American studio Warner Bros announced in November 2010 that it expected to finalise the purchase of the 170-acre Leavesden Studios on 10th November 2010, safeguarding 1,500 existing jobs and creating a further 300. The move made Warner Bros the first Hollywood studio to have a permanent base in Britain since the 1940s. The studio also announced that it planned a £100 million expansion, to be complete by 2012, which would give it one-third of the country’s entire film stage space. The expansion would enable the studio to host two major film productions plus television and advertisement shoots.
Warners also announced that the refurbished studio would boast a visitor centre where fans could see sets, props and costumes from the Harry Potter franchise and other Warner Bros films.
The opening of The Bottle Yard, a 300,000 sq ft film production facility in the site of a former Harvey’s bottling factory and warehouse in Bristol was announced in November 2010 by the South West Regional Development Agency and Bristol City Council, with the news that director Alastair Siddon was to shoot his new film, The Dark Half, there.
The Bottle Yard was heralded as the largest UK production facility outside of London, and it was hoped it would become a home for both domestic and foreign film and TV productions. The site, which offered filmmakers internal build spaces, workshops, production offices, private roadways and filming locations, was to be funded by regional screen agency South West Screen.
The film opens to the strains of The Inkspots’ If I Didn’t Care (If I didn’t care, more than words can say/If I didn’t care, would I feel this way/If this isn’t love, then why do I thrill/And what makes my head go round and round/While my heart stands still…). The choice of song is steeped in irony – as are many incidents and situations in the film – because, as we later learn, Andy Dufresne is a buttoned-down man who, at this point in his life, is incapable of revealing his inner feelings or opening up to those who are prepared to get close to him. The song is playing on the radio of the car in which Andy sits and drunkenly contemplates murdering his wife and her lover. Over the titles the scene switches between Andy’s drunken despair and his trial for their murder, and we are given an early indication of the depth of feeling hidden beneath his remote exterior. At this point we are not told whether Andy is guilty or not, but the judge and jury are left in no doubt, due not only to the evidence against him – bullets with his fingerprints on them strewn outside the cabin in which the illicit couple were murdered, footprints and tyre tracks – but by the fact that he apparently shows no grief over the death of his wife or remorse for the crime of which he is accused. Passing sentence of two life sentences back to back, the judge describes Andy as a ‘particularly icy and remorseless young man… it chills my blood just to look at you.’
In the next scene we are introduced to Red. The first shot is a point-of-view shot of the door to the parole office being opened – a move from darkness into light, a contrast of the despair of prison life (and of Red), and the hope represented by the parole board. Red anxiously assures the parole board that he is a rehabilitated man, and no danger to society, but his request for parole is rejected. Red then introduces himself to the audience in the first voice-over of a narration that does much to describe his growing friendship with Andy Dufresne and the complexities of the harsh, forbidding environment which Andy and the other inmates must endure and survive. Red is the man to whom other prisoners come when they want to obtain contraband goods banned from the prison.
The arrival of new inmates to Shawshank Prison is greeted with intimidating calls and gestures from established inmates intended to identify the weakest and vulnerable of the new arrivals. Red and his friends bet on who they believe will be the first of the new inmates to crack. Red chooses Andy – ‘that tall drink of water.’
The Shawshank Redemption is based on Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, a novella written by acclaimed horror writer Stephen King which first appeared in his anthology of four novellas called Different Seasons which was first published in 1982. Two of the three other stories in the book – The Body and Apt Pupil – have also been adapted into movies, in 1986 and 1998 respectively. To create the story of friendship forged through a period of harsh adversity and the triumph of hope over despair, King drew on memories of a legion of prison movies watched as a child.
The driving force behind the film was its 34-year-old director and screenwriter Frank Darabont, who first became known to King in the early eighties when, as a student, he requested permission to film another of the writer’s short stories – The Woman in the Room. King gave his permission, and sold the rights to film the story to Darabont for $1. The short film became the first of what King calls ‘Dollar Babies‘ – films adapted from his short stories, the rights to which he has sold to aspiring filmmakers for the sum of $1 – much to the distress of his accountants, no doubt. King was highly impressed by Darabont’s short film based on The Woman in the Room, and the two men maintained a friendship, although they didn’t actually meet in person until Darabont optioned The Shawshank Redemption in 1987. Again, the asking price was just $1.
Director John McTiernan, whose credits included Predator and The Hunt for Red October was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment on 4th October 2010 for lying about the part he played in the case of Anthony Pellicano, a former private detective who was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in 2008 for racketeering, conspiracy and wiretapping.
59-year-old McTiernan first pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his involvement with Pellicano in 2006, but was later permitted to withdraw his plea after claiming he was given bad legal advice, and made the admission while jet-lagged and under the influence of alcohol. The FBI subsequently added charges of making false statements to a U.S. District Judge regarding his interactions with his lawyer at the time.
Possibly the earliest film to focus on the perils of life in the age ‘before a book was written’ was the 1912 short called The Cave Man, a one-reeler featuring Ralph Ince (who also co-directed with Charles L. Gaskill) and Edith Storey. Sadly no print of this film is known to exist at the time of writing, but the fact that the character list features such names as Eric and Chloe can only leave film historians scratching their heads in bemusement at exactly what kind of cave dwellers are involved.
The Cave Man, which was released in April 1912, was quickly followed by Man’s Genesis, co-written and directed by no less than D. W. Griffith, arguably the father of cinema, in July of the same year. Subtitled as ’A Psychological Comedy Founded Upon the Darwinian Theory of the Evolution of Man,’ it’s difficult to be sure whether Griffith actually intended this film to be taken seriously simply because it looks so comical today, despite the apparent earnestness of the cast, which includes Robert Harron and Mae Marsh. For all its shortcomings, this short was clearly successful enough for Griffith to film a 33 minute sequel – Brute Force – in 1914. This sequel re-united Harron and Marsh as man and mate belonging to a tribe whose women are kidnapped by the tribe of Bruteforce (Wilfred Lucas), who use sticks and rocks as weapons on their raid. To get his own back, Weakhands invents the bow and arrow and successfully wins back his womenfolk.