By: Andrew du Fresne, UFTV Manager and Adjuct Professor of Communication
When Stephen King published the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption in 1982, it is unlikely that he knew that Andrew Dufresne was a Senior at Huron (OH) High School. In fact, Andy lived in relative anonymity for ten years until 1993 when Frank Darabont wrote and directed the movie The Shawshank Redemption. While the film is set in Maine, principal photography took place in the summer of 1993 in Mansfield and Upper Sandusky, with the decrepit Ohio State Reformatory serving as the penitentiary.
That summer a friend of mine, Greg Claus, was hired as a chef on the set. Chef Claus heard that Darabont was hiring a chef on set from another Huron classmate Chris Cozzie, who was the movie’s location scout. Chef Claus immediately set out for Mansfield in his 1963 red Mercury Comet. The Comet made it into the movie scene with Red as he walks to his job at the grocery store. Another acquaintance, Scott Mann was hired as Glenn Quentin, the golf pro who Andy is accused of murdering. I met Scott through Todd Szopo and Steve Vaccariello, Cleveland photographers who often used Scott as a model. We often referred to Scott as “beautiful man.” When you view his photographs from the 1990’s, you will understand. Scott has not returned my request for comment.
After completing principal photography of the Shawshank library scene, Chef Claus walked into the prop room and ripped the label off of one the boxes addressed to “Andy Dufresne, Shawshank Prison – Box A, Shawshank, Maine”. I asked him why he took it. He responded, “It was yours. It had your name on it! I knew you had to have it.” He added, that he regrets not asking Tim Robbins to sign it, since he served him lunch every day for three months. The label is currently framed and hanging on my wall. However, the real story is the name recognition.
My daughter Grace told me that at least once a month someone will ask her about her last name, stating, “like in the Shawshank Redemption?” Her usual reply is “yes…and my dad’s name is Andy.” A look of astonishment then appears on their faces with a reply of “No kidding!” During the summer of 2017, Grace and I took the movie tour of the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield. At the end of the tour I informed our guide that my name was Andy Dufresne and showed him my driver’s license. He stood silent in disbelief for about thirty seconds, then asked if he could have a photograph with me. It was a fun moment. The usual response when people learn that my real name is Andy Dufresne is “No way! I love that movie.” It helps that the movie runs on TNT about once a month and is often considered one of the best movies ever made. If you haven’t seen the Family Guy’s parody of the Shawshank Redemption, I highly recommend it.
I have often wondered why Stephen King chose that name. I know he lives in Maine where the Dufresne surname is as common as Smith. I hope he doesn’t mind the idea of me opening a restaurant called Andy Dufresne’s Prison Food, where your spirit can’t be imprisoned, but you may seek redemption after eating. Patrons would be reassured that hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies after eating prison food. More importantly, if the movie inspires you to become a better person or overcome a challenge in your life, remember that it takes pressure and time.