Morgan Freeman during "Shawshank Redemption" Screening at Academy Theater in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
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Why Morgan Freeman Only Read The First Page Of The Shawshank Redemption Novella
Morgan Freeman gives a memorable performance as Ellis “Red” Redding in “The Shawshank Redemption”; however, in the Stephen King book the movie is based on, Red is actually a white man of Irish descent. Freeman didn’t read the entire book to see how his character was written, but his novella counterpart is still acknowledged in the film.
Freeman discovered this change for himself when he started reading King’s novella, “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” although he never made it past the first page. He revealed in a 2014 Role Recall interview, “Red was this Irishman. So I closed the book. I never read another line. I was like, 'I can't play an Irishman!'”
The character's ethnicity in the book still gets a subtle shoutout in the film for readers to appreciate when Andy Dufresne asks Red why he has that nickname. Red responds, “Maybe it's because I'm Irish,” a meta nod to the book’s version of Red and a retort Red would believably say to Andy, making the joke work on both levels.