Frank Darabont’s 1994 prison drama, “The Shawshank Redemption,” initially received limited recognition at the Oscars, but over the years, it has earned a special place in the hearts of cinephiles. Nearly three decades after its debut, the film, which follows the story of Andy Dufresne, a man unjustly sentenced to life imprisonment in the infamous Shawshank Prison, continues to be celebrated by critics, and even makes appearances in references within superhero movies.
Interestingly, despite the movie’s strong connection to Maine, where the story is set, very little of it was actually filmed in the Pine Tree State. The choice of filming locations played a crucial role in creating the authentic atmosphere of the prison environment. To minimize disruption and lend an authentic feel to the prison scenes, the production team sought a location no longer in use. After an extensive search, Darabont settled on the Ohio State Reformatory, which had recently closed its doors and had previously served as the backdrop for the 1989 action film “Tango and Cash.” This imposing prison, now in the process of renovation, stands in Mansfield, Ohio, approximately 70 miles southwest of Cleveland.
The production team also discovered other significant locations in the region. A courthouse in Wyandot County was selected for the opening scene, and the historic Bissman Building in Mansfield was chosen as the backdrop for the poignant second act scenes in which the elderly ex-convict, Brooks, endeavors to navigate life after spending a lifetime behind bars.
One memorable scene involves an oak tree, a place of sentimental significance for Andy and an integral element of the narrative. While in the film’s storyline, this tree is located in upstate Maine, it was actually situated in Ohio, specifically in Monroe township just outside Mansfield. Regrettably, the tree, known as the “Shawshank oak,” met its end in 2017, succumbing to an infestation of ants in 2011 and a severe storm in 2016. The landowner ultimately made the difficult decision to have it felled.
The film’s final scene, which showcases Andy laboring on his long-awaited boat on a picturesque beach, ostensibly in the Mexican town of Zihuatanejo, required the crew to venture further afield. However, for practical reasons, they stayed within U.S. territory, filming the scene on Saint Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This choice allowed them to capture the stunning backdrop that symbolized Andy’s hard-earned freedom and new beginnings.