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Tim Robbins did some solitary confinement to prepare for Shawshank

Tim Robbins went deep in his preparation for The Shawshank Redemption, locking himself up to get ready for Frank Darabont's drama movie

Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption

Making the best movies can take some commitment. Robert De Niro famously trained and ate like a boxer for Raging Bull, for instance. Tim Robbins, in getting ready for drama movie The Shawshank Redemption, actually spent some time in solitary confinement.

Speaking to CBS News in 2013, on the back of The Actors’s Gang, an initiative to provide acting classes to prisons, Robbins revealed that he was voluntary placed in a cell. “I spent some time in solitary, to prepare for Shawshank,” he says. “I asked to be locked up. It gives you a good idea of what the isolation is, and what the loneliness of it is.”

Sure enough, it’s hard to emulate life in prison without experiencing it on some level. In The Shawshank Redemption, Robbins plays Andy Dufresne, a man who’s falsely imprisoned for life due to the murder of his partner and her other lover. He arrives at the Shawshank State Penitentiary where, after nearly two decades, he manages to escape.

Understanding prison life is difficult at the best of times, never mind from the ’40s through the ’60s. Whatever knowledge Robbins gleaned from being in solitary obviously helped, since The Shawshank Redemption is something of a masterpiece, and his performance is startling. Not everybody can say they out-acted Morgan Freeman.

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The thriller movie was the first of several Stephen King adaptations Frank Darabont would direct, followed by The Green Mile, and horror movie The Mist. They’re all quite different projects, unified by being among the greatest takes on work by King, featuring career-best turns from their respective casts. No word on if any of the rest did some hard time to get ready for them, mind.

Have a look at our guide to the best comedy movies if you’d like something cheerier to think about.