“The Shawshank Redemption” filmed on-location at the disused Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio — which doubled as the fictional Shawshank State Penitentiary in Maine. Shooting took place over three months which sounded like they were a real slog. According to Vanity Fair, “Shawshank’s schedule was particularly brutal: workdays were 15 to 18 hours, six days a week, over three humid months.” Ohio State might not have been the most comfortable location in which to film, but it did provide some eye-catching Gothic architecture and a “timeless style” that producer Niki Marvin told the LA Times was important for the production — even if it did “give [her] the willies.”
Marvin had helped Darabont research prisons across the US and Canada for five months, during which time they visited a prison in Nashville, which the director came very close to choosing over Ohio. As he told Deadline:
“When we were scouting prisons to use, we were down to really two choices. I kind of knew in my heart of hearts that the Ohio State Reformatory was going to wind up being the one — I just really had a feeling about that — but, for due diligence, we decided to also go down to Nashville because there was a big prison there as well and we wanted to check out. And, as an aside, some years later I wound up using the Nashville facility for all the exteriors in The Green Mile.”
Though Darabont would ultimately pass on the Nashville facility, It turned out to be a worthwhile trip for the director, who just happened to run into his hero, Frankenheimer, while there.