Press > Escape From New York > Trivia


• John Carpenter (Director/Co-Writer/Co-Composer) wrote the first draft in 1974 right out of film school (University of Southern California) and it was his first professional screenplay. He was inspired by the Watergate scandal and the increasing crime and urban decay going on in New York in the 70s which was something he had witnessed from a trip there. He also drew inspiration from the movies Dirty Harry (1971) and Death Wish (1974) as well as the Deathworld trilogy (1960-1968) novels by Harry Harrison which had a similar premise. Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) was based on a legendary punk teenager a friend of his from film school knew of from his high school in Cleveland named Larry "Snake" Plissken who also had a snake tattoo. He literally wanted to be called "Snake". He also based Plissken on a collage friend who went to Vietnam and came back completely changed. Plissken is an alter ego of Carpenter as well.

John Carpenter tried to pitch the project to several studios but no one wanted to make it because it was deemed to be too dark and too violent. They also felt it made too much fun of the President. Richard Nixon had just left in disgrace and they felt it was too mocking.

• The movie got made due to a two-picture deal with the independent studio Avco Embassy Pictures (1942-1986). The Fog (1980) was the first movie in this contract and the second one was suppose to be The Philadelphia Experiment. However, John Carpenter could not come up with a third act while writing the script for this movie so he junked it and pitched his old Escape From New York script instead and the studio green lighted it. It was a little weird for him at the moment because he had lost interest in it having worked on it years before unsuccessfully. 10 weeks of pre-production work was granted and the budget was set to $7 million dollars. It was years since Avco Embassy had invested this much money in a movie but Carpenter convinced them that it was necessary. It was the largest budget Carpenter had ever gotten at the time but the medium budget was a bargain according to himself since it could have cost $30 million if they went all the way with it. In retrospect Carpenter himself says the budget was more around $5.5 - 6.0 million. 5.9 to be more specific. It forced him to cut some corners in certain areas and apply to his low-budget techniques. Avco Embassy also wanted the script to be a little more hipper and funnier so Carpenter rewrote the script with his former USC film school friend Nick Castle (Co-Writer) to add a little more humor in it. Something New Yorkers would expect to see. They also excised the script's most controversial material such as cannibalism. Carpenter did not want the movie to become too horror-esque. Castle came up with the ending of having Snake Plissken tearing apart the Hartford Summit peace tape and the Broadway element in the movie with the prisoners singing and dancing in the theater. He also added Cabbie (Ernest Borgnine) and chose the song Bandstand Boogie to be the song Cabbie plays in his cab and undoes The President (Donald Pleasence) at the end. Bandstand Boogie was also used and sung by Barry Manilow in the Bandstand TV series (1952-1989) as the opening and closing theme during 1977-1989. Dick Clark allowed Carpenter to use it. Brain (Harry Dean Stanton) was also fleshed out and more lines were added. Carpenter had also originally wanted Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) to kill The Duke (Isaac Hayes) but he felt it would be more effective if The President did it instead. He also originally considered the idea of having Hauk tell Plissken after he rescued The President that the charges in his neck were a fake and that it was all a hoax but Carpenter decided not to use it until Escape From L.A.

John Carpenter had to fight for Kurt Russell to play Snake Plissken. He wanted Russell to play the part due to his performance in Elvis, a TV movie from 1979 where Russell plays Elvis Presley which also Carpenter directed. It showcased his acting ability and mimicry which impressed Carpenter. Avco Embassy Pictures wanted Charles Bronson or Tommy Lee Jones to play the part. The studio was unsure about Russell and associated him too much with Disney comedies and Elvis. In fact, they were not that familiar with his work at all. Carpenter refused to cast Bronson (who was interested in the role) on the grounds that he was too old. Bronson's asking price which had gone up dramatically after the Death Wish films was also too high for Avco Embassy. Carpenter originally wanted Clint Eastwood (the role was written for him) but could not afford him and when Jones passed the deal to play Plissken the role went to Russell. However, the studio was still a bit reluctant about the main character due to his unlikeability but Russell convinced them that he should play the part because of his innately likeability. Him and Carpenter also decided to find moments for the character during production to counteract the studio's fear of him being socially unredeemable. According to IMDb's (Internet Movie Database) Escape From New York trivia page Nick Nolte and Jeff Bridges were also approached to play the character but were uninterested. Kris Kristofferson was supposedly also considered as a possible candidate for the lead but was not approached due to the failure of Heaven's Gate (1980). When Russell was promoting Elvis in Australia he met director George Miller who showed him a rough cut version of Mad Max (1979). Russell later called Carpenter and told him that he knew what kind of movie they should make next. Carpenter remembers getting a phone call from him where he said that he wanted to do a movie and he did not want to play a nice guy. Russell's brother-in-law at the time Larry J. Franco (Larry Franco) (Producer/First Assistant Director) had also told him about this futuristic movie Carpenter had been talking about and that he wanted Russell to play a guy named Snake. Russell wanted to read the script right away but Carpenter wanted to rewrite it first. The script was finished in the spring of 1980 and he finally got to read it and it was something he really wanted to do since he wanted to move on in a new direction in his career.

