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Characters / The Green Mile

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Cold Mountain Guards and Staff

    Paul Edgecombe 
Portrayed by: Tom Hanks (age 44), Dabbs Greer (age 108)
"We each owe a death. There are no exceptions. But oh God, sometimes the Green Mile seems so long."

  • Actually Pretty Funny: He admits that Wild Bill's Moon Pie prank against Brutal was pretty original, Brutal himself even agrees.
  • Blessed with Suck: His long life.
    "Sometimes there is absolutely no difference at all between salvation and damnation."
  • December–December Romance: With Elaine. But considering how old Paul actually is, you could argue that this is actually a Mayfly–December Romance.
  • The Executioner: Along with the other Death Row guards, they execute convicts.
  • Fate Worse than Death: One can say Coffey inflicted this on Paul unintentionally.
  • Good Is Not Soft: He's genuinely a good guy and treats the inmates with respect, but he will not hesitate to put those same people in their place, as well as Percy when he puts him in the padded room.
  • Long-Lived:
    • Along with Mr. Jingles, as a result of being cured by John Coffey, wind up "cured" of everything for the rest of their lives. Functionally, this means they keep aging but are immune to everything that would eventually kill them. When Paul is telling the story, he's over 100, and Mr. Jingles - a freaking mouse, - is over 60. Paul considers it his punishment for allowing Coffey to be executed. However, Mr. Jingles does finally die, so the punishment will end someday.
    • The average lifespan of a mouse is one and a half year, topping at 3. Mr. Jingles lived to see 60. If we follow the pattern, Paul will live up to 20 times the human lifespan, or about 1000 years for someone born at the early 20th Century.
  • Nice Guy: Is very nice and caring to the death row inmates because he knows that they are all scared of their impending death sentences.
  • Older Than They Look: He looks like he's around 80, but he's actually 108.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Forces Percy to watch Del's slow and painful execution.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: As the head guard on E Block, Paul is pretty reasonable and treats the prisoners fairly. Brutal is the same way, only bringing his sheer size into play when he has to help subdue an unruly prisoner.
  • Survivor Guilt: He has seen all of his friends and relatives die and feels that this is his punishment for killing John Coffey.
  • Walking Spoiler: Look at all these spoiler tags.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: He's 108 years old and will presumably live for several more centuries, but has had to watch all of his friends and family members die.

    Brutus "Brutal" Howell 
Portrayed by: David Morse

  • Beware the Nice Ones: Brutal is the most adamant Percy pay what he did to Delacroix, and thus takes the most sadistic pleasure in making him squirm during his Cool and Unusual Punishment even getting in a vicious slug to the face while he's restrained just out of contempt. Even when it's over, he starts persuading Paul not to let it go (though Coffey finishes Percy before anything can made of it). He'd just pushed Brutal's buttons way too much.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sometimes.
    Percy: You switched them [the mouse he stomped on that John Coffey healed]. You switched them somehow, you bastards.
    Brutus: I always keep a spare mouse in my wallet for occasions such as this.
  • Gentle Giant: While he's almost as tall as Coffey, he's a very soft-spoken and reasonable guard, and fiercely protective of the inmates' mental states.
  • Ironic Nickname: His nickname "Brutal" is actually born out of irony because he is the most kind and sympathetic to the inmates (at least until you press his buttons).
  • The Lancer: As well as The Big Guy.

    Hal Moores 
Portrayed by: James Cromwell

    Percy Wetmore 
Portrayed by: Doug Hutchison
"I think of it as a bucket of piss to drown rats in, that's all. Anybody doesn't like it, hmm? You can kiss my ass."

