In April 2012, Chen Guangcheng, a blind Chinese dissident, faced off against the guards at his home in Shandong province. For six years, he had been under house arrest and was frequently beaten by the authorities. His political activism had earned him the nickname “Chen Guangchao,” which translates as “the one who gets beaten.”
For Chen Guangcheng, the only way to escape was through a moonless sky. He then used his senses to guide himself across the country, and he made his way to the American Embassy in Beijing. At one point, he was almost completely paralyzed after breaking his foot.
The story of Chen Guangcheng, which was reported by the New York Times, shocked China's rights activists. As a result, the country's Internet police tried to suppress the story through their use of micro-blogs. They blocked search terms such as "blind person," "embassy," and "Shawshank."
Twenty years ago, the movie "The Shawshank Redemption" hit theaters. It was a period drama that featured a cast of seasoned actors, including Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne. Morgan Freeman was also a part of the cast.
During the 90s, there was a time when action movies were full of stars such as Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. In Shawshank, the story of a man's long journey for freedom and redemption, the closest thing to action sequences were the fights.
Although the film received positive reviews, it flopped at the box office. It only managed to earn $16 million during its first weekend, which is less than half of its $25 million budget.
In 2008, "The Shawshank Redemption" was named the best movie in the Internet Movie Database's Top 250 cinema-favorites list. It has since overtaken "The Godfather" and "Citizen Kane," which are both still in second place.
Readers of a British magazine voted "The Shawshank Redemption" as one of the 500 greatest films of all time. It was also named a favorite film by a BBC Radio station in 2011.
Despite the lackluster box office, Morgan Freeman still believes that the movie is the greatest movie he's ever seen. Tim Robbins, who also worked on the film, claims that the movie has changed his life. Even the world's most famous former prisoner, Nelson Mandela, talked about how much he loved the film.
What made "The Shawshank Redemption" such a global phenomenon? A film that ran for over 140 minutes, is considered a life sentence for most people.
Frank Darabont, the director of "The Shawshank Redemption," currently lives in a Spanish villa in Los Angeles's Los Feliz district. He also serves as the executive producer of "The Walking Dead" and "Monk City." Before he became a successful film director, he was an unknown quantity in Hollywood. During the 1980s, he was just another broken Hollywood hanger-on.
Before making "The Shawshank Redemption," Frank Darabont had no career. He was working on low-budget movies to keep his body and soul together. He was a huge fan of Stephen King, so he decided to turn one of the author's stories into a film.
King had a hard time navigating through Hollywood's movie-studio gatekeepers, especially after releasing his 1976 novel "Carrie." He was especially critical of Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of "The Shining," which he considered to be one of the most misogynistic movies ever made. Despite this, King didn't go after other filmmakers.
King has a policy of giving filmmakers a calling card to his short stories for a dollar. In 1983, a young writer named Frank Darabont gave King a buck to make the film "The Woman in the Room." This was the first short film that he made based on his work. But his real passion was "The Shawshank Redemption," which was one of the four novellas in "Different Seasons." This was the first time that he tried to break out of his genre-focused writing.
Before he started working on "The Shawshank," he waited for his resume to lengthen so that it would support his ambitions. In 1987, he got his first screenplay credit for "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3." He thought that it was the right time to try his hand at directing a feature film.
After receiving King's blessing, he started working on an adaptation of Rita Hayworth's short story "The Shawshank Redemption." It's unlike anything that Hollywood had been working on. Instead of going for the high-concept "Harry Potter" or Die Hard" loglines, the story focuses on Red's thoughts about fellow prisoner Andy.
According to him, even King didn't understand how to make a movie out of his short stories. He says that he wasn't ready to learn how to write a screenplay immediately after making "The Shawshank." Instead, he focused on writing scripts for other projects.
He wanted to make sure that the movie would honor the source material, so he took some of the ideas from the novella and used them in the film. Some of the film's plot points were invented by him. In one of King's stories, a minor character named Brooks dies in an old people's home.
