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Dialogue Part II: Darabont and THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION

The Dialogue of Eszterhas, Darabont and Tarantino.
Part II: Darabont and The Shawshank Redemption

by: Christopher Wehner

Dialogue of Eszterhas, Darabont and Tarantino. Part I: Eszterhas & Basic Instinct


The completion of a nine-year vision describes what Frank Darabont accomplished with his screenplay and movie, The Shawshank Redemption. Darabont was one of those nine-years-in-the-making "over-night" success stories in Hollywood. As the writer of Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, The Blob, The Fly II, and writing for television as well; he wrote seven episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Darabont displayed some good writing, but no one could have guessed what he would accomplish in 1994.

Darabont's vision all started the day he read Stephen King's Novella, Rita Hayworth & The Shawshank Redemption. "It was a story that captured my imagination and sent my heart soaring. It also instilled in me the hope that, someday, I might be lucky enough to put it on film." (1).

The key word is "hope" and the vision he had to bring it to script and screen is remarkable. Today's leading screenwriters all agree that "theme" is the one element that every good story must start with. (2) This is contrary to what some "experts" may say. Yes, the story must be there, but a story's theme is what holds good ones together in my opinion.

Without the underlining "theme" of the film, Shawshank would basically be a "jail-break" movie, big deal...been there, seen it. But, the theme doesn't allow this to happen. The power of it and the vision Darabont has helps to keep the story interesting, powerful and in the end moving. The story is so complete, the ending is so well written, and so moving. I urge everyone to buy the script, and rent the movie. Now, my notes on The Shawshank Redemption:

Frank Darabont is only a high-school graduate... no college and no film or screenwriting schooling (to the best of my knowledge). He writes with a flare and richness that every graduate of UCLA and USC can only hope for. (This is not intended as a knock on these two fine institutions).

It took him nine-years of developing his craft, learning about life, studying the art of directing, and then of course to make The Shawshank Redemption. Darabont like Eric Roth, and others, is a symbol of what truly is needed for greatness to shine; and that is "experience" and "age" in my opinion.

For me the screenplay evokes emotion, and lots of it. Even if what we're reading or thinking is disturbing, at least we're responding to the material. And Darabont is able to hold everything together with the narrative, and with Red's voice over. It's a calming presence, and helps lift certain scenes to higher levels.

I'm going to share two of my favorite scenes from Shawshank:

This first scene captures the beauty of Darabont's screenplay, toward the end of this scene it's like poetry. A master of words and always in complete control of his dialogue. Darabont captures not only our attention in this scene, but our hearts as well. This is one of the most powerful scenes I've ever read, or seen on film.

