THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, to adapt a line from its narrator, is a film that crawled through a river of shit and came out on the other side. Commercially ignored upon release, Frank Darabont’s adaptation of a little-known Stephen King prison-set novella has become widely considered one of the greatest films of all time: beautifully acted, uplifting, a film that makes you believe in the power of hope. Here, director Darabont reflects on the long journey of his beloved debut film.
Shawshank is one of the films of our lifetime. How does that make you feel?
Buoyant and delighted and extremely grateful. Gosh, it was so long ago now. Twenty-five years. Twenty-six, I guess, since we shot it. To know that it’s had this kind of lasting effect on people is exceptionally gratifying.
It’s now a film you can refer to by just one word, “Shawshank”.
[Laughs] You know, that makes us like Liza or Barbra.
Did you imagine that it would become an important film for many people?
I never really looked that far ahead. When you’re shooting a movie, you have no idea. I thought we had a good script. But there were days on the set where I thought, “Boy, I feel like I’m really screwing this up.”
Oh God, yeah. You know, I had a very fascinating encounter with [Kramer Vs. Kramer director] Robert Benton the year it came out, at the Berlin Film Festival. He remembered being a first-time director, and he said, “How do you like it?” And I said, “I don’t know that I ever want to do this again.” He said, “You know, that’s par for the course. Every day of filming feels like a failure. But that doesn’t mean that you’re failing. You know, if you’re being true to the script and the actors are being true to the text, you could wind up with something pretty darn good.”
Which is true.
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