Is The Shawshank Redemption a true story? Is Shawshank a real prison - and who was ‘real’ Andy Dufresne

1994 drama film The Shawshank Redemption, based on the Stephen King short story, stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman - but who was the ‘real’ Andy Dufresne?

Often recognised on movie ranking lists as one of the greatest films of all time, The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 drama starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman about two men who develop a strong friendship over decades in a brutal prison.

Andy Dufresne (Robbins) is imprisoned at the titular Shawshank for the murder of his wife and her lover, though he protests his innocence throughout his sentence. In prison, Andy meets Red, a prisoner ten years into his own sentence. The pair spend the years making prison life more bearable for themselves and the other inmates.

Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption

Dufresne spends almost 20 years in prison, but through all that time he secretly plots an audacious escape, digging a tunnel to freedom, ultimately crawling “500 yards through s**t smelling foulness” according to Red.

The Shawshank Redemption was nominated for six Oscars, though it didn’t win any, and it made a modest $73 million off a $25 million budget. In the years since the film’s release it has gone on to be recognised as an all-time classic.

Is The Shawshank Redemption based on a true story?

No, The Shawshank Redemption is not based on a true story - it is adapted from the fictional Stephen King novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, first published in his short story collection Different Seasons in 1982.

Two other short stories from the collection were adapted into films - Apt Pupil was made into the 1998 film of the same name, and The Body was adapted into the 1986 classic Stand By Me.

Shawshank Prison is not a real place either - the prison features in several of King’s novels, many of which are cleverly interconnected. In the Stephen King universe, Shawshank is located in Maine, but for the movie the Ohio State Reformatory was used as the setting.

The Shawshank Redemption was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, but didn’t win any

Who was the ‘real’ Andy Dufresne?

Whilst The Shawshank Redemption is not based on a true story, it does share several similarities with a real prison escape from the actual prison where the movie was filmed.

Frank Freshwaters pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter after he killed a man while driving in 1957 - he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. His sentence was later suspended and he was placed on probation. However, in 1959 breached the terms of his parole and was sent to Ohio State Reformatory.

Freshwaters escaped his incarceration the same year he was put behind bars (it took Andy Dufresne almost 20 years to escape). Freshwaters managed to earn the trust of many of the prison guards and was transferred to Osborn Prison Farm from where he escaped within a few months.

It has not been revealed how Freshwaters managed to pull off his escape. He managed to evade authorities for decades, living under a new identity in Florida, but was eventually recaptured 56 years after his escape.

In 2015 law enforcement finally tracked Freshwaters down in Florida and identified him by his fingerprints. He was returned to Ohio but in February 2016, the Ohio Adult Parole Authority agreed to release he became a free man in June that year, able to live under his own name for the first time in nearly 60 years.

How can you watch The Shawshank Redemption in the UK?

The Shawshank Redemption is currently available to watch on BBC iPlayer - it will be available until the end of January. The film is also available to rent on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, and YouTube.