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Escape from New York (1981) Poster

Trivia

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Kurt Russell has stated that this is his favorite of all his films, and Snake Plissken is his favorite of his characters.
Snake Plissken's eyepatch was suggested by Kurt Russell.
The model of the city set was repainted and reused for Blade Runner (1982).
The wire-frame computer graphics on the display screens in the glider were not actually computer-generated, as computers capable of 3D wire-frame imaging were too expensive when the film was made. To generate the "wire-frame" images, special effects designers built a model of the city, painted it black, attached bright white tape to the model buildings in an orderly grid, and moved a camera through the model city.
The shot where the helicopter flies over Central Park was actually filmed in San Fernando, California. The buildings in the background were matte-paintings by future director James Cameron.
The opening narration and the computer's voice in the first prison scene is provided by an uncredited Jamie Lee Curtis.
Donald Pleasence drew on his own wartime experiences as a prisoner of war for his performance as the imprisoned President.
The night street scenes were filmed in East St. Louis, Illinois, which had entire neighborhoods burned out in 1976 during a massive urban fire. Across the Mississippi River from the more prosperous St. Louis, Missouri, East St. Louis was filled with old buildings that look seedy and run-down.
John Carpenter purchased the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in St Louis for $1 from the government and then returned it to them for the same amount after filming was completed.
Clint Eastwood was considered for the role of Snake Plissken. Kurt Russell based Snake on Eastwood.
In an interview, John Carpenter said the story was inspired by the science fiction novel "Planet of the Damned" by Harry Harrison, which was about a man, who is sent to a place, with no choice to do a job.
Ox Baker struck Kurt Russell very heavily with some of his blows during the boxing ring fight scene. Russell had finally had enough and asked Baker to take it easy, tapping him in the groin to let him know he was serious. Baker then calmed down.
The Secret Service agent attempting to break into the cockpit of Air Force One at the beginning of the movie is Steven Ford, son of President Gerald Ford.
The studio wanted Tommy Lee Jones for the role of Snake Plissken. The studio didn't think Kurt Russell was right for the role because of his prior work.
John Carpenter originally wrote the film in the mid-'70s as a reaction to the Watergate scandal, but no studio wanted to make it because it was deemed to be too dark and too violent. That all changed after the success of Halloween (1978).
The name "Snake Plissken" was changed to "Hyena" for the Italian release, and "Cobra" in Korea.
John Carpenter and his crew convinced St. Louis authorities to shut off the electricity for ten blocks at night.
"Everyone's Coming To New York" is the song being sung at the stage show where Snake first meets Cabbie. The lyrics are as follows: Shoot a cop/With a gun/The Big Apple is plenty of fun/Stab a priest/With a fork/And you'll spend your vacation in New York/Rob a bank/Take a truck/You can get here by stealing a buck/This is bliss/It's a lark/Honey, everyone's coming to New York!/No more Yankees/Strike the word from your ears/Play the roulette/There's no more opera at the Met/This is hell/This is fate/But now this is your home and it's great/So rejoice/Pop a cork/Honey, everyone's coming to New York!
The studio also wanted Charles Bronson for the role of Snake Plissken but John Carpenter refused on the grounds that he was too old.
The line "I thought you were dead" was probably borrowed from Big Jake (1971). Every time John Wayne tells someone his name the standard response is "I thought you were dead".
The original negative was considered lost, but later found by the current owner of the film: MGM. It was subsequently used to create new elements for the special edition DVD.
The manhole covers in the film were all made out of wood. Real ones would have been far too heavy for the actors.
Actress Adrienne Barbeau and director John Carpenter were married at the time the film was made and released as were actor Kurt Russell and actress Season Hubley.
Infamous for bad movie retitling, the German dub of the movie is known as "Die Klapperschlange" (The Rattlesnake). Snake has a cobra tattooed on his abdomen.
The film's budget of $7 million was the largest that John Carpenter had worked with up to that point.
The President's downed plane was an old Convair 580 bought from an airplane graveyard in Tucson, Arizona. The plane was carved up into 3 separate pieces and trucked into the film's St Louis locations in the dead of night as they didn't have the requisite paperwork.
