In his career spanning over five decades, Morgan Freeman has appeared in movies of many different genres. He began his career as an actor in stage productions and rose to fame in the 1970s when he starred in the children’s TV series The Electric Company. The role gained him recognition, and he went on to star in numerous great movies over the years.

One of Morgan Freeman’s most successful movies was The Shawshank Redemption, released in 1994. It is the highest-rated movie on IMDB right now, but surprisingly, it underperformed upon its release. While there could be a plethora of reasons for the movie’s poor performance, Freeman has a theory about it, which might explain the reasoning behind this.

Morgan Freeman
Morgan Freeman

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Morgan Freeman Has an Explanation for The Shawshank Redemption‘s Initial Lackluster Performance

Morgan Freeman won his first Academy Award for his performance as a supporting actor in the 2004 movie Million Dollar Baby. He has been honored with several other accolades including a Golden Globe Award, an AFI Life Achievement Award, and even a Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for The Shawshank Redemption.

The Shawshank Redemption
A scene from The Shawshank Redemption

After two decades since the movie’s release, the masterminds behind The Shawshank Redemption sat down for an interview with Vanity Fair. It was during this interview that they discussed the movie’s poor box office performance despite having been praised during its early screening. It obviously came as a shock for everyone involved in the movie and Morgan had an explanation for why the movie bombed as he said:

“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.”

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During its theatrical re-run, the movie did much better than the initial run and the box office earnings increased to $73.3 million. The various reasons for its initial failure could be its competition with Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump which are known as two of the best movies of all time, the lack of female characters, and the fact that it was a prison film, something that was not as popular back then.

Morgan Freeman Did Not Have the Best Time While Working on The Shawshank Redemption

Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins
Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption, based on Stephen King’s 1992 novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, is a prison drama. It was directed by Frank Darabont, and while the movie has received praise for Darabont’s work, Morgan Freeman did not always get along with the director.

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When asked if there were any tensions on the movie’s set, Freeman said that most of those moments happened because Darabont kept asking for repeated takes. He said:

“The answer [I’d give him] was no. I don’t want to be chewing the scenery. Acting itself isn’t difficult. But having to do something again and again for no discernible reason tends to be a bit debilitating to the energy.”

Despite all the difficulties that he might have faced, the Se7en actor gave his best performance in the movie alongside his co-stars Tim Robbins and Bob Gunton and other supporting actors.

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