The movie features a moving montage that focuses on the various events that happened to Brooks, including his suicide and the refusal of Andy to be executed. In King's version, Tommy tries to clear his name by transferring to a less-secure prison.
According to director Rob Reiner, who was also a founder of the company, he was able to get the script for the film. He then offered King $3 million to direct the movie.
According to him, the figure that Red says in the movie is "something like that." He was quick to point out that the Internet has made it easy for people to speculate about the plot of "The Shawshank." He also refuted rumors that there was a power struggle over the script.
Reiner had already mined different genres before he decided to make "Stand by Me" based on the novella "The Body." During the 1990s, Castle Rock became known for adapting other King stories, such as "When Harry Met Sally."
After the success of "A Few Good Men," which featured Tom Cruise, in 1992, Reiner wanted to make the movie based on the book by King. However, he was approached by Castle Rock to direct the film instead. According to the director, he was offered a huge amount of money to let him make the movie.
When he was offered the money to make the movie, Frank Darabont was initially reluctant to sign on. He recalls that during his struggling years as a writer, he could barely afford to rent a room. The amount offered to him would have put him at the top of his profession, and he was completely tormented by it.
Castle Rock then said that it would finance any other project that he wanted to make if he ceded to Reiner. Despite his age, Darabont was still surprised by the company's decision. He said that he was only 33 at that time, and he decided to direct the movie because he was still scared that he might not be able to achieve the things that he set out to do.
The company would then fire the director after the first meeting. He would then be replaced by another director.
Although he was known for being a mensch, Reiner was still able to mentor and assist his friend, Frank. One of the most interesting details about their collaboration was that both of their movies were based on the same novellas. According to Reiner, he found it interesting that both of their films didn't rely on supernatural elements of horror.
The company was able to identify with Stephen King's ability to create complex characters and brilliant dialogue. In 1998, the third novella by King was made into a film by Bryan Singer.
After the director was confirmed, the casting calls for the film started. According to the director, his brain went to some of his favorite actors, such as Robert Duvall and Gene Hackman. However, due to the movie's racial content, producer David Glotzer suggested that Morgan Freeman take on the role of Red.
For an interview, it's important to talk to Morgan Freeman, as he is known for his calm and authoritative voice. He has gained a following due to his work as the Easy Reader on PBS during the 1970s. During one of his performances, he sang "I groove on all the words around."
According to Freeman, the script for "Shawshank" was incredibly good. After he called his agent, he was surprised to learn that the producers wanted him to play Red. He also said that he was surprised by how much control he had over the movie.
Offers went out to various actors, such as Tom Hanks and Kevin Costner, for the role of Andy Dufresne. However, despite his love for the script, Tom Cruise was not interested in taking on the role. According to producer David Glotzer, he refused to sign on if Reiner would also keep an eye on the production.
Freeman insisted that he had suggested Tim Robbins, but the director would not confirm this. He said that he was willing to take on the director's word.
Tim Robbins is one of the most obscure individuals in Hollywood. Unlike some of the movie stars who are shorter, he is taller. He won an Oscar for his supporting role in "The Mystic River." During our interview, he talks passionately about the need for more diversity in the film industry. Like his character in the film, Andy, Robbins' "We the people" persona has inspired an urge to fight against the status quo.
During the 90s, Robbins started to break out of minor roles, such as Top Gun and The Love Boat. His breakthrough role was in "Bull Durham." Newsweek named him the "man of the moment."
Robbins used his A-list status to convince the producers that Frank Darabont was inexperienced. He was referring to the fact that he had only directed one made-for-TV movie before "Shawshank." He was also working with Roger Deakins, who was a seasoned cameraman, on the previous film, "The Hudsucker Proxy."
The cast of "Shawshank" included some of the most prominent actors of the time, such as Bob Gunton, who was a stage and TV actor. He played the role of the sanctimonious Warden Norton, while James Whitmore played the role of the elderly inmate Brooks Hatlen.
