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Characters / The Green Mile

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Cold Mountain Guards and Staff

    Paul Edgecomb 
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."

  • Benevolent Boss: Is very nice and caring to the death row inmates because he knows that they are all scared of their impending death sentences.
  • Blessed with Suck: His long life. "Sometimes there is absolutely no difference at all between salvation and damnation."
  • December–December Romance: With Elaine. Considering how old Paul actually is, you could argue that this is actually a Mayfly–December Romance.
  • 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.
  • 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."

  • 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: He willfully and maliciously sabotages Delacroix's execution, but his shocked reaction makes it clear he didn't realize how truly horrific it would be. Percy actually looks like he has remorse for what he did. "Wild Bill" on the other hand...
  • Fate Worse than Death: And he utterly deserves it.
  • 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 mistake.
  • 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 film, so who do we have until then? An obnoxious, arrogant, cowardly Sadist.
  • Jerkass: He's a complete asshole, both to the inmates and his co-workers.
  • Kick the Dog: More like Stomp On the Mouse just to get his petty revenge on Delacroix. Coffey saves Mr. Jingles in time, though.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sadist: 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: Swaggers around the Green Mile like he believes he's in complete control.
  • Smug Snake: Has no respect for anyone, prisoners or guards.
  • The Sociopath: Low functioning example; although Whetmore 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.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Downplayed but evident. While the other guards had nothing but contempt for Percy and enjoyed dishing out their own form of karma, his fate at the hands of Coffey leaves them a little bit disturbed to say the least.

    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 De Munn
"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."

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Rain Man
  • 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.

    Eduard "Del" Delacroix 
Portrayed by: Michael Jeter
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Whatever his crimes while alive, he did not deserve to die so horribly.
  • 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.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: During his Electric Chair Execution, Percy Wetmore places a dry sponge in his head cap instead of a wet one. This turns what should have been a relatively fast death into an extremely slow and painful one.
  • 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.
  • Villain Protagonist: 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."

    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 about his death.
  • Ax-Crazy: As evidenced by his antics at the prison.
  • Berserk Button: Likes his nickname to be Billy the Kid, not Wild Bill. Wharton earns himself some time in solitary by abusing a guard. Paul Edgecombe calls him Wild Bill while applying a straitjacket, and gets back a writhing, agonized lecture about the difference between the two names. "Brutal" Howell proceeds to lean in to the restrained Wharton and push that red, shiny, jolly candy-like button with both hands.
  • Depraved Bisexual: He sexually harasses Percy, as well as raped and murdered those two girls.
  • Establishing Character Moment: At first, he seems like a impotent loon. Then once it's revealed that it was fake, he goes completely off the rails and attacks the guards.
  • Evil Is Petty: He did what he did to those two poor little girls because he couldn't stand seeing them being happy together.
  • Large Ham: He is pretty entertaining but is such a disgusting, monstrous character.
  • 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.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: He has all of two conversations with John, and in both of those he uses racial slurs.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Acts like a 5 year old in a grown man's body, and is a complete maniac to boot. Lampshaded by Hal when he calls him a "problem child".
  • Slasher Smile: Sports a bone-chilling one as he contemplates his next move: Raping and murdering those two little girls. He also sports another one right before he comes out of his "doped" state and attacks the other guards.
  • Would Harm A Child / Would Hit a Girl: One of his victims was a pregnant woman. He also killed the two little girls that John was put in prison for.


Other Characters

    Janice "Jan" Edgecomb 
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

    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."

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