While critics often hail Citizen Kane or The Godfather as the greatest movie ever made, The Shawshank Redemption takes the top spot in many lists based on viewer voting, such as IMDB’s “Top 250.” Since the movie is so beloved, there are plenty of places online to find interesting trivia about the film. For this list, we’ve tracked down some fascinating yet lesser-known facts, and a few corrections to misconceptions.
1. The movie was filmed at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio. The prison was shut down three years earlier in 1990 following a prisoners’ class action law suit for overcrowding and inhumane living conditions.
Over the years, the prison fell into disrepair. But it is currently being restored by the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society, using money from tour fees and donations.(source)
2. The prison was also used in the films Air Force One and Tango and Cash, as well as the TV show House.
3. In 1948, the Ohio State Reformatory’s superintendent, his wife, and his daughter were murdered by two ex-inmates who had been paroled.
The former prisoners held the superintendent responsible for their mistreatment in the prison. They abducted the family from their farm near the prison and shot them in a cornfield. One of the prisoners was killed in a shootout with police. The other was captured and later executed.(1,2,3)
4. Dennis Baker, who had been the assistant to the warden of the Ohio State Reformatory in real life, has a cameo appearance in the scene where Tommy Williams is brought to Shawshank.
Baker had worked in the prison for over 25 years. He started out as a guard and worked his way up to administrative assistant to the warden. He later became the warden of a different prison. When the director offered Baker the opportunity to have a cameo, he opted to play a convict.(source)
5. One reason the movie reached first place on IMDB’s list of “Top 250” movies is due to fans of The Dark Knight. They gave The Godfather the lowest possible score so The Dark Knight could be #1. When excitement about The Dark Knight died down, The Shawshank Redemption ended up in the top position.
When The Dark Knight was released in 2008, The Godfather held the top spot on the IMDB list, and The Shawshank Redemption was at number two. But The Dark Knight quickly rose to the number one spot dethroning The Godfather. Commentators have pointed out that at the same time, the number of users who gave The Godfather the lowest possible rating rose from 6.1% to 6.4%. This suggests people gave The Godfather a “1 out of 10” rating just so they could see The Dark Knight at the top of the list.
As the initial excitement over The Dark Knight died down, the movie fell to the number three spot allowing The Shawshank Redemption to slide into first place. The rating for The Godfather never recovered, leaving it in second place.(1,2,3)
6. Tom Cruise was considered for the role of Andy Dufresne but did not want to work with such an inexperienced director. He agreed to play the role if Rob Reiner would keep an eye on the production. Reiner declined, so Cruise passed on the role.
Frank Darabont was the director and screenplay writer for The Shawshank Redemption. His only previous experience directing was a short film based on Stephen King’s story The Woman in the Room, and a TV movie called Buried Alive.
Rob Reiner had previously been interested in directing the film himself and had offered Darabont $2.5 million in exchange for taking over the project. But Darabont turned him down. When Cruise requested that Reiner at least be involved, Reiner said: “No, if you’re going to do it with [Darabont], it’s his vision.”
Other actors considered for the role included Tom Hanks and Kevin Costner.(source)
7. The convertible Dufresne drives in the film is a 1969 Pontiac GTO, though the scene is supposed to take place in 1965.
The filmmakers were planning to use a period-appropriate Mustang for the scene, but the vehicle owner backed out at the last minute.(source)
8. In 2014, the actor who played the warden, Bob Gunton, said he still makes a very substantial income from residual payments.
Gunton’s steady income from residual payments is a reflection of how popular the film became over time. When the movie first hit theaters, it was not a success. It made only $18 million at the box office. But it started to gain popularity after it was nominated for seven Academy Awards. In 1995, it was the most rented movie, and it earned $80 million in video-rental revenue. The movie has since been shown on television very frequently—it’s tied with Scarface as being the most re-run movie on television.
Warner Bros. wouldn’t reveal exactly how much money it has made from the movie. But current and former Warner Bros. executives have said it drives much of their library’s value.(source)
9. Several websites claim the filmmakers had to use a maggot that died of natural causes for the crow-feeding scene. But according to the American Humane Association, the “maggot” was actually made from baby food.
First of all, it was not a maggot that was going to be used in the scene, but a wax worm. A maggot is the larva of a fly, and a wax worm is the larva of a wax moth.
Secondly, it’s true that a representative from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals told the filmmakers they couldn’t use a live wax worm, which irritated Darabont. He said “I was actually trying to reason with this lady by pointing out that it was from a bait shop, that anybody in the country could walk in to, buy a box of these worms, ram a hook through them, and drop them in a river to be eaten by a large mouth bass.” The ASPCA representative insisted that they find one that died of natural causes, to which the director joked “well do we have the autopsy to determine the cause of death, just to make sure there was no foul play?”
10. Several websites claim that the number 237 must have some significance to Stephen King since it’s both Red’s cell number in The Shawshank Redemption and a room number in The Shining. While it’s true the number is used in both film adaptations, it’s not used in either of King’s stories.
In the movie, it’s clear that Red’s cell number is 237 because a guard calls it out when Red is about to be questioned by the warden. But in King’s novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, Red resides in cell number six on cell block five.
In the novel The Shining, the room number with the ghost of the old lady is actually 217. Reportedly, when they were making the movie, the hotel requested another room number be used, so guests would not be afraid to stay in room 217. There was no real room 237 in the hotel, so they used that number instead.
11. Darabont later went on to adapt two more Stephen King stories into screenplays, The Green Mile and The Mist. Some of his other noteworthy achievements are that he created the series The Walking Dead and Mob City
Both The Walking Dead and Mob City are also adapted from literary works. The Walking Dead is based on the comic books, and Mob City is based on the non-fiction book L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City.(1,2,3)
12. The actor who played the prosecutor in The Shawshank Redemption, Jeffrey DeMunn, acted in all of Darabont’s projects listed above.
This actor is clearly a favorite of Darabont’s, as DeMunn also acted in several more of his productions. They first worked together on the 1988 movie The Blob, for which Darabont wrote the screenplay. In addition, both Jeffrey DeMunn and his son Kevin DeMunn were cast in the movie The Majestic, which was directed by Darabont.(1,2,3)