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What The Cast Of The Shawshank Redemption Should Look Like

Widely considered to be a modern American classic, The Shawshank Redemption's success was far from assured. Seem impossible? Reacquaint yourself with the film's poor initial showing at the box office in 1994. But thanks to VHS distribution and cable TV, it wasn't long before Frank Darabont's sweeping adaptation of Stephen King's novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption finally found its place at the top of the cinematic heap. Today, many fans consider it to be one of the most iconic and beautiful movies ever made, in spite of its heavy themes of prison, abuse, and torture.

While Stephen King stories tend to be character and description heavy, his novellas break the mold, thanks to their shorter word count. Because of this, many memorable characters get the chance to shine in the film adaptation of The Shawshank Redemption. Some, like Heywood (William Sadler), Floyd (Brian Libby), and Snooze (David Proval) even become more fully developed than they are in the book. Let's examine what changed in the adaptational process, with this round-up of what the cast of The Shawshank Redemption looks like in King's novella.

Andy Dufresne

King's novella is told from the perspective of Red, as he recounts the events leading up to the amazing prison break. Andy is the most well described character in the tale: "When Andy came to Shawshank in 1948," Red details, "he was 30 years old. He was a short, neat little man with sandy hair and small, clever hands ... He always looked as if he should have been wearing a tie." Red further describes Andy as "weak-looking," which makes him a target.

By 1963, as Andy is getting Shawshank's prison library going, Red notes that suddenly, "there were lines in his face and sprigs of grey showing in his hair. He had lost that little trace of a smile that always seemed to linger around his mouth." Come 1967, Red describes Andy as having "grown harder," in spite of the fact that Andy continued "wearing his freedom like an invisible coat." This vibe, Red explains, springs from the fact that Andy holds tight to the knowledge of his innocence. 

The biggest difference between book Andy and movie Andy is their size. In the novel, Andy has a tiny frame that allows him to crawl through the pipes more easily. In the film, Tim Robbins' massive 6'5" frame isn't made note of at all, even though it makes it even harder for him to escape Shawshank the way he does.

Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption's narrator, Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding, is a long-time convict who has decided to write down the events surrounding his friend and confidante Andy Dufresne's daring escape. Since Red narrates the story, he's not described much. About his entrance to Shawshank, Red says, "I was young, good-looking, and from the poor side of town." Years later, Red writes, "One day in 1958 I looked at myself in a small shaving mirror I kept in my cell and saw a 40-year-old man looking back at me. A kid had come in back in 1938, a kid with a big mop of carroty red hair, half-crazy with remorse, thinking about suicide. That kid was gone. The red hair was going grey and starting to recede. There were crow's tracks around the eyes." 

In the movie adaptation, Red is played by Black actor Morgan Freeman. Freeman's Red jokes about being Irish, just as Red claims he is in the book. Though this is an obvious departure, we do see Red age quite dramatically on screen, just as he watches himself grow older in the book. In the book, however, we never find out if he actually makes it to Mexico to meet his friend or not.

Warden Samuel Norton

In King's story, Shawshank has a number of different wardens, including Warden Dunahy and Warden Stammas. Each of them is a sadistic monster in their own way. In the movie, all of these different wardens are distilled into one: Warden Samuel Norton, played by Bob Gunton. In the book, Warden Norton is a pious man who hides his cruelty behind his religion. He wears a 30-year church pin on his lapel, which the film reproduces faithfully. Red describes him in detail during an incident with Andy, after Andy has found out who actually killed his wife: "His liver lips pursed, his brow wrinkled into ladder rungs halfway to the crown of his head, his 30-year pin gleaming mellowly." 

In one of Andy's final altercations with Warden Norton, Red writes, "His face was as long and cold as a slate gravestone." After Andy's escape, Red notices that Warden Norton's fury has caused a huge vein to bulge in his wrinkled forehead. These details don't exactly make it to the screen, and the warden also wears horn-rimmed glasses not described in the story. But Gunton's turn as the hypocritical Norton is still very much in the spirit of King's book.

Captain Byron Hadley

There are a lot of Shawshank characters competing for the title of absolute worst human being ever, but Captain Byron Hadley is a top contender. As one of the warden's main enforcers, Hadley is quicker to raise his baton than he is to actually solve the prisoners' problems. In King's story, Hadley is described as "a tall, shambling man with thinning red hair. He sunburned easily and he talked loud and if you didn't move fast enough to suit him, he'd clout you with his stick." In the book, we first meet Hadley when Red, Andy, and the crew are tarring the roof of one of the prison buildings.