EXT - LICENSE PLATE FACTORY - DAY (1949)
A tar-cooker bubbles and smokes, TWO CONS dip up a bucket of
tar and tie a rope to the handle. The rope goes taught. CAMERA
FOLLOWS the bucket of tar up the side of the building to ---
(Note: Please remember that Darabont uses "camera
directions" here only because he's directing it. It's a "shooting
script")
THE ROOF
-- where it is relayed to the work detail. The Men are dipping
big Padd brushes and spreading the tar. ANGLE OVER to
Byron Hadley bitching sourly to his fellow guards:	HADLEY	...so this shithead lawyer calls	long distance from Texas, and	he says, Byron Hadley, I say,	yeah. He says, sorry to inform	you, but your brother just died.	YOUNGBLOOD	Damn, Byron. Sorry to hear that.	HADLEY	I ain't. He was an asshole. Run off	years ago, family ain't heard of him	since. Figured him for dead anyway.	So this lawyer prick says, your	brother died a rich man. Oil wells	and shit, close to a million bucks.	Jesus, it's friggin incredible how	lucky some assholes get.	TROUT	A million bucks? Jeez-Louise! You	get any of that?	HADLEY	Thirty five thousand. That's what	he left me.	TROUT	Dollars? Holy Shit, that's great!	Like winnin' a lottery...	(off Hadley's shitty look)	...ain't it?	HADLEY	Dumbshit. What do you figger the	government's gonna do to me?	Take a big wet bite out of my ass,	is what.	TROUT	Oh. Hadn't thought of that.	HADLEY	Maybe leave me enough to buy a	new car with. Then what happens?	You pay tax on the car. Repairs and	maintainance. Goddamn kids pesterin'	you to take 'em for a ride...	MERT	And drive it, if they're old enough.	HADLEY	That's right, wanting to drive it,	wanting to learn on it, f'chrissake!	Then at the end of the year, if you	figoured the tax wrong, they make	you pay out of your own pocket.	Uncle Sam puts his hand in your	shirt and squeezes your tit till	it's purple. Always get the short	end. That's a fact.	(spits over the side)	Some brother. Shit.
The prisoners keep spreading tar, eyes on their work.	HEYWOOD	Poor Byron. What terrible fuckin'	luck. Imagine inheriting thirty	five thousand dollars.	RED	Crying shame. Some folks got it	awful bad.
Red glances over -- and is shocked to see Andy standing up,
listening to the guards talk.	RED	Hey, you nuts? Keep your eyes on	your pail!
Any tosses his padd in the bucket and strolls toward Hadley.	RED	Andy! Come back! Shit!	SNOOZE	What's he doing?	FLOYD	Gettin' himself killed.	RED	God Damn It...	HEYWOOD	Just keep spreadin' tar...
The guards stiffen at Andy's approach. Youngblood's hand goes
to his holster. The Tower guards CLICK-CLACK their rifle bolts.
Hadley turns, stupefied to find Andy there.	ANDY	Mr. Hadley. Do you trust your wife?	HADLEY	That's funny. You're gonna look	funnier suckin' my dick with no	fuckin teeth.	ANDY	What I mean is, do you think she'd	go behind your back? Try to	hamstring you?	HADLEY	That's itI Step aside, Mert. This	fucker's havin' hisself an accident.
Hadley grabs Andy's collar and propels him violently toward
the edge of the roof. The cons furiously keep spreading tar.	HEYWOOD	Oh God, he's gonna do it, he's	gonna throw him off the roof...	SNOOZE	Oh shit, oh fuck, oh Jesus...	ANDY	Because if you do trust her, there's	no reason in the world you can't	keep every cent of that money.
Hadley abrutly jerks Andy to a stop right at the edge. In
fact, Andy's past the edge, beyond his balance, shoetips
scraping the roof. The only thing between him and an ugly
drop to the concrete is Hadley's grip on the front of his shirt.	HADLEY	You better start making sense.	ANDY	If you want to keep that money, all	of it, just give it to your wife. See	the IRS allows you a one-time-only	gift to your spouse. It's good up to	sixty thousands dollars.	HADLEY	Naw, that ain't right. Tax free?	ANDY	Tax free. IRS can't touch one cent.
The cons are pausing work, stunned by this business discussion.

Andy convinces Hadley, and saves his own life. But, more importantly he wins over his fellow "cons", and sets up a sweat deal. In return for setting up the tax paperwork Andy makes a proposal, this stuns even his new friends.

