1. It’s Based on a Novella by Stephen King
The film is based on Stephen King’s novella “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption,” which was published in a short story collection called Different Seasons. Two of the other short stories in the collection were made into films, Stand By Me in 1986 and Apt Pupil in 1998. Only one of them, “The Breathing Method,” has not been turned into a movie.
2. It’s Similar to Tolstoy
King’s novella shares several plot points with a nine-page short story by Russian writer Leo Tolstoy called “God Sees the Truth, But Waits.” Both are about men sent to prison for murders they didn’t commit.
3. Director Frank Darabont Got a Good Deal on the Rights to King’s Story
He bought the rights from King for $1.
4. It Almost Had a Much Different Cast
Castle Rock Entertainment, the studio that made Shawshank, was co-founded by Rob Reiner—director of another King adaptation, Stand By Me—and is named after the mythical Maine town that provides the setting for many of King’s books. After director Frank Darabont pitched Shawshank to the studio, Reiner originally offered $2.5 million for the script to star Tom Cruise as Andy Dufresne and Harrison Ford as Red.
5. The Original Title Was Changed to Avoid Confusion
Darabont wrote the script in eight weeks before pitching it to Castle Rock Entertainment. He decided to drop the “Rita Hayworth” part of the novella because actresses sent their resumes in for consideration thinking it was a Rita Hayworth biopic. During the casting process, Darabont even received a call from an agent who represented a supermodel; he swore the script was the best she had ever read and that she’d be perfect for the (non-existent) part of Hayworth.
6. It Was Filmed in Ohio
Although the film is set in Maine, the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio stood in for Shawshank Prison. The structure was slated to be torn down, but the production delayed the demolition for a year. After the film wrapped, all the buildings in the complex were torn down except the cellblock and main administrative building, which were preserved for historical purposes.
7. Morgan Freeman Got Really Good at Catch
The scene where Andy first approaches Red about the rock hammer as Red plays catch in the main yard took nine hours to shoot. Freeman continued to play catch for the whole nine hours without complaining and showed up the next day with his arm in a sling.
8. The Film Was Inspired by Goodfellas
Darabont says his main source of inspiration was Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas because of its use of voice-over narration and editing techniques.