Shawshank snapshot

As a thank-you for his role as an extra in the film "The Shawshank Redemption," Shelby Police Capt. Dave Mack received a print of the picture that would turn out to be a defining moment in the film. Mack is the officer in the center.

SHELBY – One of the most dramatic reveals in cinematic history comes near the end of "The Shawshank Redemption," when Warden Samuel Norton tears away a poster of Raquel Welch to expose a tunnel through which Andy Dufresne escaped from prison.

The film immediately cuts to a search party trudging through a river searching for any remnants of the at-large prisoner. As Morgan Freeman's voiceover states, "all that was left of Andy Dufresne was a muddy set of prison clothes, a bar of soap, and an old rock hammer, damn near worn down to the nub."

Fans of the film know what comes next: The flash of a camera, and the iconic search crew picture, as the camera zooms in on what's left of the rock hammer Andy used to tunnel out of Shawshank.

Those invested in the local lore of "The Shawshank Redemption" might recognize the face in the center of the photo, standing immediately behind the man holding the rock hammer: Shelby Police Capt. Dave Mack.

"It ended up being a pretty big deal, and I got a pretty cool story to tell out of it," Mack said.

In the summer of 1993, Mack was a 24-year-old patrolman at the Shelby Police Department, only a year into his new job. One day Mack was coming into the station to pick up his paycheck and passed a man talking to the chief of police at the time, John VanWagner. The man turned to look at Mack and said, "Like that guy right there."

It turns out, Mack was being typecast by a man looking to cast a few police officers for a movie being filmed at the Ohio State Reformatory.

"It was one of those things, by luck or chance, I happened to be stopping in," Mack said. "The guy looked at me and singled me out because I had the high and tight haircut, I looked like a policeman. He asked if I'd be interested in being in a movie and I figured, what the heck, I've got some free time."

The movie crew sent Mack to a "hole in the wall" place in Mansfield to get sized for a uniform, and told him when and where to be on set. His first day working on the movie, Mack recalls driving past a man who was talking to someone in a four-door Lincoln.

"I parked my car and walked up, and that guy walked through the parking lot and into the prison with me," Mack said. "He was pretty cool, he talked to me the whole time. I didn't know where wardrobe was, so he told me where to go. Then he said, 'It's been nice talking to you but if I see you on set, I'm not allowed to talk to you.' I'm not a big movie buff so I didn't realize at the time who it was."

Turns out, that helpful man was Tim Robbins.

Shelby Capt. Dave Mack

When Dave Mack agreed to be an extra in "The Shawshank Redemption" more than 25 years ago, he had no idea the film would turn into the phenomenon it is today.

Mack appears in a total of three scenes in "The Shawshank Redemption." Two scenes appear back-to-back with the arrest of Warden Norton, where Mack can be seen driving a police cruiser to the prison, and as part of the officer team that approaches Capt. Byron Hadley and eventually goes after the warden himself. 

"When I first got in (the police cruiser), I knew I could drive a stick shift or an automatic, but in this car I was looking for controls to put it in drive and I was baffled. I'd never driven a car that had push buttons on the left side of the dash to put it in park and drive.

"That street is between MANCI and State Route 13, there's an access road that goes up and around. I bet we drove that for a few hours." 

Repetition was something Mack quickly became accustomed to on a movie set. He'd be happy never hearing the phrase "cut back to one" again in his life. 

"That just means you go back to your own unique mark because that's where you have to start every single time," he said. "You hear 'background action' and then the real action so it doesn't look like we all started at once." 

One day after filming those two scenes, Mack was scolded by a member of the crew for twirling his fake gun on his finger. After a week and a half of working an overnight shift at the police station before coming to set, he'd had enough. 

"I took the gun belt off and threw it on the ground and threatened to leave," Mack said. "Then the director (Frank Darabont) comes up and says, 'Is there anything I can do to make you stay?' He turns to the guy who was yelling at me and says, 'You will get this man anything he wants to eat or drink,' and he apologized for his behavior. And I'm thinking, what the hell is up with this guy?

"So I ask the makeup lady, what gives? Why does this guy care if I leave? She said, 'You have been in the main shot of every scene for the last 10 days. If you leave, we have to do it all over again.' I felt like a big shot making $8 an hour," Mack said with a laugh. 

Mack's most iconic scene comes with the discovery of Andy Dufresne's escape method. That scene, he said, was filmed in a stream that runs between the Ohio State Reformatory and the Mansfield Correctional Institution. As the actors trudged through the water, a cameraman on a track slider followed the action from above. Morgan Freeman even stopped by to watch for a while. 

It was during that scene that Mack was almost credited as an actor with a speaking part.

"During that filming, for two or three hours I would say, 'Look what we found.' And the director liked it and told me to keep saying it," Mack said. "Well then, some guy came over to the director and I watched him roll his eyes. He told me I hadn't done anything wrong, but if I continued to speak a line, I'd have to join an actor's guild. So he told me to continue what I was doing, but just mouth the words." 

The picture of the search crew was taken at least 15 or 20 times, Mack said, each time as the actors turned to face the camera during the action. Mack bonded with another law enforcement extra on set, Ashland trooper Dale LaRue, who ended up holding the rock hammer. The two still keep in touch. 

After many hours filming in the water, director Frank Darabont could tell the crew was worn out by the end. He promised that if each of them provided their name and addresses, the production company would send each of them the still shot that was taken. Weeks later, an envelope showed up at Mack's house. 

"I threw it in a filing cabinet at my parents' house," he said. "Years later, when they were cleaning stuff out for their move, they found that envelope. That was after the movie became what it was. I figured I should hold onto it." 

Now, 25 years later, what Mack assumed would be a "class B movie" has turned into a pop culture phenomenon. Occasionally he gets recognized as "the guy in Shawshank" every time the movie appears on cable television. The iconic snapshot is the thing everyone remembers. 

Mack hopes to reunite with Frank Darabont during the upcoming anniversary celebrations at the Ohio State Reformatory. He'd like Darabont to sign his picture. 

"It would mean nothing to anybody except me," Mack said. "It ended up being a pretty neat experience. I'm glad I did it." 

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