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Tim Robbins quizzes Stephen Colbert, who's somehow never seen The Shawshank Redemption

Photo: Scott Kowalchyk (CBS)

Tim Robbins has a long history of screwing with Stephen Colbert, as he demonstrated by bringing a clip from the Colbert Report, where Robbins stole that Stephen Colbert’s self-important thunder by engaging in a game of audience high-five one-upsmanship. (Colbert, unwilling to surrender his alpha bear status, wound up hurling himself into the audience for some half-successful crowd surfing.) But now that Colbert is just plain old Stephen Colbert (and not Stephen Colbert), one might expect that the two aging adversaries have mellowed into the expected chat show chit-chat phase of their relationship.

One would be wrong, as Robbins, first reminding Colbert of the first question Colbert’s right-wing alter ego ever asked the notably progressive actor (“What was it like working with Clint Eastwood and why do you hate our troops?”), whipped out a sheet of printer paper to give this Colbert the business. Having heard beforehand that Colbert has—impossibly, since it’s likely on basic cable on about three stations right now—never seen The Shawshank Redemption, Robbins came prepared with a Shawshank-or-not quote quiz. Colbert, apologizing profusely for never having seen Robbins’ most-watched movie of all time, admitted that the oversight represents “a major hole” in his cultural awareness, and submitted to the clearly-enjoying-himself Robbins’ straight-faced examination.

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Of the six quotes, two were from Shawshank, while the likes of Princess Leia, Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto, and the Toy Story toys rounded things out. Colbert whiffed pretty hard, although trying to slip a Lord Of The Rings quote past Tolkien fanatic Colbert was doomed from the jump, Robbins. At any rate, Robbins gave Colbert a passing grade (barely), and promised—one can only hope seriously—that Colbert’s first Shawshank viewing will be a filmed private screening with himself and Morgan Freeman.

Ah, and since Robbins was technically on The Late Show to promote his new film Dark Waters (about the real life malfeasance of chemical giant DuPont, who poisoned West Virginia for several decades), he also took the time to remind Colbert that he’s still the same Tim Robbins. Explaining the white collar heroism of real-life characters played by Mark Ruffalo and himself as chemical company lawyers who actually do the right thing, Robbins told Colbert, “This is what we need in this country. We need the people who possess the power to change things to look to themselves, and decide for themselves what is moral and what is not, and to risk, at times, their livelihood, their income, to do what is right.” (Programming note: Please watch the televised impeachment hearings to see how that’s going. Maybe Tim Robbins will win another Oscar ten years from now for directing the movie about how the Republican Party did exactly not that.)

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About the author

Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.