James Gandolfini passed on the role of Bogs in "True Romance," which would have involved a violent confrontation with Patricia Arquette. Brad Pitt also dropped out of the role of Tommy after just a few scenes.
The cast and crew of "Shawshank" had a brutal schedule. It was a long, hot summer in the former Ohio State Reformatory in Ohio. The movie was filmed in various locations, including the cellblock. According to Darabont, they were lucky to have Sunday off.
A bakery in the town of Mansfield sells Bundt-cake replicas of the prison, which is a popular tourist destination. In 1993, the facility was closed due to the inhumane living conditions. According to Robbins, the cast and crew experienced the harsh conditions inside the prison.
According to Deakins, the production was able to capture the pain of the former inmates. They were able to share their personal stories to create a more realistic depiction of the prison system.
For three months, Robbins visited the prison to shoot the film. Although it was never depressing, it was also dark at times due to the characters' situations. According to Deakins, working on the film was an intense experience, and he often felt a sense of "a tingle down the spine." One of the most memorable scenes in the film was the inmates drinking beer on the roof of a factory.
The movie's opening scene, which is almost two years into Andy's sentence, is one of the most uplifting moments in the film. It shows the character gradually becoming a legend. To get some "suds," Andy is forced to risk his life by Captain Hadley.
According to Freeman, the crew was constantly working on the roof of the prison to create the perfect conditions for the scene. The tar used for the roof was a viscous substance that would harden and dry quickly.
According to director Frank Darabont, the sequence was complicated due to the way the camera moved. He had to match the movement of the camera to the audio that Freeman had pre-recorded. After the crew got a nice take, he said, "I thought, O.K., that one worked." By the time the film ended, the cast and crew had gotten to "sit down and drink that beer."
Despite his inscrutable smile, Robbins would not talk about the tensions on the set of "Shawshank." He said that the difficult times were usually related to the length of the day. Freeman, on the other hand, said that the tension between the cast and director was common throughout the film.
According to Freeman, he had a few bad moments with the director. Most of these were due to the repetitive takes that he had to perform. He says that he avoids taking on too many takes because it can affect his energy. One of the most frustrating moments that he had was when the guards had to re-trace Andy's escape route after they found themselves in raw sewage.
Frank Darabont, who made his feature-film debut with "The Shawshank," says that he learned a lot from the experience. He also said that he had to have an internal measure of what an actor needs to perform at a certain level.
According to him, the constant compromise makes working on a film feel like a failure. He also said that in the editing room, the crew members would start to forget about the thoughts that they had been holding. The first edit of the film, which ran for over two hours, was a long time.
One of the most notable scenes that were left on the cutting room floor was Red's uneven transition to freedom during the Summer of Love. The producer insisted on keeping the scene, which was originally supposed to be a part of the film's post-prison reunion sequence.
The original story of "The Shawshank" was reportedly told in the same way that King's story ended. According to her, she thought that the ending of the film was too commercial. However, she said that it was also important to allow the audience to see the characters together.
Despite the slow pace of the film, which was criticized at the time, critics were still able to praise it. Gene Siskel called it one of the year's best films and Kenneth Turan, who is a long-time critic in Los Angeles, referred to it as a big glob of cotton candy. According to critics, the film had a distinct and engaging feel.
The film's release on September 23, 1994, was greeted by high expectations. In Hollywood, opening night is typically reserved for filmmakers to stand in the back of the theater to watch the audience cry and laugh at the carefully crafted moments in their film.
The movie house that was built on Sunset Boulevard has over 900 seats. Unfortunately, according to critic Gene Glotzer, no one was there during the film's run. The filmmakers tried to make a few sales by cornering two girls outside the theater. They told them that if they didn't like the film, they could call Castle Rock for a refund.
According to Freeman, the film's initial flameout was caused by the title. He said that nobody could say "The Shawshank Redemption." Instead, people would ask their friends about the movie and then they would try to explain what it was about.