This was the first film to be shot on Liberty Island beneath the Statue of Liberty. The Liberty Island scene, along with the morning shot of Manhattan (where a helicopter is seen), were the only scenes of the film shot in New York City.
Donald Pleasence came up with a backstory to explain how he became President with his British accent, but John Carpenter didn't use it.
A scene in the beginning of the film where Snake and an accomplice rob a high-security bank, leading to his arrest and sentence to New York, was in the original script but was cut before release.
The fight scene in the boxing ring was filmed in the abandoned grand hall of St. Louis Union Station several years before the building's renovation. While the hall was extremely dilapidated, viewers can make out the stained glass window representing New York, St. Louis, and San Francisco in the background. This window is still above the front entry into the grand hall from Market Street.
Snake being based on Clint Eastwood has the added irony that Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef were in several "Spaghetti Westerns" together.
The only scene actually filmed in New York was the opening dolly shot, which follows a character past the Statue of Liberty.
The production design department would get their props by taking several dump trucks to the local garbage landfill sites and filling them up with junk like broken refrigerators and car shells.
Avco Embassy approached John Carpenter after the success of Halloween (1978) and The Fog (1980) to make a film based on a novel that they had acquired titled "The Philadelphia Experiment". When Carpenter got stuck on that project, he proposed instead his idea for "Escape from New York". Avco liked the idea and green-lit the project almost immediately.
Joe Unger is listed in the end credits as playing the character of Taylor, although his scenes (the bank robbery/escape prologue) were deleted; however, his name remains in the ending credits.
The idea of putting a wig on at one point in the film was improvised by Donald Pleasence on the set.
Director of photography Dean Cundey used a special lens - new at the time - to extract the maximum amount of light from night time shoots.
Back in June 2003, Production I.G. started pre-production on an 80-90 minute anime feature film based off of this movie. Mitsuru Hongo was attached as director and a script was written by Corey Mitchell and William Wilson under supervision of John Carpenter, Debra Hill and Kurt Russell. Carpenter was also going to score the music and Russell would of provided the voice of his own character Snake Plisken. The film was meant to be released back in 2005, however the project ended up shelved and the only thing that remains is a 30 second teaser trailer and a collection of character designs and storyboards.
The picture has become a cult movie since it was first released in 1981.
Kurt Russell's then-wife Season Hubley had just given birth to their son Boston Russell prior to doing this film. 'The Girl in the Chock Full O'Nuts' was her first role after Boston's birth.
Nick Nolte and Jeff Bridges were both approached to play Snake" Plissken, but were uninterested. Bridges later worked with John Carpenter three years later on Starman (1984), for which he was nominated for an Oscar. Kris Kristofferson was considered as a possible candidate for the lead also, but was not approached due to the failure of Heaven's Gate (1980).
Isaac Hayes's '77 Cadillac Fleetwood sedan with the fender-mounted chandeliers has been used as an influence for the modern-day art car - a vehicle decorated or customized as works of art. Two other vehicles used in the film (a late 1970s Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon fitted with rebar around the windshield and windows, along with Cabbie's Checker Cab with wire mesh cages) were the ancestors of the mutant vehicles seen at Burning Man (a public art festival outside Reno, Nevada) or during the annual Houston Art Car Parade.
The entire crew was plagued by persistent mosquitoes during a very hot and sticky St Louis summer.
Maggie's character was written with Adrienne Barbeau in mind.
Co-writer Nick Castle came up with the idea for the Cabbie character and also the film's ending.
Coincidentally, Lee Van Cleef appeared in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) in which Bing Russell (Kurt's dad) also had a small part.
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The skeletal weapons being carried by the police in the beginning of the movie are M16A1 rifles with the ventilated hand-guards and gas tubes removed. In reality, though the rifles can fire without the handguards, they are unable to fire with the gas tube removed. Cocking manually, the M16 can fire single shots even with the gas tube removed, but not in semi-automatic, full automatic or three-shot burst modes.
The final credit is a reference to a strip club and the dancers across the river from St Louis.
