The collected works of author Stephen King sprawl across a shared universe so huge, you could easily hit a reference to other books by throwing a random rock. Funny enough, there’s plenty of rocks in what is one of the best King film adaptations to date, The Shawshank Redemption; and director Frank Darabont threw a particular stone into the air for die hard fans to discover in that 1994 classic. The cool Stephen King easter egg that was worked into the film connects to a very familiar figure in the King canon, and we might not look at Tim Robbins’ Andy Dufrense the same way again after learning about it.
This trivia gem comes from Frank Darabont’s director’s commentary for the film, and it’s been making the rounds for some time. We covered this previously in our Adapting Stephen King series, but it’s come up again through the powers of internet discussion, and now felt like a good time to discuss it. With Andy’s scheme to wash the dirty money going in and out of Shawshank Prison requiring a fake person to keep all involved safe and sound, the phantom identity needed a name and a paper trail, as it were. It’s there where Darabont introduced a pretty huge King-verse reference with a slight change from the novella source material, as he explained with the following:
Just as all things serve The Beam, this inside baseball reference for Stephen King lovers feels like a sneaky little way to connect one of the author’s most grounded stories to the sprawling multiverse that The Dark Tower has always been at the center of. Randall Flagg’s numerous forms and aliases have permeated the world of King’s writings for some time now, in stories both epic and minimal. Screen adaptations are no stranger to this character, either, with the most recent one being Alexander Skarsgård’s portrayal in Paramount+’s event series remake of The Stand. Though Frank Darabont says he made this name change merely as a tip of the hat to this infamous character’s creator, there’s another thought-provoking way to look at this decision.
Why This Shawshank Redemption Easter Egg Is So Interesting
There’s a line in The Shawshank Redemption where Andy Dufrense admits that in order to become a crook, he had to go to prison. He uses this sentiment as a comment on his assistance in the dirty banking that Warden Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton) engages in at the infamous prison. While Andy is still very much a person we can root for, there’s something interesting in the glee he exhibits when laying down his story. Watch this scene where Andy explains the scheme to his pal Red (Morgan Freeman):
Again, by time The Shawshank Redemption sees Andy Dufrense escape through a river of shit, washing himself in the rains of freedom, we’re with him all the way, morally and emotionally. We know he’s an innocent man by and large, and that hasn’t changed because of his financial misdeeds. However, no matter how great this outward corruption is, Andy has been corrupted inwardly ever so slightly. That’s the sort of thing Randall Flagg would delight in, as making a just and honest man resort to shady acts for survival is his bag in every dimension of existence. Plus, he gets the added pleasure of not only seeing sadistic prison guard Byron Hadley (Clancy Brown) being arrested, but ruining a man of God in the process.
The cherry on top of all of this has to be that Warden Norton, pious as he may have been, commits some pretty big sins throughout the events of The Shawshank Redemption. Stealing money from a government institution, allowing horrible mistreatment to take place under his wing, and eventually committing the ultimate sin of taking his own life, sheerly to avoid judgement? That’s a Deadly Sin hat trick, and it’s the sort of thing Flagg has been known to influence and engage in from time to time. It only gets sweeter when you realize that he may have used innocent Andy Dufresne as his weapon of vengeance, corrupting him in the process as well.
Of course, this is supposedly just a fun nod that Frank Darabont threw into The Shawshank Redemption, as a fan of Stephen King’s work. The theory we’ve laid out is a fun flight of fancy that came from picking up on this reference, and isn’t (knowingly) built into the finished product. Having said that, it’s hard not to think a little deeper about the possibilities, as The Walking Dude has the power to show up wherever we least expect him; and there’s always a sweet deal to be made…if the price is right.
The Shawshank Redemption is available for streaming on HBO Max at the time of this writing, which means you can feel free to watch this absolute classic yet again. Maybe there’s more evidence that proves or debunks this Randall Flagg theory scattered throughout the film? Or, you could just watch the warm blanket fairy tale that is Stephen King’s prison drama masterpiece for what it is, and enjoy.
CinemaBlend’s James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.