Five years after “Les Évadés”, Frank Darabont signs another great success with “La Ligne verte”. Brilliant roles of Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan, a prison history mixed with the supernatural and a memorable movie prison. Return to the prison that served as an exterior filming location and inspiration for the studio reconstruction of the interiors.
The green Line : the other great success of Frank Darabont
In 1999, the director Frank Darabont and the actors Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan moved a very large audience with the beautiful The green Line. Prison drama that draws nicely towards the fantastic, The green Line relates the incarceration and the execution, wrongly, of a prisoner named John Coffey. This one, played by the late Michael Clarke Duncan, in addition to being innocent of the rapes and murders of two girls of which he is accused, seems endowed with a supernatural capacity to heal the people around him. He will thus upset the daily life of the prison guards, whose supervisor is Paul Edgecomb, played by Tom Hanks. Critically acclaimed, The green Line In addition, it brings in more than $ 286 million at the global box office for a budget of $ 60 million.
This is a new consecration for Frank Darabont, definitely at ease in the genre of prison film since he is the author, on a story of Stephen King, of the immensely cult and acclaimed The escapees, released in 1994. So when it came time to take control of The green Line, he knows exactly how to do it, and already has his idea of where his story will take place.
Welcome to Tennessee State Prison
The film draws its strength from several elements. First of all, its terribly endearing cast. In addition to the two main roles, Bonnie Hunt, Barry Pepper and David Morse compose touching performances. On the antagonist side, Doug Hutchinson and Sam Rockwell perfectly embody a perfectly loathsome guardian and prisoner. Another strong point, the story of horror and supernatural genre master Stephen King, which Frank Darabont adapts brilliantly, as for The escapees.
In order for the story and its characters to develop as well as possible, Frank Darabont places them in a prison that itself has something fantastic, striving to create a mystical atmosphere in its corridors and cells. To create this place, in the film a Louisiana prison, he will then use and be inspired by the former Tennessee State Prison, near Nashville and formerly a state penitentiary, opened in 1898 and permanently closed in 1992 due to overcrowding.
Corridors and cells reconstructed for a supernatural atmosphere
Tennessee State Prison does not have the notoriety of Alcatraz prison or that of Rikers Island prison, but its architecture, inspired by a fortress, has largely inspired cinema. Indeed, it served as a filming location for several films, notably Married in 1985, Last Dance with Sharon Stone in 1996, The Last Castle in 2002 and Walk the Line in 2006. Ironically, this prison was proposed for the filming of The escapees, but the director then rejected this option to prefer the old prison Mansfield Reformatory in Ohio.
With Terence Marsh, his production designer with whom he has already collaborated for The escapees, Frank Darabont films exterior shots of Tennessee State Prison, and draws inspiration from the interiors to recreate them in the studio. In fact, in a state of abandonment, the corridors and cells do not allow filming easily and above all do not lend themselves to the development of the supernatural element of the film. Terence Marsh explained it in production notes :
We tried to give our set a certain idea of space, as well as a historical sense. And in a way, an element of mystery. We chose large vertical windows, like a cathedral because there is a very mystical element in this film, a supernatural element.
The execution room and its electric chair were also reconstituted to measure for the film, while keeping the inspiration of those of the Tennessee State Prison.