Today marks twenty years since The Shawshank Redemption was first released in cinemas. Although, back on 23rd September 1994, the public weren’t much bothered by Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins’ prison break drama. It debuted at number nine at the US box office and – despite a handful of nominations from the Academy – has taken its time cultivating a dedicated following in the two decades since.
But what became of the cast? Well, some have spent the last twenty years hopping from success to success (ahem, Morgan Freeman) while others have been plugging away in the background, or stepped behind the camera and microphone.
Tim Robbins (played Andy Dufresne)
Following up his role as Shawshank State Prison’s crafty optimist, Robbins went on to showcase his directing skills in 1995 crime drama Dead Man Walking starring then-partner Susan Sarandon, landing Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for best screenplay and director, respectively. Eight years later and he was back on the award season red carpets for Mystic River, this time winning the Academy Award for best supporting actor as Dave Boyle. His recent silver screen efforts have included The Lucky Ones (2008), Green Lantern (2011) and TV miniseries The Spoils of Babylon.
Morgan Freeman (played Red)
Morgan Freeman was already on a high coming into The Shawshank Redemption but his role as Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding earned him a third Oscar nomination. It took him until 2004 to finally clinch a golden statuette for best supporting actor in Million Dollar Baby with a further nomination coming in 2009 for Invictus. In Hollywood, he’s done the near-impossible – remaining hot property for the last three decades with a film CV that also includes Seven, Deep Impact, Bruce Almighty, March of the Penguins, Red and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. His sonorous tones have reached iconic status and, if you haven’t heard Morgan on helium – heck, even if you have – make sure you watch below…
Bob Gunton (played Warden Norton)
The role of corrupt Warden Norton came after a Tony-nominated turn from Gunton as Argentinian leader Juan Peron in Evita. He’s remained in authoritarian roles ever since, appearing as Chief George Earle in Demolition Man and President Nixon in the TV movie Elvis meets Nixon. 2012 saw him cast in Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning Argo, following a turn opposite Matthew McConaughey in 2011’s The Lincoln Lawyer. Although for 24 fans, Gunton remains best known for playing US politician Ethan Kanin from series six to eight.
Clancy Brown (played Captain Hadley)
Clancy Brown has a face for a prison officer – he’s played three – preceding Shawshank with Lt McMannis in Last Light and following it up with Lt Williams in Hurricane. In 1995 he re-teamed with his Shawshank co-star Tim Robbins to cameo in Dead Man Walking, before cropping up in The Guardian, Cowboys & Aliens and a reboot of Nightmare on Elm Street. His voice has been doing plenty of the talking in recent years, providing vocals for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spongebob SquarePants playing none other than Mr Krabs.
Gil Bellows (played Tommy)
Shawshank was Bellows’ first big break, launching him into roles opposite a pre-Sex and the City Sarah Jessica Parker in both Miami Rhapsody and The Substance of Fire. He spent five years starring with Calista Flockhart in legal drama Ally McBeal, and also featured in House at the End of the Street with Jennifer Lawrence and The Weather Man with Nicholas Cage.
James Whitmore (played Brooks Hatlen)
Whitmore came to Shawshank following four decades of successful screen work that included, among others, Planet of the Apes and Them. His portrayal of beloved lifer and prison librarian Brooks Hatlen was succeeded by The Relic and Shawshank director Frank Darabont’s The Majestic in 2001. Whitmore’s recurring role as Raymond Oz in The Practice won him an Emmy Award in 2000 and he continued to work until 2007, before succumbing to lung cancer in 2009 at the age of 87.