Theatre 8949 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
In person: Frank Darabont, Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins. Moderated by Max Brooks.
20th Anniversary Screening
Screenwriter Frank Darabont made his feature directing debut with an Oscar-nominated adaptation of Stephen King’s novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, and over the last twenty years, this gripping story of hope and courage has become one of the most beloved films of its time.
Tim Robbins stars as Andy Dufresne, a young banker falsely convicted of the murder of his wife and her lover, who faces unthinkable brutality as an inmate of Shawshank State Prison. Andy’s accounting skills and his friendship with a more experienced prisoner, Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding played by Morgan Freeman help keep him alive in the hostile setting. However, an unforgivable betrayal leads him to plot an impossible escape. For his directing debut, Darabont assembled a top-notch supporting cast with a memorable performance by the great James Whitmore as a longtime convict. Darabont was also aided by Roger Deakins’ stark cinematography, Richard Francis-Bruce’s tense editing and Thomas Newman’s emotional score, which all earned Oscar nominations.
1994, 143 minutes, color, 35mm | Written and directed by Frank Darabont; based on the novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King; with Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, Gil Bellows, Mark Rolston, James Whitmore.
A modern American classic celebrated its 20th anniversary in high style at the Academy on November 18, 2014, when cast and crew members reunited at a special screening of The Shawshank Redemption hosted by World War Z author Max Brooks. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, the film was released in the fall of 1994 and marked the feature directorial debut of its screenwriter, Frank Darabont. The film was based on a Stephen King novella entitled Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, originally published in 1982 in the collection Different Seasons. (Read Stephen King’s thoughts on the film here.)
Darabont’s first effort behind the camera also was a King adaptation, a 30-minute film based on the short story “The Woman in the Room”; it was made with the help of the novelist’s “dollar baby” policy of granting permission to select filmmakers and students to adapt one of his stories for one dollar. Darabont went on to write and direct two more features from King’s body of work, The Green Mile (1999) and The Mist (2007), and called the novelist “a patron saint to my career.”
On stage at the sold-out Samuel Goldwyn Theater (with the enthusiastic audience giving two standing ovations) were Darabont and the two leads cast in the pivotal roles of Shawshank prison inmates Andy Dufresne and Red: Tim Robbins, who had just appeared in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts and The Player, and Morgan Freeman in his follow-up role to Unforgiven. Both actors reminisced about seizing the chance to act in the film based on the strength of what Robbins termed “the impenetrably perfect script.” After making a pair of high-profile horror films, Darabont explained that he wrote Shawshank to avoid becoming typecast in a genre already filled with maestros, though he had originally intended his first feature to be The Mist. The film gathered an impressive ensemble of actors and technicians, many of whom were in attendance for the evening. (See the gallery below.)
The majority of the film’s production took place in Ohio, an area where the trio recalled being surrounded by good people, hail, heat and tornadoes; Robbins in particular was thankful for the final scene (one that was not in the original script, but suggested by Castle Rock executives), which allowed them to wrap up the three-month shoot in St. Croix.
Both actors also recalled the most difficult scene they had to shoot, in which Robbins emerges from a sewage pipe into an Ohio creek in the middle of “cow country.” (Fortunately, showers were readily available.) Freeman and Darabont also remembered shooting an extensive panic attack scene near the end of the film, which was cut from the final version after test screening audiences indicated that they wanted Red to get to that pivotal tree right away.
The film didn't find its target audience at first, but positive word of mouth soon spread and made Shawshank one of the most beloved films of its era. Darabont, Robbins and Freeman noted that the ascendance of the film’s reputation was gradual, but its fans around the globe now include residents of rural China and none other than the late Nelson Mandela. Some of the funniest mispronunciations of the title (found in the video gallery below) over the years have come from this remarkable diverse fanbase.
Darabont, Robbins and Freeman, who individually have created impressive bodies of work, were delighted to reflect upon some of their lesser-known projects, and each named one film they wished more people would see. (Respectively they are The Majestic, Cradle Will Rock and Bopha!) They also continue to keep the spirit of the Shawshank alive through their artistry and outside activities. Robbins still teaches acting to prison inmates, who are often surprised to find him in their company. “They love that movie,” Robbins said of Shawshank. “Guards, not so much!”