ANDY	...or come to think of it, I suppose	I could set it up for you. That would	save you some money. I'll write down	some forms you need, you can pick	them up, and I'll prepare them for your	signature...nearly free of charge.	(off Hadley's look)	I'd only ask three beers apiece for my	co-workers, if that seems fair.	TROUT	(guffawing)	Co-workers! Get him! That's rich,	ain't it? Co-workers...
Hadley freezes him with a look. Andy presses on:	ANDY	I think a man working outdoors	feels more like a man if he can	have a bottle of suds. That's only	my opinion.
The convicts stand gaping, all pretense of work gone. They
look like they've been pole-axed. Hadley shoots them a look.	HADLEY	What are you jimmies starin' at?	Back to work, goddamn it!
(EXT - LICENSE PLATE FACTORY)	RED (V.O.)	And that's how it came to pass,	that on the second-to-last day of	the job, the convict crew that	tarred the plate factory roof in the	spring of '49...	...wound up sitting in a row at ten	in the morning, drinking icy cold	Black Label Beer courtesy of the	hardest screw that ever walked	a turn at Shawshank State Prison.	HADLEY	Drink up while it's cold ladies!	RED	The colossal prick even managed	to sound magnanimous.
Red knocks back another sip, enjoying the bitter cold on his
tongue and the warm sun on his face.	RED (V.O.)	We sat and drank with the sun on	our shoulders, and felt like free men.	We could'a been tarring the roof of	one of our own houses. We were the	Lords of all Creation.
He glances over to Andy squatting apart form the others.	RED (V.O.)	As for Andy, he spent that break	hunkered in the shade, a strange	little smile on his face, watching	us drink his beer.	HEYWOOD	(approaches with a beer)	Here's a cold one, Andy.	ANDY	No thanks. I gave up drinking.
Heywood drifts back to the others, giving them a look.	RED (V.O.)	You could argue he'd done it to	curry favor with the gaurds. Or	maybe make a few friends among	us cons. Me, I think he did it just to	feel normal again...if only for a	short while...

That's as powerful of a scene as you'll ever read. It touches on the "theme" of the story, and I'm sure by now some of you are wondering what my "interpretation" of the theme is? I hope all of you know what it is...hope. The cons in this story all share this common bond. The hope of feeling normal again, even "...if only for a short while..."

If you're serving life, what else are you going to have?

The last scene, is the best. It starts with Red traveling back to the hayfield's of Buxton, as he promised Andy he would. At this point we know Andy has escaped, and what has happened to him we can really only guess. We "hope" that he found that place "that has no memory". But, we want our PAYOFF, we want Red to make it, and Andy to find what he has been searching for...Darabont, the great writer he is, doesn't dissappoint.

After finding that secret place in Buxton, and finding the peice of "Volcanic glass" rock and the item under it, the one that Andy had desribed to him. But, did Red really find what he was looking for...an envelope? That's all?

Inside is a note, and a yet smaller envelope. Red reads, as we listen to Andy:

ANDY (V.O.)	Dear Red. If you're reading this,	you've gotten out. And if you've	come this far, maybe you're willing	to come a little further. You remember	the name of the town don't you? I	could use a good man to help me	get my project on wheels. I'll keep	an eye out for you and the chessboard	ready.	(beat)	Remeber, Red. Hope is a good thing,	maybe the best of things, and no good	thing ever dies. I will be hoping that	this letter finds you, and finds you well.	Your friend. Andy.
By now, tears are spilling silently down Red's cheeks. He
opens the other envelope and fans a stack of new fifty-dollar
bills. Twenty of them. A thousand dollars.

And finally, Red starts his journey.

INT - GREYHOUND BUS STATION - DAY (1967)
TRACKING SHOT reveals a long line of people at the counter.	RED (V.O)	For the second time in my life, I	am, guilty of committing a crime...	...Parole violation. I doubt they'll	toss up any roadblocks for that.	Not for an old crook like me.
(now riding on) THE BUS	RED (V.O.)	I find I am so excited I can barely	sit still or hold a thought in my head.	I think it is the excitment only a free	man can feel, a free man at the start	of a long journey whose conclusion	is undcertain...	...I hope I can make it across the	border. I hope to see my friend and	shake his hand. I hope the Pacific	is as blue as it has been in my dreams.	(beat)	I hope. (3)
And, of course the final scene is Andy and Red re-uniting on the beach. What can a screenwriter learn from this story? Well, tons. But, I think the important thing is staying connected to the theme of your story...and if you're not sure what your theme is, then find some help.


(1) As quoted in the introduction by Darabont in The Shawshank Redemption: The Shooting Script, by Frank Darabont. New Market Press, New York, 1996

(2) Zen and the Art of Screenwriting, by William Froug. Siman-James Press, Beverly Hills, 1996.

(3) The Shawshank Redemption: The Shooting Script, by Frank Darabont. New Market Press, New York, 1996

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