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  • Writer's pictureThe Screen Room

Movie Villain Monday: Warden Norton - The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

It’s Movie Villain Monday and this week’s movie villain was suggested in the comments on Facebook.

It’s Warden Samuel Norton from The Shawshank Redemption (1994).

Who is Samuel Norton?

Played by prolific theatre actor Bob Gunton, Warden Norton is the main antagonist in what can arguable be called one of the best movies ever made.

Although there are a number of villains in the film - the most notable two being Warden Norton and his head guard Captain Hadley (Clancy Brown), the warden is the top dog and is therefore responsible for everything that goes on in Shawshank - legal and illegal.

Personality and Characteristics:

Unlike many of the other villains featured so far, Warden Norton isn’t a villain in the usual sense. He’s not a homicidal maniac, a terrorist or a cyborg sent back from the future to kill the leader of a resistance - he’s a villain because he’s in a position of authority that he abuses to the fullest extent.

He’s cruel, corrupt, ruthless and due to his position can do just about anything he wants, from having inmates beaten, to (eventually) even murdered.


Again, because of the nature of Norton’s villainy his motivation is different to other “typical” villains. It’s probably even fair to say that if you never gave him a reason you wouldn’t need to worry about ever feeling his wrath. Unfortunately for the main protagonist Andy Dufresne though, he gets it full force after being party to some of the warden’s illegal financial activities. This puts Norton in a position where he can never let Andy leave the prison alive for fear of being reported for his own crimes.


The Shawshank Redemption is an adaptation of a Steven King novella published in 1982 called “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”. In it there are actually three wardens.

The movie was a box office disappointment on release (to be fair it was competing with Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump) but it’s since become one of the most loved and highly rated movies of all time. It’s also Steven King’s favourite film adaptation of any of his books.

Bob Gunton was filming Demolition Man (1993) when he auditioned for The Shawshank Redemption. He did his screen test on a day off from filming and wore a wig especially made for him as his head had been shaved for the role he was playing at the time. He wanted to play the warden with hair so it could be greyed throughout the film to show how his character was ageing as the story progressed.

The prison used as Shawshank State Prison in the movie is really called Ohio State Reformatory (also known as Mansfield Reformatory). If you type that into Google Earth you can have a bit of a 3D mooch around. It’s pretty cool.

“Salvation lies within”

Who should I feature next week..?


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