Scene Morgan Freeman refused to film

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It’s one of the most famous movies of all time, but the final scene of The Shawshank Redemption almost looked very different.

On the 25th anniversary of the cult film, star Morgan Freeman has revealed some unknown facts from behind the scenes.

The Oscar-winning actor, 82, who played Ellis “Red” Redding, revealed he disagreed with director and writer Frank Darabont about the iconic ending scene, where Andy Dufresne and Red, both finally free, reunite on a beach in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

Many people consider The Shawshank Redemption to be their favourite film, including many famous prisoners. Photo / File
Many people consider The Shawshank Redemption to be their favourite film, including many famous prisoners. Photo / File

“Frank thought I should be blowing that harmonica that Andy gave me. And I refused,” Freeman said, according to the Daily News.


He described the idea as “sort of asinine, sort of cliched, sort of unnecessary and overkill”.

Instead, Andy, played by Tim Robbins, simply turns around to see Red approaching him in an effortlessly poignant moment.

Discussing the film further, Freeman said he wanted “any role” in the movie, saying he was blown away by the script.

He said he got “one of those pumps in your chest because that’s the role”.

“I just got the script and I called my agent back and said, ‘Any role. I’ll play anything in here’. That’s how good it was,” Freeman added.

Upon its release in September 1994, The Shawshank Redemption, based on the 1982 Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, didn’t exactly set the box office on fire.

But when it was released on video, the movie became a worldwide hit.

To celebrate 25 years since the film’s release, we’ve dug up some little-known facts about The Shawshank Redemption.


Stephen King never cashed his cheque

The author sold the rights to his 96-page story to Frank Darabont (the film’s writer/director) for just $5651 but bizarrely never cashed the cheque.

According to the Wall Street Journal, King actually framed the cheque and sent it back to Darabont years after the movie came out with a note that said, “In case you ever need bail money. Love, Steve”.

Tim Robbins wasn’t first choice for Andy

Tom Hanks and Kevin Costner both passed on the movie. Hanks instead went with Forrest Gump, which turned out to be a worthy choice, but Costner opted to star in what is considered one of the worst movies ever, Waterworld.

Tom Cruise was really keen, but he wasn’t thrilled that Frank Darabont had never directed a feature film before and demanded that Rob Reiner (who directed Cruise in A Few Good Men and was Darabont’s mentor) have greater control over the movie.

According to the film’s producer, Liz Glotzer, Reiner spoke to Cruise and said, “No, if you’re going to do it with (Darabont), it’s his vision.”

“So then Tom Cruise didn’t want to do it,” said Glotzer.

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On-set tension between actors and director

According to Freeman, director Darabont always wanted to shoot scenes several times over, even if they were perfect.

“The answer (I’d give him) was no,” said Freeman in Vanity Fair.

“I don’t want to be chewing the scenery. Acting itself isn’t difficult. But having to do something again and again for no discernible reason tends to be a bit debilitating to the energy.”

Baseball scene was painful for Freeman

Remember the scene where Andy chats to Red as he throws a baseball in the prison yard?

That scene actually took nine hours to shoot and Freeman spent the whole time throwing the baseball back and forth. He didn’t complain but did rock up the next day with his arm in a sling. That’s dedication.

Freeman’s son made unexpected cameo

At one stage during the film we see Red’s parole papers.

A photo of Morgan Freeman's son, Alfonso, was used for Red's mugshot from the film. Photo / Supplied
A photo of Morgan Freeman’s son, Alfonso, was used for Red’s mugshot from the film. Photo / Supplied

The photos attached aren’t of a young Freeman or a random extra, it’s actually a photo of Freeman’s son, Alfonso, who spent a lot of time on set and also had a tiny role in the film.

Robbins swam in toxic water

The water that Andy crawled through in the sewage pipe during his escape attempt was actually toxic.

Tim Robbins wasn't first choice for Andy. Photo / File
Tim Robbins wasn’t first choice for Andy. Photo / File

“We got a local chemist to test the quality of the water, and he said this water is absolutely lethal,” said designer Terence Marsh.

Apparently, Robbins agreed to film the scene in the dangerous water as long as there was a hot shower nearby for him to get clean immediately afterwards.

Film has many famous fans

Many people consider The Shawshank Redemption to be their favourite film, including one of the world’s most famous prisoners.

“When I met (Nelson Mandela), he talked about loving Shawshank,” Robbins said.

You can visit the set

The movie was filmed in 1993 at the Ohio State Reformatory. It was an actual prison that was built in 1886 and closed in 1990. It was meant to be demolished, but after Shawshank was filmed there, a group of people set about trying to restore the prison.

It’s now a major tourist site with more than 80,000 people visiting last year. If you’re ever in Ohio, you can do the 14-stop self-guided Shawshank Redemption tour that takes you to several sites where the movie was filmed.