According to director Frank Darabont, Doug Hutchison (Percy) was given the squeakiest shoes he had ever heard. He thought this was the greatest bit of fate, and a "perfectly wonderful, annoying character trait" that he kept it in the movie, and you can hear sometimes how loud his shoes are.
Originally, Tom Hanks was going to play the older Paul Edgecomb, but the makeup tests did not make him look credible enough to be an elderly man. Dabbs Greer was cast instead as the older Paul Edgecomb.
In reality, Michael Clarke Duncan was of a similar height to his co-star David Morse, and was a couple of inches shorter than James Cromwell. Amongst other things, creative camera angles were used to create the illusion that Duncan, as John Coffey, towered over the prison staff, even "Brutal" Howell and Warden Moores.
The reason Stephen King serialized "The Green Mile" was a deliberate response to fans who flipped to the end of his books, something his mother used to do. Publishing it in installments meant that fans would have to wait for the last installment to find out the ending. King wrote each one with its own miniature climax, but even he admitted he did not have a clue how the story would end.
Rodney Barnes was Michael Clarke Duncan's stand-in. According to Barnes, he sneaked onto the set by hiding in the paddy wagon. He surprised Frank Darabont and asked for a job. Darabont was impressed with Barnes' effort and hired him. Barnes wanted to work on the film so that he could meet his favorite author, Stephen King.
Final film of Dabbs Greer. NOTE: Greer had originally turned down the role because he had health issues, but director Frank Darabont was determined to have him, so he shot around Greer's character, Paul Edgecomb, until Greer's health issues had been resolved enough to enable him to take the role.
When Paul and Brutus take John Coffey outdoors at night, John looks at the stars and says, "Look Boss, it's Cassie, the lady in the rocking chair." This is a reference to the constellation Cassiopeia. In Greek mythology, Queen Cassiopeia is often depicted as sitting in a chair or rocking chair.
According to the novel by Stephen King, Percy Wetmore is supposed to be 21 years old. During production, Doug Hutchison (Percy) was 39. He told director Frank Darabont he was in his early/mid 30s. When he went to audition for The Salton Sea (2002), the director for that film told him he was "too young," at which point Hutchison showed his driver's license to prove his age.
The name for the character John Coffey was lifted from a college professor, Rev. John Coffee. Stephen King had met him once and really liked his name and used it in "The Green Mile." Rev. Coffee taught history classes at Emerson College in Boston, MA, and retired in May 2005.
Just as director Frank Darabont was getting started writing the screenplay, he found out that his cat had developed a tumor. With the cat dying but not being in any pain, he decided to not have it put down. Instead he cared for it at home while adapting "The Green Mile", referring to it as his "co-writer" or "co-pilot", as it spent a lot of time keeping him company at his desk. Darabont said, "It's the whole 'Green Mile' death row experience . . . The writing of it was very much that. I had this creature I really cared about walking that mile". The cat passed away two months later, just about the same time the script was finished.
Although Harry Dean Stanton appears in this film, and there are characters named "Harry" and "Dean Stanton", they are only coincidences; they were in the original novel, which was written long before Stanton was cast in the film.
The music played over the loudspeakers in the retirement home as Old Paul Edgecomb first walks out of his room is the same as the music the nurses played at medication time in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975). The music used is Mantovani's "Charmaine".
Doug Hutchison (Percy) made a $20 bet with the extras (behind the scenes) during Del's execution that they couldn't recite his lines. Unknowingly, Tom Hanks wrote Hutchison's lines on big cue cards behind him. Hutchison caught on to the joke when the extras kept laughing. By the end of the day, he owed at least $60 to different people.
At the beginning of the movie, when the elderly Paul Edgecomb is walking to get breakfast after waking from his bad dream, he is walking on a tiled floor that is very green, as if it is his own Green Mile.
While many of Stephen King's novels are set in the author's native Maine, "The Green Mile" takes place in Louisiana. However, the surname of the main character, Edgecomb, is the name of a town on Maine's mid-coast.
Stephen King's original novel "The Green Mile" was published in 100-page paperback installments between March and August of 1996. He had begun developing the story while writing "Desperation" and needed to finish that novel but still wanted to see where his death row story would go. Ralph Vicinanza, a friend of King's who sells foreign publication rights, had recently had a discussion with another friend in England about Charles Dickens, in which he learned that Dickens often published his novels in installments in newspapers and magazines, and it had been suggested that, in the U.S., King could try writing a book that way. Vicinanza was under the impression that no recent novels had been written this way. He was, in fact, mistaken--Tom Wolfe had published his first draft of "The Bonfire of the Vanities" in installments in "Rolling Stone", and that story was also turned into a Tom Hanks film (The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990). "Green Mile, as it turned out, was not King's only story published in installments: his "Dark Tower" series spanned seven full-length books, published over the course of 22 years, from 1982 until 2004.
The film flips the action of the first two installments of the novel. The first book, "The Two Dead Girls," begins with John Coffey arriving on the Mile, but at this point Arlen Bitterbuck has already been executed and Eduard Delacroix already has his mouse. The second book goes back to before John's arrival and tells of Bitterbuck's fate and the origins of the mouse.
Stephen King responded to criticism that saw the film as a racial allegory by saying the only reason he made John Coffee a black man was that, given the time, place and setting of the novel and the crime for which Coffee was convicted, it was the only way to leave no doubt that he would have been sentenced to death.
When Paul Edgecomb experiences the vision that John Coffey shows him of 'Wild Bill' Wharton abducting the Detterick twins, he sees Klaus Detterick mending a shed roof with hammer and nails. The sound effect of the hammer blows is an indistinct 'Wharton, Wharton, Wharton.'
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Michael Clarke Duncan was uncomfortable with having to grab Tom Hanks' crotch for the scene where John cures Paul's urinary infection. Hanks left the set and came back to do the scene; Duncan grabbed Hanks' crotch and was shocked to discover that he had put an empty water bottle in his trousers. After that, Duncan felt more comfortable with the scene.
The film never actually tells why Arlen Bitterbuck and Edward Delacroix were sentenced to death. According to the novel on which the movie is based, Delacroix was an arsonist, rapist and murderer, while Bitterbuck murdered a man in an argument over a pair of boots.
When Melinda Moores (Patricia Clarkson) is visited by John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), she gives him a St. Christopher medal. In Catholicism, St. Christopher is known as the patron saint of travelers (John Coffey describes himself as a wanderer) and, like Coffey, died a martyr.
Michael Jeter taught himself how to say "The Lord's Prayer" in Creole to add authenticity to his character's Cajun heritage. You can hear him quietly reciting it during Del's execution scene, as the dry sponge is being applied to his head.
The plot unfolds in the form of Paul telling Elaine the story of the Green Mile. In the book, Paul writes his story down in the form of a novel. At the end of the film, as Paul leaves the cemetery after Elaine's burial, a tombstone can be seen behind him that reads "Greene", and two others, one in the foreground and one to the right of the screen, that read "Story".
In "Doctor Sleep", Stephen King's sequel to "The Shining", when Danny Torrance senses that someone is dying, he experiences it as insects and flies, in the same way that flies come out of John Coffey's mouth when he heals people. In "Doctor Sleep" Danny even speaks Percy's line, "Dead man walking." Also in "Doctor Sleep", flies portend something bad about to happen, such as before Percy is institutionalized.