Red doesn't mince words describing Hadley as Andy gives him financial advice: "There was an emotion dawning on his face, something that was grotesque overlying that long, ugly countenance and that receding, sunburned brow. An almost obscene emotion when seen on the features of Byron Hadley. It was hope." Clancy Brown portrays all of this underlying sadism and menace perfectly in Darabont's movie. However, Brown's Hadley is rarely seen without his captain's hat. Perhaps he's learned not to, from past sunburns?

Bogs Diamond

In King's story, the "sisters" are a group of sexual sadists who assault those inmates they perceive to be weaker — especially the so-called "new fish" of the prison population. Their leader is Bogs Diamond, who Red describes as "big" and "hulking." He uses his height and strength to terrorize his victims before further abusing them. Bogs Diamond is often described with a variety of bruises on his face, sometimes from when Andy fights back against him and his goons, and sometimes for mysterious reasons. 

One day, the cells open and reveal Bogs, savagely beaten by parties unknown. In the book, Red suspects Andy has paid a huge prison price to get a guard or two to take care of Bogs. In the movie, Bogs is beaten within an inch of his life by Captain Hadley and his subordinates after Andy begins doing financial consulting for them. In the book, Bogs retreats into himself, and the sisters go on without his leadership. In the movie, his beating is so bad he is transferred out of Shawshank and appears to have sustained severe brain damage. You almost feel bad for him, until you remember he's a serial rapist and sadistic monster with no regard for anyone but himself.

Brooks Hatlen

While both versions of The Shawshank Redemption feature a cast of terrible folks doing awful things to each other, there is also Brooks Hatlen. His character development on screen, as portrayed by James Whitmore, is far more rich than it is in King's story. In large part, this is because the film combines Brooks' story with that of Sherwood Bolton, one of Red's contemporaries. In the book, Sherwood keeps a pigeon named Jake in his cell (and sometimes in his pocket). The day before Sherwood is released, he lets the pigeon go, only for it to be found dead the next day. Brooks Hatlen gains that storyline in the movie, except it's a crow named Jake, not a pigeon. 

King's Brooks Hatlen is otherwise quite a bit like the one in the movie. Brooks is the head librarian, "68 and arthritic when he tottered out of the main gate in his Polish suit and his French shoes, his parole papers in one hand and a Greyhound bus ticket in the other. He was crying when he left." Darabont kept these details in his movie to heartbreaking effect. In the book, Red shares that Brooks died six months later in a homeless shelter. In the film adaptation, he kills himself because life on the outside is too big an adjustment for the life-long prisoner to make.

Tommy Williams

In both versions of The Shawshank Redemption, Tommy Williams is a new prisoner with a huge secret: He shared a bunk with the man who actually killed Andy Dufresne's wife and her lover. In King's story, Tommy is a 27-year-old thief from Massachusetts. By the end of Tommy's time in the novel, one of the guards clubs him across the face and knocks three of his front teeth out. This event does not happen to Tommy on screen, who has surprisingly perfect teeth for a career jailbird. 

In the movie, as played by Gil Bellows, Tommy is a stylized '50s greaser with a huge pompadour hairstyle and lambchop sideburns. He also has a prison heart tattoo on his left bicep that's not mentioned in the book. Tommy's story ends dramatically differently, depending on whether one is reading the book or watching the movie. In the novella, he's transferred to a minimum security prison by Warden Norton to keep him quiet about what he knows, which could free Andy. In the movie, Warden Norton has him killed to keep him quiet.

Elwood/Elmo Blatch

In both versions of The Shawshank Redemption, we find out alongside Andy Dufresne that a man named Elwood (also known as El in the book, and Elmo in the movie) Blatch has been bragging about killing a woman and her lover up in Maine. Blatch tells this story to Tommy Williams, long before we meet Tommy at Shawshank. "Big tall guy he was," Tommy recounts, "mostly bald, with these green eyes set way down deep in the sockets. Jeez, I hope I never see him again."

According to Tommy, Blatch "sure looked like a man that could do some killing." Red notes that he's known men like this in his time: "Trigger-pullers with the crazy eyes." Played with demented glee by Bill Bolender, Elmo Blatch isn't on screen for much of The Shawshank Redemption. Still, he makes quite an impression with his creepy laugh, and the pure joy in his eyes as he talks about thieving and murdering. He isn't bald, though, sporting a spiky, short haircut that displays his full head of gray hair.