The film's setting proved to be a potential problem for John Carpenter, who needed to create a decaying, semi-destroyed version of New York City on only a shoe-string budget. He and the film's production designer Joe Alves rejected shooting on location in New York City because it would be too hard to make it look like a destroyed city. Carpenter suggested shooting on a movie back lot but Alves nixed that idea "because the texture of a real street is not like a back lot." They sent Barry Bernardi, their location manager (and associate producer), "on a sort of all-expense-paid trip across the country looking for the worst city in America," producer Debra Hill remembers. Bernardi suggested East St. Louis, Illinois, because it was filled with old buildings "that exist in New York now, and [that] have that seedy run-down quality" that the team was looking for.
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The film was shot from August to November 1980. It was a tough and demanding shoot for John Carpenter as he recalls. "We'd finish shooting at about 6 am and I'd just be going to sleep at 7 when the sun would be coming up. I'd wake up around 5 or 6 pm, depending on whether or not we had dailies, and by the time I got going, the sun would be setting. So for about two and a half months I never saw daylight, which was really strange."
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Cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson credits the film as an influence on his novel Neuromancer. "I was intrigued by the exchange in one of the opening scenes where the Warden says to Snake 'You flew the Gullfire over Leningrad, didn't you?' It turns out to be just a throwaway line, but for a moment it worked like the best SF where a casual reference can imply a lot."
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Popular videogame director Hideo Kojima has referred to the movie frequently as an influence on his work, in particular the Metal Gear series. Solid Snake is partially influenced by Snake Plissken. In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001), Snake actually uses the alias "Pliskin" to hide his real identity during most of the game.
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Scenes of the movie were filmed in the Swift Printing Company building in downtown St Louis, abandoned since Swift's move out in 1969. The building was renovated in 1991, and is now the home of the St. Louis Brewing Company - the makers of the Schlafly brand of beers.
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Bill Bartell was the pilot in the glider sequence at the start of the movie. He sold the glider to the production company, and then flew it. The glider used had the designation N2927B and was a Romanian-made IS28-B2.
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The movie's one and only ever sequel Escape from L.A. (1996) was not made and released for about fifteen years.
Some movie posters for the film featured a fallen Statue of Liberty which was a design concept which has also been used for not just this film but for others. The titles are The Planet of the Apes (1968), Escape from New York (1981), The Jupiter Menace (1982), and The Day After Tomorrow (2004).
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The 69th St. Bridge runs from the Upper East Side of Manhattan to Long Island City, Queens and would not terminate at Liberty Island as depicted at the end of the film.
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Tom Atkins' character name "Rehme is a reference to the President of AVCO Embassy pictures at the time, Robert Rehme.
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The original German one-sheet poster prominently misspells Snake's last name as "Plessken".
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When it came to shooting in New York City, John Carpenter managed to persuade federal officials to grant access to Liberty Island. "We were the first film company in history allowed to shoot on Liberty Island at the Statue of Liberty at night. They let us have the whole island to ourselves. We were lucky. It wasn't easy to get that initial permission. They'd had a bombing three months earlier and were worried about trouble."
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John Carpenter was interested in creating two distinct looks for the movie. "One is the police state, high tech, lots of neon, a United States dominated by underground computers. That was easy to shoot compared to the Manhattan Island prison sequences which had few lights, mainly torch lights, like feudal England."
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Chuck Norris was also considered to play Snake Plissken but turned it down. He later did similar films like this like the delta force movies, invasion USA, and the missing in actions and also the expendables 2.
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The Hartford, CT Summit mentioned in the film had two visiting Communist nations (People's Republic of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) - the USSR/Soviet Union ceased to exist in late 1991.
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The name of the prison was the "New York Maximum Security Penitentiary Manhattan Island".
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In 1979, 2 years prior to the film's release, a science fiction book entitled "Star Gold" by Leo P. Kelley was published. The story was about Brett Kinkaid, a wrongly convicted space policeman, serving a life sentence on Earth,which is now a prison planet and Kinkaid is given a job in return for his freedom and goes to a alien planet called Alba, to rescue a young woman from the planet's native inhabitants that are holding her hostage.
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Kurt Russell's stunt double was Dick Warlock on this feature. George Wilbur was also listed as one of the stuntmen. In Halloween II (1981), also written by John Carpenter, Warlock played the killer Michael Myers. Seven years later, Wilbur would go on to also play Michael Myers in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), exactly ten years after the original Halloween was released.