  • Ax-Crazy: A borderline example. While he isn't a knife-wielding maniac, he is emotionally unstable enough that he clearly enjoys causing both people and animals pain and suffering.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: He stomps Mr. Jingles right in front of Delacroix. But thankfully John was there to bring him back.
  • Blatant Lies: "I didn't know the sponge is supposed to be wet."
  • Bystander Syndrome: He stands by and does nothing while Wild Bill is trying to strangle Dean when he arrives on the Mile, despite the other guards demanding he do something. Mostly this is because he's caught off guard by what's happening, but also because he's a vile, petty and spiteful coward.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: After every evil deed he has done, he gets Mrs. Moores' cancer transferred into his body by John Coffey, shoots Wild Bill to death and is committed to the asylum he wanted to work in.
  • Dirty Coward: He constantly picks on and bullies the inmates because he has power over them, but when one is actually loose he won't help the other guards subdue him. This gets Exaggerated when he slaps around an inmate after the man has already been executed. Finally, Percy sabotages a man's execution just to see him suffer, and then can't even look at the man's painful death.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Both are debatable at best.
    • He's visibly disturbed by the results of sabotaging Del's execution, however it's unknown whether if it's because he feels somewhat remorseful or he's just scared to think of something like that happening to him. Considering his entire personality up to that point, the latter theory is the most likely out of the two.
    • He clearly looks shocked and even sheds a tear when John shows him what Wild Bill did to those two little girls, but it's left ambiguous as to whether or not Percy was still in control as he killed Wharton.
  • Forced to Watch: He deliberately sabotages Del's execution and watches him be cooked in agony. When he is horrified at what he has done and looks away, Paul has none of it and forces him to watch his own handiwork.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: All his co-workers hate him. They are professional enough to put up with him at first, until they realize he's a lost cause.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: John Coffey gives him a really good, hard look at what true evil looked like, in the form of Wild Bill raping and murdering the two girls. After he shoots Wild Bill dead, he falls into a state of permanent catatonia - a patient in the very hospital he was due to go to work in the next day.
  • Hate Sink: The main antagonist does not come until late in the story, so who do we have until then? An obnoxious, arrogant, cowardly Sadist.
  • Ironic Name: Percy Wetmore's name becomes horrifically ironic in the infamous scene where he doesn't wet the sponge in a spiteful Kick the Dog moment, causing Del's execution to go very badly.
  • Irony: He wanted to work in a mental asylum. By the end of the movie, he does end up in an asylum, but as a patient.
  • Jerkass: He's a callous bully, both to the inmates and his co-workers.
  • Kick the Dog: He does this to Del a lot.
    • First, he breaks his fingers just for smirking at him.
    • Next, he stomps on his pet mouse, Mr. Jingles. This is fortunately averted when John revives him.
    • Right before his execution:
      "There's no [Mouseville]. It's just a fairytale [the guards] told you to keep you quiet. Just thought you should know...faggot."
    • And last but certainly not least, sabotaging his execution by putting a dry sponge in the electric chair's cranial cap, thus condemning the man to die a horrible, agonizing death.
  • Knight of Cerebus: The story is in no way lighthearted to begin with, but unlike Wild Bill, Percy has no comedic moments whatsoever, and the tone drastically changes whenever he's around. Take the scenes with him killing Mr. Jingles and Delacroix for example. In the former's case, a scene goes from heart-warming to heart-breaking. In the latter's case, a scene goes from sad to flat-out horrific.
  • Meaningful Name: Or surname. In one scene, he wets himself and Del makes fun of him, pointing out that Wetmore is the right surname for him. Although this name becomes dramatically ironic later on, for different reasons.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: He's genuinely horrified at what happens to Del, but after his treatment of Del as well as his general demeanor, no one is sorry to see Paul make him watch the whole thing in all its horror.
  • The Napoleon: Much shorter than the rest of the cast (except for Del), but extremely aggressive, violent and short-tempered.
  • Nepotism: Uses his Uncle's (aka. the state governor) connections to stay in the job.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: He calls Del a "faggot" more than once.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Not to the same extent as Wild Bill, but Percy is an extremely irresponsible and petty asshole who became a prison guard for no reason other than to satisfy his own sadistic desires. Threatening to tell the governor if anything bad happens to him on the Mile is like a bratty child saying he'll tell on his parents, and Paul even describes him as someone who calls his aunt and squeals like a schoolroom sissy.
    Hal: How many years you spend pissing on the toilet seat before someone told you to put it up?
  • Sadist: Of the Psycho for Hire variety. His sole reason for wanting to be a prison guard is to watch the inmates be electrocuted to death.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Percy is still at the prison, and transferring to a better job, because of his connections. And he doesn't want to leave right away for the cushy job at the mental asylum, because he wants to be up close and in charge of an execution, and uses those connections to bully his way into doing so. Even as Paul knows full well Percy would screw it up.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Downplayed in regards to "small name" since he's the governor's nephew, but good god is he callous and arrogant. Just read his page quote for proof.
  • Smug Snake: He's selfish and has no respect for anyone, prisoners or guards.
  • The Sociopath: Low-functioning example; although Wetmore takes sadistic joy in bullying those weaker than he is and displays the utter lack of morality, compassion and empathy characteristic of all sociopaths, he lacks the charm and intelligence found in most other examples.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Most of the other guards are decent people, but he's a notably nasty exception.

