Frank Darabont: Film Maker – Commentary

What is this? An Editorial Column based on my opinions! You may not agree with the views to be expressed here, but you don’t have to. I’ll just run at the mouth about many different topics.

Frank Darabont is one of the best writer/directors in the movie industry today. He has only directed two feature films to date, and is now directing his third, but those films have garnered rave reviews and established him as a fantastic director.

As a writer, he has worked on everything from the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles to an uncredited treatment of the script for Saving Private Ryan. His work with Spielberg on Private Ryan and Indiana Jones has bought trust from Spielberg in his writing skills. Spielberg asked him to write the shooting script for Minority Report, which is Spielberg’s next picture.

Darabont based his first feature film, The Shawshank Redemption, is based on a short story by Stephen King. It was released in 1994 and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. This film is now ranked number two on the Internet Movie Database ( top 250 films. This list is based on visitor votes. The actors include Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. This film is a message of hope and it tells us that no matter the odds, we can get through the strife.

The next film Darabont directed was The Green Mile. This is also based on a Stephen King prison novel. The only similarity it has with Shawshank is that both are in prisons. Darabont waited five years because he was waiting for the right story to find itself in his hands. After a long wait and working on such screenplays as Saving Private Ryan and Frankenstein, he began to read the Green Mile. This is the story of a man who is wrongfully sent to prison. It has supernatural elements to it and is a sad movie. This film, only Darabont’s second, was also nominated by the Academy for Best Picture. This film features Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan. It deals with a man who can heal as God did. While it is three hours long, it holds your attention in its grip the entire time.

The film Frank Darabont is currently filming is called The Majestic. It stars Jim Carrey in another serious role and this time, he may get the Oscar nomination that he deserves. Its setting is the post-WWII days of Hollywood, around 1951. Jim Carrey plays Pete Appleton, a screenwriter suspected of being a communist and fired. He then gets into a car accident and as a result, amnesia. He is mistaken for one man’s son soon after. Together, he and his “father” struggle to reopen an old theatre called The Majestic. This film promises to leave many mist-filled eyes in the theatre when the credits roll. It is, like Darabont’s previous efforts, a film based on the human spirit.

All in all, Frank Darabont is a very intelligent man and a skillful screenwriter. His feature films touch us all in a way that most writers and directors never achieve. While we can only wait the time away for the release of The Majestic, we can only hope it will find its audience. Released the same weekend as Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, one can only hope. “Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.”*

* -Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption

Afterword: I wrote this paper a little over a year ago. With Minority Report, I am not sure what happened with his draft of the screenplay. As we know now, The Majestic didn’t live up to expectations and wasn’t nominated for a single award. My best estimate is that, even though the film was well made, it didn’t have a definite moral message at the end. What makes The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile work, is that both films have messages, one of hope, the other of forgiveness, and The Majestic failed to find it’s voice. A well made movie, but not the best work of Frank Darabont, who is currently at work on the screenplay for Indiana Jones 4, which is scheduled for production in Summer 2004, and release in July of 2005, with Harrison Ford back in the Fedora!