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Lee Van Cleef flew in from Los Angeles for a one-night shoot and flew out the next day. When director 'John Carpenter (I)' watched the dailies, he discovered that some of Van Cleef's close-ups were out of focus. Carpenter was forced to use some of the close-ups in the movie, since they couldn't afford to get the actor back. Cleef had also suffered a knee injury prior to filming and wasn't fully recovered when it came time to film his scenes. Van Cleef's wife Barbara Havelone was on set to make sure the actor could get through his scenes.
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John Carpenter was inspired by Death Wish (1974). He did not agree with this film's philosophy but liked how it conveyed "the sense of New York as a kind of jungle, and I wanted to make a science fiction film along these lines".
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Kurt Russell found it necessary to remove the eyepatch between takes, as wearing it constantly seriously affected his depth perception.
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Entertainment Weekly ranked this Number One on their "Guilty Pleasures Testosterone Edition" list in their March 30, 2007 issue.
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Season Hubley's character, the Girl in "Chock Full of Nuts," was originally named "Maureen." Said name was revealed only in the tie-in novel, never in the movie.
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Season Hubley received a 'special appearance' credit.
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Jeff Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones who were considered to play Snake Plissken, later worked together in Blown Away (1994).
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The film's opening title card read: "1988. The crime rate in the United States rises four hundred per cent. 1997. Now.".
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In the film, Air Force One crashes into a building in New York, when it is taken over by a terrorist group. That scene was a prediction of a tragic event that happened 20 years after the film's release. On September 11th 2001, terrorists hijacked four passenger airliners. Two of the planes, Flight 11 and Flight 175 crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and both towers collapsed, resulting in the deaths of 2,996 people.
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In 2015, Emily Blunt was rumoured to be taking the role of Snake Plissken for the reboot of the film.
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Both Donald Pleasence and Tom Atkins starred in the Halloween franchise, however they never starred in the same film. Pleasence starred in the Michael Myers storyline, whilst Atkins starred in the stand alone Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982).
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The film takes place in 1997.
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Kurt Russell based Snake Plissken in part on Bruce Lee, Darth Vader, Clint Eastwood and the Exterminator character that Robert Ginty made famous in the title role of The Exterminator (1980).
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In 1981, Bantam Books published a movie tie-in novelization written by Mike McQuay that adopts a lean, humorous style reminiscent of the film. The novel is significant because it includes scenes that were cut out of the film, such as the Federal Reserve Depository robbery that results in Snake's incarceration. The novel provides motivation and backstory to Snake and Hauk - both disillusioned war veterans - deepening their relationship that was only hinted at it in the film. The novel explains how Snake lost his eye during the Battle for Leningrad in World War III, how Hauk became warden of New York, and Hauk's quest to find his crazy son who lives somewhere in the prison. The novel fleshes out the world that these characters exist in, at times presenting a future even bleaker than the one depicted in the film. The book explains that the West Coast is a no-man's land, and the country's population is gradually being driven crazy by nerve gas as a result of World War III.
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The nick-name of Harold Hellman (Harry Dean Stanton) was "Brain".
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Director Trademark 

John Carpenter: [names] minor characters Cronenberg, Romero, Taylor named after fellow sci-fi/horror directors David Cronenberg, George A. Romero and Don Taylor.

Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The additional shot of Adrienne Barbeau's corpse (shot in John Carpenter's driveway long after principal shooting was completed) was added after a then teen-aged J.J. Abrams suggested it to Carpenter. Abrams saw an early cut because his father worked for the studio that produced the film, and pointed out to Carpenter that Maggie's death was never fully established.
Every character that says "I heard you were dead" to Snake, dies.
Once filming was completed, John Carpenter realized he hadn't covered off a shot of Adrienne Barbeau's death. So he shot the scene with his then-wife in their garage.
John Carpenter had originally considered a scene where Hauk reveals that the explosive charges in his neck were a hoax intended to coerce Snake into rescuing the President, but decided not to use it. Carpenter did, however, use said plot device in the sequel Escape from L.A. (1996).

See also

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