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Why Stephen King Never Cashed His 'Shawshank Redemption' Royalty Check

Why Stephen King Never Cashed His 'Shawshank Redemption' Royalty Check
Scott Eisen/Getty Images for Warner Bros.

Stephen King is widely considered to be one of the masters of horror and suspense. We associate his name with projects like It and The Shining, but people sometimes forget that he's been the brain behind lots of other popular projects as well.

Take The Shawshank Redemption, for example. There are no monsters or boogeymen in that film. It's not a supernatural plot. Aside from being set in Maine, it lacks the hallmarks that people tend to associate with King

So people tend to forget that the film is based on a novella he wrote called "Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption" published as part of the anthology Different Seasons. Two other novellas in that book, "The Body" and "Apt Pupil", also went on to be turned into films: the coming of age classic Stand By Me and Apt Pupil.

The fourth "season" in the book, titled "The Breathing Method" is now set to hit the big screen as well in 2020. If you have never read the King anthology that spawned four films, it is available here in a variety of formats.

King recently admitted to the Wall Street Journal that he never even cashed the royalty check he got for The Shawshank Redemption. So did Stephen forget he wrote it, too?

It's not like he would be the only one who didn't know.

The answer is no King did not forget, obviously, but the fact that he never cashed that check remains true.

So what happened?

Apparently Stephen just didn't need the money. By the time the film came out in 1994, King already had plenty of projects hit big and the five thousand dollar check was worth more to him in sentimental value than cash value.

For years nobody believed in King's work and for years after he would get proposed film adaptations that took such a detour from the stories he had written that they might as well not be the same thing anymore.

The Shawshank Redemption was different. Director Frank Darabont had a vision for the film that Stephen totally believed in.

Unfortunately, for a little while there it looked like King and Darabont were the only ones who got it. Initially the movie was a total flop, but Stephen and Frank were eventually proven right. Two and a half decades later the film stands as one of the most popular and profitable films of all time.

The film was just re-released on a Blu-ray double feature together with another King classic, The Green Mile starring Tom Hanks and the late Michael Clarke Duncan. The set is available here.

It still brings in tons of money and gets lots of play on television. It still gets quoted and talked about in articles like the one you're reading right now.

So, wait... what did Stephen do with the check?


It turns out he sent it back to Frank Darabont.

After the film finally got some traction and was a real success, King got the check framed and sent it back to Frank as a gift along with a note which cheekily read:

"In case you ever need bail money. Love, Steve"

This is totally how we see these two in our imaginations now... and that's just fine by us.