The Dark Tower Easter Egg You Never Noticed In The Shawshank Redemption

What do "The Dark Tower" books and "The Shawshank Redemption" movie have in common, besides author Stephen King? A guy named Randall. 

Easter eggs are all the rage in today's King adaptations — and movies in general. Back in 2017 (when we proclaimed the King film renaissance), Mike Flanagan's adaptation of "Gerald's Game" featured numerous references to other King stories, not the least of which was a line of dialogue where one character randomly says, "All things serve the Beam." This was a direct reference to "The Dark Tower."

However, before Flanagan started bringing King novels like "Gerald's Game" and "Doctor Sleep" to the screen, the go-to guys for King film adaptations were Rob Reiner ("Stand by Me," "Misery") and especially Frank Darabont, the director of "The Shawshank Redemption," "The Green Mile," and "The Mist." In "Shawshank," you may recall that Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) creates a fake identity named Randall Stevens, "a man nobody ever laid eyes on before" until he "strolled into the Maine National Bank" after he escaped prison.

In King's original novella, "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank," the character was named Peter Stevens, but Darabont changed it for the movie as a shout-out to one Randall Flagg, a major recurring villain across King's work, but specifically the "Dark Tower" series and "The Stand." In his director's commentary for "The Shawshank Redemption," he explained:

"A little secret on changing that name from Peter Stevens to Randall Stevens. Where the name Randall comes from — I'm sure the lawyers won't like this one, either, but — that was from me doing a little homage, a little tip of the hat, to our friend, Stephen King. One of his all-time great villains is named Randall Flagg, from 'The Stand' and also from 'The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger' series. So when I needed to replace Peter, I chose Randall, as a little salute to Steve."

The Many Faces of Randall Flagg

"The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger," the title Darabont references, is the first book in King's "Dark Tower" series, which begins with the immortal line, "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." Later books would make it clear that King's "man in black" and Randall Flagg, the villain of "The Stand," were one and the same.

The character goes by other names, such as Walter O'Dim and Marten Broadcloak, and a number of actors have portrayed him on television and in film, including Jamey Sheridan (the 1994 TV miniseries, "The Stand"), Matthew McConaughey (the 2017 movie, "The Dark Tower"), and Alexander Skarsgård (the 2020–2021 streaming series, "The Stand"). King's books and short stories often have an overlap of characters and places; another character who shows up in "The Dark Tower" series is Father Callahan, the priest from "Salem's Lot."

Having a little cross-pollination between films, even just through Easter eggs, is very much in keeping with King's literary spirit. Now, we're just waiting to hear more evidence that Andy Dufresne is, in fact, another version of Randall Flagg, which would upend everything we think we know about "The Shawshank Redemption" and just be mind-blowing.