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Why Stephen King Thought His Best Movie Adaptation Would Never Get Made


Luckily for Darabont, he’d managed to snag Morgan Freeman as Red. This is the character in the novella who narrates everything, and because it’s scientifically impossible to dislike Freeman’s voice, the movie gets to keep that aspect of the book without the narration overstaying its welcome. It also helps that, in a visual medium like film, there doesn’t need to be as much time dedicated to how Red knows about any particular thing that happens when he’s not in the room. The novella’s filled with longwinded explanations about how Red heard about X from Y, but simply by showing us each scene, the viewer’s able to just assume that Red found out about it later.

The movie also benefitted from its ability to show us scenes that were denied to us in the novella — particularly, the moments where the corrupt villains, the warden and Captain Hadley, realized how screwed they were. In the book, you were forced to imagine how they got their comeuppance; the movie actually lets you see it. In the end, “The Shawshank Redemption,” was not just a movie that stayed largely faithful to its source material, but actively improved on it with the few changes it made. 

“When I first saw it, I realized he’d made not just one of the best movies ever done from my work, but a potential movie classic,” King explained. He wrote about how Darabont had been worried about Tim Robbins’s old age make-up in the final scene, and how King had assured him, “People aren’t going to notice the makeup, because they’ll be crying.” Sure enough, that final sequence of “Shawshank” is a total cinematic triumph, one of the best things to come out of both King and Darabont’s long, fruitful careers. 

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