How “The Green Mile” Was Filmed, and Why It Still Moves Us to Tears Every Time We Watch It

One of the most moving films in cinematic history is also the most successful Stephen King novel adaptation. The movie earned more than $100 million in the box office and won the hearts of many fans. The film’s director and its writer thought it was because of the cast. The film has been at the top of countless lists naming the best movies in history and even received 4 Oscar nominations but never won.

We at Bright Side love The Green Mile too and are always interested in discovering new behind-the-scenes secrets. It’s the brilliant ideas and decisions of the crew and cast that made this movie a true masterpiece.

The actors were meticulously cast.

  • The idea of The Green Mile instantly attracted director Frank Darabont and he tried to make the plot as intriguing as the book was. So, Stephen King released his novel in parts so that the viewers couldn’t just go to the last page to see how the story ends. King himself didn’t even know if his character would live or not.
  • The director said that it’s a sign of good luck when an actor that you think about while writing the script agrees to take part in the film. In this case, he always thought that Paul Edgecomb was meant to be portrayed by Tom Hanks. King agreed with this and even said that Hanks fit the role like an old shoe.
  • But still, for some time, John Travolta was considered for the role of Paul. But he totally turned the offer down. It’s not that Tom Hanks instantly fell in love with the script but he agreed because he felt he owed the director. Because of Forrest Gump, he had to turn down The Shawshank Redemption and he felt guilty.
  • John Coffey was a difficult character to find a good actor for: none of the actors that auditioned felt like “the one.” Then, Bruce Willis suggested Michael Clarke Duncan who he had appeared in Armageddon with. Duncan read the script and said, “That’s me. I don’t care what I have to do, but I’ve got to play this role.”
  • After Duncan’s death, the director said that not a single actor in history deserved to get an Oscar more than Dunan did for the role of John Coffey. But he never got this prestigious award.
  • The disgusting Percy Wetmore was brilliantly portrayed by Doug Hutchison. In the book, Percy was very young whereas the actor was already 39. He literally chased the director to get this role and also lied to him about his age. He told him he was only 30 and he hid his ID.
  • Michael Clarke Duncan was very tall but he was almost as tall as the other key character Brutus “Brutal” Howell played by David Morse. So, in order to create the illusion of giant height, the crew used the right angles, different platforms, and smaller copies of the set parts. Coffey’s bed was made small to make him look gigantic.

The shoot was very “realistic” — sometimes even too much!

  • Coffey’s tears were real. The actor cried when he remembered that his dad abandoned his family when he was a child.
  • Duncan’s acting shocked the crew and during the final scenes, many of the crew members couldn’t stop crying.
  • Hanks needed to gain several pounds for the role. He managed to do that but for his next role in Cast Away, he needed to lose weight quickly.
  • Stephen King loved visiting the set. Tom Hanks preferred to stay in the role so that the writer could see if the choice was right. Besides, he thought that by staying in the role outside the set, he would be able to play it even better. Once, King suggested he drink coffee. And the actor said that he was in charge of the entire block.
  • In the plot, Percy irritated his colleagues and inmates — everyone hated him. The director thought that irritation needed to be present on the actors’ faces. This is why Doug Hutchison was given some squeaky shoes to make everyone hate him as soon as he appeared. You can hear the sounds in the film itself.

A small detail made a huge influence on how the story was received.

  • The Green Mile is believed to be the film that doesn’t have any spare details you could throw away: everything has its own specific purpose.
  • Literally the smallest character but with a very important part in the film was the mouse, Mr. Jingles, who turned 64 years old in the film. The mouse was portrayed by 15 trained mice. It took several months to train them but the animals weren’t able to learn some of the tricks so the crew had to use some CGI. The American Humanist Association made sure that not a single mouse got hurt in the process. And in the scene where Percy steps on the mouse, they used a doll.
  • To let the viewers know that the inmates were the prisoners and the prison guards were in power, special uniforms were designed. They were based partially on army models and partially on prison robes. In fact, based on the time the film was set in, prison guards didn’t have any uniforms.
  • When the old Paul Edgecomb goes to have breakfast after a bad sleep, we see that the floor under his legs is green. This is a direct reference to the “green mile” of the prisoners.
  • The difference in the appearance of Melinda when she was sick and when he was cured as a result of the miracle Coffey did was supposed to be obvious. The makeup artist made her look as if she didn’t have eyebrows when she was ill.
  • Sam Rockwell’s character that played the maniac was supposed to make viewers feel disgusted. In order to make the effect even stronger, the makeup artists used fake pimples.

The set was very important and the artists even consulted psychologists when building it.

  • The art director built the prison block exactly as it was described in King’s novel. The prison was not very big but the level of detail was exceptional. This is why psychologists were invited to work on the interior design: the set was supposed to make viewers feel scared, aversed, and sad. The members of the crew said that after the long hours they’d spend on the set, they’d start to feel as if they were in a real jail.
  • 3 electric chairs were prepared for the film, and the prototype was the chair from the famous Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York state. But, in fact, in the 1930s during the 20th century when the film was set, prisoners were hanged.
  • During one of his last visits to the set, Stephen Kind decided to sit on one of these chairs. He really disliked the emotions it evoked. It’s said that he was so impressed that he even cursed.

We watched this film once more and it made us cry. What emotions do you feel when you watch The Green Mile?

Preview photo credit The Green Mile / Warner Bros.
Share This Article