    Dean Stanton 
Portrayed by: Barry Pepper

  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Can come across as a bit defensive and withdrawn at times, but is ultimately a good man who helps break Coffey out and is routinely disgusted with Percy's behaviour.
  • Manly Tears: John Coffey's execution is too much for him to take, and he breaks down.

    Harry Terwilliger 
Portrayed by: Jeffrey DeMunn
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Gets his own back on Wild Bill after the latter urinates on him.
    "Piss on me?" (cue the fire-hose)

Cold Mountain Inmates

    John Coffey 
Portrayed by: Michael Clarke Duncan
"I couldn't help it. I tried to take it back, but it was too late."

  • All-Loving Hero: He empathizes with every person he meets, even those who are evil (with a few notable exceptions).
  • Angel Unaware: He definitely has some Divine powers.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: A false, scapegoated bad guy, but Coffey was willing to take the fall getting rid of Percy as the other guards pondered how to keep him quiet, eliminating Wild Bill in the process too.
  • Bald of Awesome: He's bald and an Empathic Healer.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: While a Gentle Giant and innocent of his crimes, he uses his powers to a very terrifying nature towards those he considers "bad men".
  • Blessed with Suck: Being an empath means he can feel all the hatred and evil in the world.
    "It's like pieces of glass in my head. All the time."
  • Death Seeker: Despite using his abilities to prove his innocence to Paul and Paul offering him a way to escape. John wants to go through with the execution because he feels the endless amount of hatred and evil emitting from the world in agonizing detail. Not only that but he is friendless and is tired of living alone and afraid.
  • The Drifter: He implied that he was this his whole life prior to being incarcerated.
  • Empathic Healer: Coffey heals by touch, then spits out the hurt in the form of weird firefly-like things.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Allows himself to be excecuted in order to escape having to feel the evils of humanity.
  • Famous Last Words: To Paul: "Don't put me in the dark. I's afraid of the dark."
  • Full-Name Basis: Most of the guards called John Coffey by his full name.
  • Gentle Giant: Practically the Trope Codifier. He's big, but is a peaceful man with healing powers.
  • Healing Hands: Coffey's powers require him to be able to touch his patients, as close to the injury as possible. Thus is he mistaken for a murderer: when the posse finds a Scary Black Man with a mangled white girl under each arm, bloody hands pressing their crushed skulls, who would believe he had found them that way and was trying to heal them using magic? Also creates an awkward situation when Coffey heals Paul's groin infection.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Despite technically awaiting execution for murdering two girls, he turns out not to have a bad bone in his body.
  • Magical Negro: John Coffey is a literally magical one. Though his role in the story only weakly conforms to that archetype. He does have the perfect moral saintliness down, and very much wants to use his powers to help people, including the (white) protagonist, the warden's (white) wife, and, unsuccessfully, the two dead (white) girls of whose deaths he was convicted. However, he has other roles in the story besides this, including using his powers to kill Wild Bill and break the mind of Percy, as punishment for being "bad men", and his lasting effect on the protagonist's life is not entirely positive, inflicting him with a case of Who Wants To Live Way Too Long?. He also lacks the trait of dispensing folksy wisdom or being Closer to Earth (quite the opposite, really) and the character and his powers are more of a central driving force of the plot than merely a device to achieve Character Development in the white protagonist.
  • Manchild: John Coffey is this, but only to a certain degree. The sight of stars in the sky, a handful of fresh grass, and seeing a flicker show for the first time is enough to fill him with childlike wonder and amazement.
  • Meaningful Name: John Coffey. - Stephen King even joked about how blatant it was in On Writing. Also, "Like the drink only not spelled the same."
  • Messianic Archetype:
    • Does share a few traits with the biblical Christ. Aside from the initials, Coffey performs miracles by the laying of hands; he heals a woman of her terminal illness, he heals Paul of his urinary tract infection, and he even brings Mr. Jingles back to life. The only difference between Christ and Coffey, however, is that he chose to be executed on his own volition whereas Christ sacrificed himself for mankind as a whole. Coffey also does not get resurrected either.
    • Unlike Christ, Coffey's influence also in some ways ruins Paul's life, albeit without his intention. While he was cured of his urinary tract infection, that also meant that he was cured of everything. Worse, he suffers from longevity, outliving his wife when she was killed in a freak bus accident, and by the time the book ends, he is over 100 years old and is unlikely to die lest through killing himself.
  • Nice Mean And Inbetween: Of the three main inmates, he's the nice (Incorruptible Pure Pureness) to Wild Bill's mean (sadistic and pure evil) and Delacroix's in-between (Sympathetic Murderer).
  • Nice Guy: In addition to being nothing but a kind soul to both the guards and the inmates, he also takes away Paul's UTI and Melinda's cancer, shares cornbread with Del and Mr. Jingles and even personally helps take care of the latter twice, all out of pure altruism. Even when he punishes Percy and Wild Bill, he's really just doing it out of divine punishment for them being bad rather than sheer sadism or spite.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Dramatic example. Coffey is found with the bodies of the raped and murdered girls in his arms. When he's asked what happened, he says: "I couldn't help it. I tried to take it back, but it was too late!" Everybody assumes that he killed the girls, and was talking about his own murderous impulses. Actually, he found them and tried to heal them, but it was too late for that. Wild Bill was the true culprit.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Who exactly is John Coffey? Why does he have healing powers? Even he doesn't know.
  • Right Man in the Wrong Place: He has angelic abilities of healing and empathy but the story takes place in 1935. This also applies to how John ended up on the Green Mile. John came across the aftermath of Billy the Kid's crime and tried to resurrect the two girls but was unsuccessful. Overwhelmed with empathy, he was found screaming while holding the corpses as he felt their agonizing final moments. Leading the mob and sheriff to believe that he had murdered them in cold blood.
  • Scary Black Man: Subverted. Coffey is big and scary looking, but gentle and childlike.
  • Significant Monogram: J(esus) C(hrist).
  • Stupidity-Inducing Attack: Does this to Percy, not through evil intentions but to remove the threat to his friends, resulting in the guard ending up in an insane asylum.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Overall a wondeful human being who couldn't deal with the evils of humanity anymore, so he went through with the execution anyway. The people carrying out the sentence are in tears while doing it.

