The Green Mile is a 1999 American fantasy crime drama film directed by Frank Darabont and adapted from the 1996 Stephen King novel of the same name. The film is told in a flashback format and stars Tom Hanks as Paul Edgecomb and Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey with supporting roles by David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, and James Cromwell. The film also features Dabbs Greer, in his final film, as the old Paul Edgecomb. The film tells the story of Paul's life as a death row corrections officer during the Great Depression in the United States, and the supernatural events he witnessed.
The film was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor for Michael Clarke Duncan, Best Picture, Best Sound, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
In a Louisiana nursing home in 1999, Paul Edgecomb (Dabbs Greer) begins to cry while watching the 1935 film Top Hat. His elderly friend Elaine (Eve Brent) shows concern for his behavior, and Paul tells her that the film reminded him of his youth, when he was a prison officer in charge of death row inmates at Cold Mountain Penitentiary during the summer of 1935. The scene shifts to 1935, where Paul (Tom Hanks) works with fellow guards Brutus "Brutal" Howell (David Morse), Harry Terwilliger (Jeffrey DeMunn), and Dean Stanton (Barry Pepper). Unlike the other guards, Paul is a very calm guard and is sympathetic with some inmates.
One day, John Coffey (Michael Clark Duncan), a giant African-American man convicted of raping and killing two young white girls, arrives in the prison, sentenced to death row. However, much to the surprise of the other guards and inmates, he is very shy, soft-spoken, and a very emotional person. John reveals extraordinary powers by healing Paul's bladder infection and resurrecting a mouse only by his touch. Later, he heals the terminally ill wife of Warden Hal Moores (James Cromwell). When John is asked to explain his power, he merely says that he "took it back."
Meanwhile, Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison), a sadist with a fierce temper, has recently begun working in the death row inmates block; his fellow guards dislike him, but are unable to get rid of him because of his family connections to the governor. He requests to manage the execution of Eduard "Del" Delacroix (Michael Jeter), promising that afterward, he will transfer to an administrative post at a mental hospital. An agreement is made, but then Percy deliberately sabotages the execution: Instead of wetting the sponge used to conduct electricity and make executions quick and effective, he leaves it dry, causing a disturbing and dramatic malfunction to the execution, leaving Del to painfully burn to death from the electricity.
Meanwhile, a violent, psychopathic prisoner named "Wild Bill" Wharton (Sam Rockwell) has arrived, to be executed for multiple murders committed during a robbery. At one point he seizes John's arm, and John psychically senses that Wharton is also responsible for the crime for which John was convicted and sentenced to death. John "takes back" the sickness in Hal's wife and regurgitates it into Percy, who then becomes unable to talk and shoots Wharton to death and falls into a state of permanent catatonia. Percy is then admitted to Briar Ridge Mental Hospital as a patient rather than an administrator. In the wake of these events, Paul interrogates John, who says he "punished them bad men" and offers to show Paul what he saw. John takes Paul's hand and says he has to give Paul "a part of himself" in order for Paul to see what really happened to the girls.
Paul asks John what he should do, if he should open the door and let John walk away. John tells him that there is too much pain in the world, to which he is sensitive, and says he is "rightly tired of the pain" and is ready to rest. For his last request on the night before his execution, John watches the film Top Hat. When John is put in the electric chair, he, shedding tears, asks Paul not to put the traditional black hood over his head because he is afraid of the dark. Paul agrees, shakes his hand as a goodbye, and John is executed.
As an elderly Paul finishes his story, he notes that he requested a transfer to a youth detention center, where he spent the remainder of his career. Elaine questions his statement that he had a fully grown son at the time, and Paul explains that he was 44 years old at the time of John's execution, meaning that he is now over 108 years old. This is apparently a side effect of John giving a "part of himself" to Paul. Mr. Jingles, Del's mouse resurrected by John, is also still alive â" but Paul believes his outliving all of his relatives and friends to be a punishment from God for having let John be executed, and wonders how long it will be before his own death. The film shows glimpses of the future in which Elaine has passed on and Paul is still living in the retirement home.
- Tom Hanks as Paul Edgecomb
- Dabbs Greer as Old Paul Edgecomb
- Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey
- David Morse as Brutus "Brutal" Howell
- Bonnie Hunt as Jan Edgecomb
- James Cromwell as Warden Hal Moores
- Michael Jeter as Eduard "Del" Delacroix
- Doug Hutchison as Percy Wetmore
- Sam Rockwell as William "Wild Bill" Wharton
- Jeffrey DeMunn as Harry Terwilliger
- Barry Pepper as Dean Stanton
- Patricia Clarkson as Melinda Moores
- Brent Briscoe as Bill Dodge
- Harry Dean Stanton as Toot-Toot
- Gary Sinise as Burt Hammersmith
- Graham Greene as Arlen Bitterbuck
- William Sadler as Klaus Detterick
- Bill McKinney as Jack Van Hay.
