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.
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.
In actuality, Michael Clarke Duncan was of a similar height as his co-star David Morse, and was a couple of inches shorter than James Cromwell. Among 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 because it was a deliberate response to fans who flipped to the end of his books, something his mother used to do. The 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 snuck 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.
When Paul and "Brutal" take John Coffey outside 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 years old. He told 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 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.
The name for the character John Coffey was lifted from a college professor, Reverend John Coffee. Stephen King had met him once and really liked his name and used it in "The Green Mile." Reverend Coffee taught history classes at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, and retired in May 2005.
Harry Dean Stanton appeared in this film. There is a character named "Harry," and another named "Dean Stanton." This is merely a coincidence, since the characters' names existed in the book long before Harry Dean Stanton was even cast in the movie.
At the beginning of the movie, when the old Paul Edgecomb is walking to get some breakfast after waking from that bad dream, he is walking on a tiled floor that is very green, as if it is his Green Mile.
Doug Hutchison (Percy) made a twenty dollar 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. He caught on to the joke when the extras kept laughing. By the end of the day, Hutchison owed at least sixty dollars to different people.
While many of Stephen King's novels are set in the author's native Maine, The Green Mile (1999) 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., someone like Stephen 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 (1990) in installments in Rolling Stone. Both that novel and this one were turned into films starring Tom Hanks. This also ended up not being Stephen 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.
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 right about the same time as the script was finished.
Stephen King responded to criticism (both pro and con) that read the film as a racial allegory by claiming the only reason why he made John Coffey a black man was to leave no doubt that he would have been sentenced to death given the time and place.
Jeffrey DeMunn, who plays Terwillger, and Doug Hutchinson, who plays Percy, had both appeared in The X-Files (1993). Doug Hutchinson played the serial killer Eugene Victor Tooms in the episodes Squeeze and Tooms. Jeffrey DeMunn appeared in the first X-Files (1998) movie, as Bronscweig.
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.
We are never actually told why Arlen Bitterbuck and Edward Delacroix were sentenced to death throughout the film. 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, 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, much as before Percy is institutionalized.