    Eduard "Del" Delacroix 
Portrayed by: Michael Jeter
"I sure wish I could've met you guys somewheres else."
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Whatever his crimes while alive, he did not deserve to die so horribly. Even John and the guards feel sorry for him because of it.
  • The Atoner: The narration in the book says that whatever had possessed him to commit his crimes had left him long ago. He's a model prisoner while on the Mile, respectful of the guards (save for Percy, who deserves no respect), enjoys his time with the wild mouse who befriends him, and seemingly genuine in his remorse for the crimes he done. Additionally he prays desperately in the moments before his execution, likely asking God to forgive him.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: During his electric chair execution, Percy places a dry sponge in his head cap instead of a wet one. For those who don’t understand, the point of wetting the sponge is to conduct electricity straight to the brain. Dry sponge = electricity hits every point of the body, burning all the nerves you have before killing you.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: He genuinely cares for Mr. Jingles.
  • Famous Last Words: To Paul and Brutal: "Don't forget about Mouseville."
  • Karmic Death: His botched execution caused him a slow and painful death by burning alive, and he was condemned for arson.
  • Nice Mean And Inbetween: Of the three main inmates, he's the in-between (Sympathetic Murderer) to John Coffey's nice (Incorruptible Pure Pureness) and Wild Bill's mean (sadistic and pure evil).
  • Pet the Dog: What his training of Mr Jingles entails. He also makes a genuine attempt to save Paul's life when he thinks John Coffey is trying to kill him.
  • Redemption Earns Life: Averted. It doesn't matter how repentant a Green Mile inmate may be; he's still going to die.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: He certainly isn't a hero, but in spite of being a Death Row inmate convicted of rape, murder, and arson, he manages to be one of the more endearing characters in the story, and mostly attributed to Mr. Jingles. In fact, Del is so upset over what might become of Mr. Jingles once he's dead, that Paul and the other guards tell him a little white lie about sending Mr. Jingles to a place called Mouseville, where they take in all kinds of mice that can do special tricks, and people from all over the world come and pay to see them. He even started hollering for help when he thought Coffey was going to hurt Paul. Meanwhile, Percy, despite being one of the guards, is a sadistic Jerkass and a Dirty Coward, who actually likes seeing the prisoners electrocuted, and goes out of his way to be cruel, such as stomping Mr. Jingles to death, and intentionally botching Del's execution in an act of petty revenge (as Del had mocked him for wetting his pants after Wild Bill attacks him); in fact, just before the switch is thrown, he makes it a point to tell Del, "Oh, by the way, there is no Mouseville, they made it up so you'll feel better. Just thought you should know...faggot."

