Devil removed his soul. Tarantino put that theory to bed when he revealed the bandage was simply used to cover a cut Ving Rhames had.
6. In one powerful scene, Jules Winnfield recites a bible verse, Ezekiel 25:17. Or does he? Well, he sort of does. Tarantino altered the actual bible verse, as he’s a man who has no problems taking creative liberties.
7. Although Rosanna Arquette played the quirky Jody — Vincent Vega’s drug dealer’s wife (the one with all the metal in her face) — Ellen Degeneres actually auditioned for the role!
8. F-bombs are to Tarantino flicks as peanut butter is to jelly; they just go together. Pulp Fiction has exactly 265 F words, making it — maybe unsurprisingly — the most that word was used in any film of 1994.
9. In 2007, Premiere voted Pulp‘s hysterical line, “You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris? They call it a Royale with cheese,” to be #81 on its prestigious list entitled “The 100 Greatest Movie Lines.”
10. Costume designer Betsy Heimann didn’t let Pulp Fiction‘s small budget discourage her. When she couldn’t find black pants long enough for Uma, she just cut them even shorter. Although capri pants weren’t really in style at the time, Mia Wallace helped bring them back.
11. When a “Speed Racer” t-shirt caught Heimann’s attention, Tarantino informed her that he proudly owned one himself. She felt the shirt would work perfectly for Eric Stoltz’s lazy character, just peeking out from under a dirty bathrobe.
12. You know that crazy scene where Butch Coolidge hits uber-bad-guy Marsellus Wallace with his car? If you pay attention, you can spot a (pre-plastic-surgery) cameo by controversial comedian Kathy Griffin. She plays one of the hit-and-run bystanders.
13. Audiences assume that Mia and Vincent won Jack Rabbit Slim’s dance contest doing the Twist. Later in the film, however, we hear a muffled television commercial for the 50s themed restaurant, which mentions the contest trophy was stolen — the same trophy Mia brought home the night of said contest!
14. You can spot a young Steve Buscemi, who plays a waiter hilariously disguised as Buddy Holly, in the famous milkshake scene. Tarantino clearly wanted to bring Buscemi’s talent back to his blooming filmography after his memorable performance in Reservoir Dogs.
15. Pulp Fiction had a budget of a mere $8.5 million, but that didn’t hold Tarantino and the crew back: the film blew its budget out of the water, grossing over $200 million worldwide.
16. People live for a good continuity error. During the scene where Mia overdoses in her own home, she is wearing Vincent Vega’s jacket. The scene then cuts to Mia picking up a cigarette, no longer wearing the jacket. Virtually a second later, we see Mia lighting her cigarette with Vincent’s jacket back on. It’s movie magic!
17. About $150,000 of Pulp‘s measly budget went toward the Jack Rabbit Slim’s set, which was built in a Culver City warehouse. No wonder that shake was so expensive.
18. A painting of Mia can be seen hanging in Marsellus’ house; it was painted by Steven Martinez, the brother of the film’s head graphic designer, Gerald Martinez. Steven is credited with “Very Special Thanks.”
19. We can’t imagine anyone other than Uma Thurman playing Mia Wallace, but the alluring Thurman wasn’t Tarantino’s first choice to play the iconic character. He initially pegged Michelle Pfeiffer for the role.
20. That Honda that Bruce Willis drove in Pulp Fiction has gotten a lot of air time by now. Tarantino put that same Honda Civic in 1997’s Jackie Brown and 2004’s Kill Bill: Volume 2. Talk about being resourceful.
21. Tarantino’s signature style involves referencing his favorite films in his own work. The famous diner dance in Pulp Fiction is actually a near-copy of a scene from Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2.
22. One of Tarantino’s best pals is fellow filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, and they’ve helped each other out on their most famous projects. Robert directed the parts of Pulp Fiction that Quentin acted in, while Tarantino guest-directed a scene in Sin City.
These hidden connections, crazy mishaps, quirks, and personal dramas are not limited to Pulp Fiction. They’re secret ingredients in all his masterpiece films.
1. In the Kill Bill films, for instance, Uma Thurman and Daryl Hannah remained foes regardless of whether or not the cameras were rolling. Producers had to hire staff to keep the feuding actresses apart at the cast’s hotel and at after-parties.
2. Reservoir Dogs remains one of Tarantino’s most popular movies, but he won’t say what the title means. He once claimed he heard it when a video store customer mispronounced Louis Malle’s Au revoir les enfants, but that film wasn’t available during his employment there.
3. After the Bride defeats the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill: Volume 1, O-Ren Ishii tells her, “I hope you’ve saved your energy. If you haven’t, you may not last 5 minutes.” Their subsequent duel last exactly 4 minutes and 59 seconds.
4. Sometimes actors have more in common with their characters than you’d expect. This horse featured in Django Unchained, for example, actually belongs to Jamie Foxx! He received it as a gift years earlier and became a riding nut.
5. A skilled auteur like Tarantino knows to keep the cameras rolling, no matter what. Near the climax of Django Unchained, Leo DiCaprio — as antagonist Calvin Candie — cut his hand when slamming his fist on the table. It fit so well that Tarantino kept it in the final cut!
6. In the 1990s, Tarantino was shopping for a Volvo, as he heard they were particularly safe. While scanning the lot, it occurred to him that a stunt team could upgrade any vehicle to make it death-proof. That moment inspired the 2007 film of the same name.
7. Nothing drives Quentin as batty as egregious product placement in movies. That’s why he invents brands for his films, like Red Apple Cigarettes. Alternatively, he’ll use now-defunct items like Fruit Brute cereal.
8. Tarantino has a stable of actors that he’ll work with again and again, including Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Madsen, and Uma Thurman. But established A-listers will plead with him for a part in his films, like Robert DeNiro did for Jackie Brown.
9. In addition to his penchant for violence and profanity-laden witticisms, Tarantino’s work repeatedly fixates on women’s feet. Viewers can see a close-up shot of a foot or shoe, or even a discussion about feet, in most of his films.
10. Gogo Yubari, armed with her schoolgirl persona and deadly meteor hammer, might be the scariest part of Kill Bill. Tarantino learned that firsthand when actress Chiaki Kuriyama accidentally hit him in the head with her chained weapon!
11. Eli Roth stole the show in Inglourious Basterds as baseball bat-wielding Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz. However, Tarantino initially had a very different actor in mind. He asked comedian Adam Sandler to play the part, but he was busy filming Funny People.
12. The Hateful Eight called for Jennifer Jason Leigh to play a song on guitar, and then for Kurt Russell to grab and smash it. Unfortunately, Kurt didn’t wait for the crew to hand him a prop guitar, so he ended up smashing a priceless 19th-century instrument.
13. Besides co-starring in From Dusk Till Dawn, Tarantino wrote the script — for a mere $1,500. He accepted that project to curry favor with special effects company KNB. They, in turn, pulled off some of the more gruesome violence in Reservoir Dogs for free.
14. Shooting Reservoir Dogs on a shoestring budget of $1.2 million, Tarantino had to get creative with certain expenses. He instructed most actors to supply their own clothes for costumes, most famously when it came to Chris Penn’s tracksuit.
15. German officers in Inglourious Basterds throw a fit after Shosanna Dreyfus brings up Lilian Harvey in conversation. In real life, Harvey was a 1930s German actress who helped persecuted friends escape the country before fleeing herself.
16. A huge moment in Kill Bill: Volume 2 is when The Bride’s real name is finally revealed. However, sharp-eyed viewers can actually catch “Beatrix Kiddo” on her plane ticket in the first installment.