- Jon Polito as "D" Block Prison Guard
- Eve Brent as Elaine Connelly
- Paula Malcomson as Marjorie Detterick
Darabont adapted the novel into a screenplay in under eight weeks.
The film was shot at Warner Hollywood Studios, West Hollywood, California, and on location in Shelbyville, Tennessee and Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
Hanks and Darabont met at an Academy Award luncheon in 1994. Stephen King stated he envisioned Hanks in the role and was happy when Darabont mentioned his name.
Morse had not heard about the script until he was offered the role. He stated he was in tears by the end of it. Darabont wanted Cromwell from the start, and after he read the script, Cromwell was moved and agreed.
Duncan credited his casting to Bruce Willis, with whom he had worked on the film Armageddon one year earlier. According to Duncan, Willis introduced him to Darabont after hearing of the open call for John Coffey.
The official film soundtrack, Music from the Motion Picture The Green Mile, was released on December 19, 1999 by Warner Bros. It contains 37 tracks, primarily instrumental tracks from the film score by Thomas Newman. It also contains four vocal tracks: "Cheek to Cheek" by Fred Astaire, "I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby" by Billie Holiday, "Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?" by Gene Austin, and "Charmaine" by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians.
The film received positive reviews from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 80% based on reviews from 132 critics.
Roger Ebert gave the film 3 and a half stars out of four, writing "The film is a shade over three hours long. I appreciated the extra time, which allows us to feel the passage of prison months and years." Forbes commentator Dawn Mendez referred to the character of John Coffey as a "'magic Negro' figure"â"a term describing a stereotypical fictional black person depicted in a fictional work as a "saintly, nonthreatening" person whose purpose in life is to solve a problem for or otherwise further the happiness of a white person.
Awards and nominations
1999 Academy Awards
- Nominated â" Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role â" Michael Clarke Duncan
- Nominated â" Best Picture â" David Valdes, Frank Darabont
- Nominated â" Best Sound Mixing â" Robert J. Litt, Elliot Tyson, Michael Herbick, Willie D. Burton
- Nominated â" Best Adapted Screenplay â" Frank Darabont
2000 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films
- Won â" Best Supporting Actor â" Michael Clarke Duncan
- Won â" Best Supporting Actress â" Patricia Clarkson
- Won â" Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film
- Nominated â" Best Director â" Frank Darabont
- Nominated â" Best Music â" Thomas Newman
2000 Broadcast Music Incorporated Film & TV Awards
- Won â" Film Music Award â" Thomas Newman
2000 Black Reel Awards
- Won â" Theatrical â" Best Supporting Actor â" Michael Clarke Duncan
2000 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards
- Won â" Favorite Actor â" Drama â" Tom Hanks
- Nominated â" Favorite Supporting Actor â" Drama â" Michael Clarke Duncan
- Nominated â" Favorite Supporting Actress â" Drama â" Bonnie Hunt
2000 Bram Stoker Awards
- Nominated â" Best Screenplay â" Frank Darabont
2000 Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards
- Won â" Best Screenplay, Adaptation â" Frank Darabont
- Won â" Best Supporting Actor â" Michael Clarke Duncan
- Nominated â" Best Film
2000 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards
- Nominated â" Best Supporting Actor â" Michael Clarke Duncan
- Nominated â" Most Promising Actor â" Michael Clarke Duncan
2000 Directors Guild of America
- Nominated â" Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures â" Frank Darabont
2000 Golden Globe Awards
- Nominated â" Best Supporting Actor â" Motion Picture â" Michael Clarke Duncan
2000 NAACP Image Awards
- Nominated â" Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture â" Michael Clarke Duncan
2000 MTV Movie Awards
- Nominated â" Best Breakthrough Male Performance â" Michael Clarke Duncan
2000 Motion Picture Sound Editors (Golden Reel Awards)
- Nominated â" Best Sound Editing â" Dialogue and ADR â" Mark A. Mangini, Julia Evershade
- Nominated â" Best Sound Editing â" Effects and Foley â" Mark A. Mangini, Aaron Glascock, Howell Gibbens, David E. Stone, Solange S. Schwalbe
2000 People's Choice Awards
- Won â" Favorite All-Around Motion Picture
- Won â" Favorite Dramatic Motion Picture
2001 Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (Nebula Award)
- Nominated â" Best Script â" Frank Darabont
2000 Screen Actors Guild Awards
- Nominated â" Outstanding Performance by a Cast
- Nominated â" Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role â" Michael Clarke Duncan
- Official website
- The Green Mile at the Internet Movie Database
- The Green Mile at the TCM Movie Database
- The Green Mile at AllMovie
- The Green Mile at Rotten Tomatoes