Morgan Freeman has left audiences spellbound with the distinctive deep voice that helped him gain prominence in Hollywood. However, his incredible talent and dominant presence on screens have majorly contributed to making his several decades of career successful. While he is known for many iconic roles, The Shawshank Redemption remains close to many hearts.
With compelling storytelling and impeccable performances, it became a testament to the cinematic charm thus becoming a beloved classic since its 1994 release. At the time of its release, the movie was not well received at the box office which highly disappointed the actor. However, he knew what went wrong with it- its title.
Morgan Freeman Explains Why The Shawshank Redemption Flopped
With such a classic masterpiece as The Shawshank Redemption, it is hard to believe that movie enthusiasts were initially unable to find its beauty. However, movie star, Morgan Freeman knew that audiences were not to blame for the lackluster box office performance.
The 86-year-old actor played the second lead Ellis “Red” Redding with Tim Robbins taking on the protagonist role of Andy Dufresne. The former claimed that the film title itself was the biggest problem which left many unimpressed or overlooking the project.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, he mentioned,
“Nobody could say, ‘Shawshank Redemption.’ What sells anything is word of mouth. Now, your friends say, ‘Ah, man, I saw this movie, The . . . what was it? Shank, Sham, Shim? Something like that. Anyways, terrific.’ Well, that doesn’t sell you.”
It was indeed a major concern since the movie at that time competed with Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump, which garnered major attention and positive box office results. However, Shawshank‘s potential was eventually recognized which ultimately overlooked the confusion potential moviegoers had regarding its title. While the actors gained massive recognition for their portrayals, it would be surprising for many to believe that Freeman almost ended up passing on the project.
Morgan Freeman Almost Passed on The Shawshank Redemption
As per Yahoo Entertainment, the Million Dollar Baby actor nearly turned down to play Red in the 1994 film. Now, regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, the role was originally written for an Irishman which was the very reason why he nearly didn’t work on the project.
“And I read the first page and Red was this Irishman. So I closed the book. I never read another line. I was like, ‘I can’t play an Irishman!’”
Despite his first uninterested reaction after reading the script, he eventually signed on to play the role. The script, however, turned out to be a “delightful” one for him (as per Vanity Fair) who was intrigued with the movie.
“‘It doesn’t matter which part it is—I want to be in it.’ He said, ‘Well, I think they want you to do Red.’ And I thought, Wow, I control the movie! I was flabbergasted by that.”
Despite initial box-office setbacks, the project began to garner attention when it was nominated for 7 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Actor for Freeman. Through television, the movie gained a devoted fan following which ultimately contributed to unlocking its real potential.
The Shawshank Redemption is available to watch on Max.