    William "Wild Bill" Wharton 
Portrayed by: Sam Rockwell
"Ain't this a party now?!"

  • Adult Fear: The person you trust the most, and let near your children, is a monstrous predator. Also Truth in Television since the majority of rapes are done by acquaintances rather than strangers.
  • Asshole Victim: Nobody weeps a tear over his death.
  • Ax-Crazy: As evidenced by his crimes, as well as his antics at the prison. The guards sure don't call him Wild Bill for nothing!
  • Berserk Button: Likes his nickname to be Billy the Kid, not Wild Bill.
  • Cop Killer: He was very close to killing Dean before Brutal stepped in.
  • Depraved Bisexual: He gropes, kisses, and threatens to sodomize Percy. He also raped and murdered two girls before his arrest.
    "Soft like a girl. I'd rather fuck your asshole than your sister's pussy, I think."
  • Establishing Character Moment: At first, he seems like an impotent loon due to being drugged. Then once it's revealed that it was fake, he goes completely off the rails and attacks the guards, nearly strangling Dean to death.
  • Evil Is Hammy: He is pretty over-the-top and entertaining but is such a disgusting, monstrous character.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Yes. As much of a smug, sadistic coward Percy is, he at least didn't rape and murder two innocent little girls like Wild Bill did.
  • Famous Last Words: To Percy: "You wanna kiss my ass? You wanna suck my dick?"
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: How he kept the two little girls quiet while he kidnapped and raped them. He told each sister that he'd kill the other one if she screamed...and then killed them both anyway.
  • Jerkass: He's sadistic, problematic, racist, violent, and a complete psychopath.
  • Karmic Death: Percy shoots him six times. If you really think about it, that's like a bullet for each of Billy's victims. He raped and murdered the twin Detterick girls, killed three people (one of whom was a pregnant woman) during an armed robbery, and it's his fault that John died too since he got framed for his crimes.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Making Percy piss himself like a frightened little girl just after abusing Del.
  • Laughably Evil: Most of his antics in the prison are shown in an over-the-top manner, and is able to make even the most serious scenes into Black Comedy. It's averted heavily in the end, though.
  • Nice Mean And Inbetween: Of the three main inmates, he's the mean (sadistic and pure evil) to John Coffey's nice (Incorruptible Pure Pureness) and Delacroix's in-between (Sympathetic Murderer).
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Has all of two conversations with John, and calls him a "nigger" in both. He also jokingly compares Brutal to "Little Black Sambo" after spitting in his face with a moon pie.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Acts like a 5-year-old in a grown man's body, and is a complete maniac to boot. Hal even Lampshades it when he calls him a "problem child".
  • Sadist: He spends all of his time in Cold Mountain causing as much trouble as he can while laughing maniacally, and sports a Slasher Smile as he contemplates raping and murdering those two little girls.
  • Satanic Archetype: The antithesis of John Coffey's Messianic Archetype status who indulges in committing evil acts and may as well be a physical manifestation of evil itself.
  • The Sociopath: He enjoys tormenting others and shows little (if any) remorse for his actions.
  • Would Hit a Girl: One of his victims was a pregnant woman.
  • Would Hurt a Child: He raped and killed the two little girls that John was put in prison for.


Other Characters

    Janice "Jan" Edgecombe 
Portrayed by: Bonnie Hunt

  • What the Hell, Hero?: Delivers a scathing one in the book to Paul and the other guards when it becomes apparent that there's nothing they can do to save Coffey from being executed. Her diatribe is absent in the movie, where she merely accepts that, while it's unfair, this is the way things have to be.

    Melinda Moores 
Portrayed by: Patricia Clarkson

  • Ill Girl: She has advanced-stage cancer and is in great pain because of it. The guards from Bloc E make up a plan to bring John Coffey to Moores's house so he can heal her.

    Burt Hammersmith 
Portrayed by: Gary Sinise

"You may get away with it once, or even a hundred times, but in the end, you'll get bit."

  • Amoral Attorney: Downplayed. The man does not see black men as people, and has a harsh attitude toward criminals, believing them to deserve to be shot like mad dogs. However, he does genuinely believe John to be guilty, and he has a good reason to distrust criminals. See below.
  • Papa Wolf: He shot a dog who made one of his sons lose his eye, which is why he is very nervous around criminals like Coffey.

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