Although the title of the film doesn't always mean that it's about a good thing, 1994 was a year of two other films that were on the other side of the spectrum: "The Nutty Professor" and "The Shimshunk Reduction." Both of these films became cultural phenomena and were able to collect a combined box-office of over $100 million.
In 1995, "The Shawshank Redemption" got its first shot at redemption. After it was nominated for several awards, including best picture, Freeman was able to receive an award.
A re-release during awards season was also able to boost the film's box office. Although it was not able to win an Oscar, the film was able to get a second life thanks to the positive reaction it received.
During the 1990s, Ted Turner, the founder of Turner Broadcasting, was looking for new ways to provide his network with quality entertainment. He had already owned MGM's film library, but he was also tired of relying on outdated talkies to bring new audiences to his network.
Unfortunately, 20 years later, the financial records of "The Shawshank" have gone missing. Many people believe that the film's value was significantly lower than it was expected to be.
According to director Frank Darabont, who was part of the team that brought "The Shawshank Redemption" to life, part of the deal that Turner made with the filmmakers was that they would be allowed to air the film whenever they wanted.
The film's success was also attributed to economic factors. In 1997, TNT first aired the film to its basic-cable ratings. It then continued showing it over and over again. According to Freeman, people would often ask if they could watch the film daily.
Through television, the audience was able to connect with the characters and the story of "The Shawshank Redemption." According to Freeman, the film's popularity wasn't due to a weed-growing trend.
Contrary to popular belief, "The Shawshank Redemption" is not a chick flick. Instead, it falls under the category of "guy cry" movies. There are only two female actors in the film, and they each speak over 20 words of dialogue.
While the film's cinematography is often lost on the small screen, watching "The Shawshank Redemption" on TV has allowed viewers to experience some of the film's most powerful moments.
Many home viewers were able to connect with the characters and the story of "The Shawshank Redemption." According to Freeman, the film's strong emotional impact was also attributed to the themes of redemption and hope.
According to Freeman, the film is about the relationship between two men. It's a rare beast that doesn't feature a car chase. According to Robbins, the film's characters, Red and Andy, were able to connect through their on-screen relationship. This intimate connection was maintained over the film's 20 years.
While watching "The Shawshank," many viewers were able to experience a hypnotic effect due to the presence of Freeman's honeypot voice. According to director Frank Darabont, the film's success was also due to how well it was able to capture the audience's attention.
According to Anthony Lane, a film reviewer, the most important thing to note about "The Shawshank Redemption" is that it doesn't get repetitive. Despite the various moments of hokey togetherness, the film still manages to leave its audience with a feeling of release.
According to the Library of Congress, the two most popular films of all time, "The Wizard of Oz" and "It's a Wonderful Life," both followed a similar path into America's psyche. Both of these films were able to bounce back from their box-office failures by being featured on TV reruns.
According to Freeman, the most important message that the film taught was that people should always get busy living or die. The mantra has also inspired various products, such as T-shirts and tattoos.
The film's dénouement sees Andy crawling through the plumbing pipe of the jail, which Red describes as a river of shit. After spending 20 years in prison, Andy can break free. When the sewer spills him out into a creek, he raises his hands and begins to celebrate his newfound freedom.
The story of "The Shawshank Redemption" is also known to have lightning strikes. According to Reuters, the fate of He Peirong, who was one of the individuals who helped Chen Guangcheng escape, is unknown. She was reportedly taken into custody after the film was shown on TV.
According to Variety, the film was called “a rough diamond” when it was released. It was also praised for its ability to endure multiple viewings over two decades. According to Robbins, the film's success was also due to how it was able to connect with its audience.
The film's message about freedom is also applicable to everyone, regardless of their situation in life. It shows that even if you're in a bad relationship or have a job that you hate, there's still a chance that you can still get out.
© 2022 Haitham Al Bairouti