Morgan Freeman Almost Turned Down His Best Role For An Insane Reason

By Jessica Goudreault | Updated

morgan freeman
Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption

There are plenty of reasons why actors have accepted roles or rejected them altogether, and it’s always fascinating to learn why. Believe it or not, Morgan Freeman, one of the greatest actors of all time, nearly turned down his role in The Shawshank Redemption, one of the greatest films of all time. According to Yahoo! Entertainment, the actor has said that he almost turned down the role of Red in The Shawshank Redemption, because it was originally written for an Irishman, not an African-American man.

Morgan Freeman nearly turned down playing Red in The Shawshank Redemption because Stephen King wrote the character as Irish, and not African-American.

The classic 1994 film is based on Stephen King’s 1982 novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. It follows the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a wrongfully convicted prisoner who makes a life for himself within the prison before escaping its walls. It is hailed as one of the greatest movies of all time, and it is often referred to as Morgan Freeman’s best role ever.

When Morgan Freeman first read Frank Darabont’s script for The Shawshank Redemption, he was intrigued and then became even more excited when his agent told him that the filmmakers wanted him to play Red. However, when the actor read the first page of Stephen King’s novella and realized that Ellis “Red” Redding was an Irishman, he closed it and refused to read another line proclaiming that he couldn’t play an Irishman.

Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption

Luckily for Morgan Freeman, and for everyone else who has had the pleasure of watching The Shawshank Redemption, the filmmakers branched away from the novella to cast an African American man instead of an Irishman. It was an easy enough change, and it allowed Morgan Freeman to bring his heart and soul into the character. His calm demeanor and wise words brought so much depth to the film, and he showed that prisoners can honestly grow and learn from their mistakes.

Because they wanted Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption, the filmmakers diverted from Stephen King’s novel and changed the character of Red.

In The Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman’s character is an inmate alongside Andy Dufresne, serving time for accidentally murdering innocent people while attempting to kill his wife. After his many years behind bars, he has learned how to smuggle anything into prison, even movie posters. His friendship with Andy is one of the best ones created in film, as it gave them both something to live for while they served time in prison.

Even though Red mostly gets his nickname from being a red-headed Irishman in Stephen King’s book, his nickname doesn’t quite translate to Morgan Freeman’s character. In a tongue-in-cheek moment in the film, Andy asks him why he’s called Red, and he responds with, “maybe it’s because I’m Irish.” Those who know the true meaning behind the name can appreciate this joke.

Morgan Freeman got to poke fun at the original character in The Shawshank Redemption with the line “maybe it’s because I’m Irish.”

After the success of The Shawshank Redemption, it received seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Cinematography, and Best Leading Actor for Morgan Freeman. Despite this, the actor has openly shared that it is not his favorite movie that he has worked on. That leads us to wonder which film has been his favorite project, perhaps it’s Driving Miss Daisy, Million Dollar Baby, or Se7en.