Escape from New York (1981) Poster


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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 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 model of the city set was repainted and reused for Blade Runner (1982).
Ox Baker struck Kurt Russell very heavily with some of his blows during the boxing ring fight scene. Russell had finally had enough and and asked Baker to take it easy, tapping him in the groin to let him know he was serious. Baker then calmed down.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 name "Snake Plissken" was changed to "Hyena" for the Italian release, and "Cobra" in Korea.
The manhole covers in the film were all made out of wood. Real ones would have been far too heavy for the actors.
In an interview, John Carpenter said the story for Escape from New York 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.
Donald Pleasence drew on his own wartime experiences as a prisoner of war for his performance as the imprisoned President.
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.
"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!
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 only scene actually filmed in New York was the opening dolly shot, which follows a character past the Statue of Liberty.
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.
Donald Pleasence came up with a backstory to explain how he became President with his British accent, but John Carpenter didn't use it.
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.
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.
The studio also wanted Charles Bronson for the role of Snake Plissken but John Carpenter refused on the grounds that he was too old.
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 film's budget of $7 million was the largest that John Carpenter had worked with up to that point.
John Carpenter and his crew convinced St. Louis authorities to shut off the electricity for ten blocks at night.
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.
Nick Nolte and Jeff Bridges were both approached to play ""Snake" Plissken", but were uninterested. 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).
The opening narration is not, as some reported, provided by an uncredited Jamie Lee Curtis. The computer voice in the opening and in the first prison scene is producer Debra Hill.
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.
The idea of putting a wig on at one point in the film was improvised by Donald Pleasence on the set.
Back in June 2003, Production I.G. started pre-production on an 80-90 minute anime feature film based off of this movie. Mitsuro Hongo was attach as director and a script was written by Corey Mitchel and William Wilson under supervision of John Carpenter, Debra Hill and Kurt Russel. John Carpenter was also going to score the music and Kurt Russel 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 be shelved and the only thing that remains is a 30 second teaser trailer and a collection of character designs and storyboards.
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.
Director of photography Dean Cundey used a special lens - new at the time - to extract the maximum amount of light from night time shoots.
Maggie's character was written with Adrienne Barbeau in mind.
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.
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.
Co-writer Nick Castle came up with the idea for the Cabbie character and also the film's ending.
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.
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.
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 picture has become a cult movie since it was first released in 1981.
The entire crew was plagued by persistent mosquitoes during a very hot and sticky St Louis summer.
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.
The original German one-sheet poster prominently misspells Snake's last name as "Plessken".
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.
The film's opening title card read: "1988. The crime rate in the United States rises four hundred per cent. 1997. Now.".
Tom Atkins' character name "Rehme is a reference to the President of AVCO Embassy pictures at the time, Robert Rehme.
Season Hubley received a 'special appearance' credit.
The name of the prison was the "New York Maximum Security Penitentiary Manhattan Island".
The movie's one and only ever sequel Escape from L.A. (1996) was not made and released for about fifteen years.
The nick-name of Harold Hellman (Harry Dean Stanton) was "Brain".
Some movie posters featured a fallen Statue of Liberty which was a design concept which has also been used for not just this film but also The Jupiter Menace (1983) and the Planet of the Apes (1968).

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.


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.
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).

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