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The Low Down

Stephen King Did Something Interesting With His Check For “The Shawshank Redemption”

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Stephen King

Stephen King is used to his material being adapted for the big screen. In 1994, his novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption landed in theaters to critical acclaim. While most authors can’t wait to cash their royalty check, King never bothered cashing his in.

Return To Sender

In Wall Street Journal‘s feature, it was revealed many of the film’s actors still get residuals today. For using his novella, director Frank Darabont mailed King a $5,000 check. Instead of cashing it, the author framed it and mailed it back to Darabont with a note. “In case you ever need bail money. Love, Steve,” the note read.

King and Darabont first worked together on the 1983 film adaptation of King’s The Woman in the Room. Darabont was able to secure film rights for only a dollar. This was part of King’s dollar baby plan, which allowed budding directors to adapt his short stories for a low price. Fortunately, King loved the finished product so much, he allowed an official release on home video. “He liked it. In fact, we used his quote ‘Clearly the best of the short films made from my stuff’ on the video box,” Darabont told Lilja’s Library.

Fear Can Hold You Prisoner

Darabont found himself attracted to Shawshank Redemption because of its mesmerizing story. “I first responded to the emotional content of it. The really wonderful characters, the wonderful relationships, the obstacles they face and overcome. Secondarily, there was the visual element of it which always boiled down to, ‘Gee, if we could find a really cool looking prison to shoot, this is going to be a really cool looking movie,'” Darabont told Creative Screenwriting.

While he was on board with the adaptation, one thing nearly got lost in translation. “The trickiest aspect of adapting King’s story was the issue of institutionalization. Which, in a larger sense, represents hope versus despair. Very fundamental to the theme of the movie,” Darabont also told Creative Screenwriting. “And I had no idea how to do this because King, by benefit of the printed page and just being able to describe the character’s thoughts, could tell you what being institutionalized is, and how scary the thought of parole is after you’re behind bars long enough.” Upon its release, The Shawshank Redemption became Darabont’s most beloved film. At the 67th Oscars, the France native gained a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Hope Can Set You Free

Following The Shawshank Redemption, Darabont adapted two more releases from King. 1999’s The Green Mile earned Darabont his second Best Adapted Screenplay nomination at the 72nd Oscars. It also landed him his first Best Picture nomination at the award ceremony. 2007’s The Mist was nominated for Best Director and Best Horror Film at the 34th Saturn Awards. Darabont also hopped on screen as a ghost in the 1997 TV miniseries of The Shining.

25 years later, people still find themselves discovering The Shawshank Redemption. While the film didn’t do well at the box office, it grew in popularity thanks to Ted Turner. “Turner owned Castle Rock Entertainment for a brief period of time when I made the movie. And when he sold it, I believe he retained the right to broadcast movies that had been made while it was in his ownership,” Darabont told Yahoo Entertainment. “So Turner started airing Shawshank on TV like every five minutes for years because I don’t think it cost him anything!”

Darabont’s film career halted following The Mist, but he found success as a showrunner for The Walking Dead. It won’t be long until he decides to make another masterpiece out of King‘s work.

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