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Is The Shawshank Redemption Based On True Story?

The Shawshank Redemption may have flopped at the box office, but the critics showered Frank Darabont's prison drama with praise, and it ultimately went on to dominate the home entertainment game... and our hearts. The story of Andy DuFresne's (Tim Robbins) slow, determined escape plan came out in 1994, but even today, you have a pretty decent chance of bumping into it if you channel-surf long enough.  

Not any movie can claim such goodwill, but then again, Shawshank Redemption is not just any movie. Despite its grim setting and series of unfortunate events, it's ultimately a brilliantly-paced depiction of hope and human tenacity. The considerable chemistry between Robbins' DuFresne and Morgan Freeman's "Red" Redding elevates the movie even further, as does the stellar supporting cast. It's a prison break movie with a heart. 

But how did Darabont, who both directed the movie and wrote the screenplay, come up with such a gem of a story? Surely, he had some amazing real-life incident to inspire him. Could it be that The Shawshank Redemption is based on true story?

The Shawshank Redemption is based on a Stephen King novella

The Shawshank Redemption isn't based on a true story, and Frank Darabont didn't come up with it by himself, either. The movie's based on Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, a novella first published in Stephen King's Different SeasonsIn fact, it's not even the only story from the book that has made it to the silver screen: Apt Pupil and The Body have also been filmed, though you might know the latter better as the legendary 1986 movie Stand By Me

As Scott von Doviak writes in Stephen King Films FAQDarabont and King first met when the director was just a film student who sought to adapt the short story "The Woman in the Room" into a short film. The author liked the result so much that when Darabont asked about Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, King was happy to let him have the movie rights for peanuts. King was delighted with Darabont's script, though he was concerned that it was too good for Hollywood. "It was great," the horror writer said. "Too great, I thought, to be produced by any company in California. I did not feel there was a place for Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption in an industry consumed with Predators and Terminators." 

Fortunately, Darabont went on to prove King wrong. He stubbornly held on to his vision, and cleared every hurdle on his way to give us a true, rare gem of a movie. What were these hurdles, you ask? Well, let's just say that in some alternate reality, there's a Rob Reiner-directed version of The Shawshank Redemption starring Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford. With absolutely no disrespect to any of these gentlemen, we think we're quite happy with the version we have.