Kurt Russell came up with most of Snake Plissken's look. It was he who suggested the eye patch and the long hair etcetera. He also bought a shiny leather shirt from a guy he walked past in Paris just months before filming begun and knew immediately that it was the look Plissken's clothes should have. Avco Embassy Pictures did not like the eye patch idea that much at first because they did not liked the idea of covering half the leading man's face up. John Carpenter was onboard immediately. When he asked him why, Russell suggested that Plissken had an injury that was not quite fixed that he will physically visually carry with him. He also suggested that it might have abilities we do not know about since it was a futuristic movie and also described the patch like a scowl of a continuous moral pain that Plissken drags around with him. Two different patches were made. One slightly transparent for scenes involving running and jumping and one you could not see through in close-ups and such (the same method was also used in Escape From L.A.) However, it was problematic to adapt to it due to his limited depth perception and he only wore it prior to filming and never on rehearsals. Carpenter believes Russell got the idea of the eye patch from the movie The Vikings (1958) where Kirk Douglas wears one. The idea came from Russell who in reality had to wear one four days a month to improve a weak eye. Russell suggested to Carpenter to show Plissken lifting his eye patch and reveal that he had no eye but he did not want to go that far. Russell was also involved in adding the scar to tone his dimple down. In pre-production publicity photos of Plissken he was suppose to have the cobra tattoo on his left bicep instead of his stomach. Russell on the tattoo: "If you're going to have a tattoo of a cobra, that's where it should be." He was also going to have a rifle as opposed to a silenced Ingram MAC-10 machine pistol. His fatigue pants was also green but due to Plissken's history in the Leningrad war in Siberia they decided to go with something similar to black and white fatigues which also suited the movie's city surroundings much better. They also thought Plissken looked too much like a soldier and that it did not fit with the character's persona. The same goes for the combat boots which were switched to modified motorcycle boots with golf cleats added by Russell. However, these early publicity photos have been used widely for different Escape From New York merchandise such as posters and DVD's etcetera. Russell also came up with the performance. When he knew that Lee Van Cleef was going to star against him he chose to do his own take on Clint Eastwood's character in Sergio Leone's western movies. Carpenter on Russell's performance: "He made Snake his own, which is what I wanted him to do. He gave him more depth and dimension, and makes you care a lot more for him than I thought would be possible." The only discussion they have ever had about what Plissken would and would not do and such was during the filming of Escape From L.A. in an early scene where Russell requested to do another take of a close-up of him delivering some lines where he felt he did not have the character. Plissken's fighting style was also chosen to be quick and efficient due to him being a good fighter. Russell also got ready to play Plissken by working out at Vince's Gym for four months. He also did most stunts himself as requested by Carpenter and cut himself up a lot. Sometimes when Russell came home from shooting he was so tired that he did not change his wardrobe and some mornings he found himself taking care of and feeding his few months old son Boston with his Plissken clothes on. It was a tough movie to make according to Russell in 1981 due to all the locations and physical stuff but also the most enjoyable movie he has done because it was a family affair. Season Hubley (The Girl in Chock full o'Nuts) was married to Russell at the time, Adrienne Barbeau (Maggie) was Carpenter's wife at the time and Larry Franco was Russell's brother-in-law at the time.

• The movie got an R rating before it was filmed due to its concept of a president being held for ransom which upset Kurt Russell.

The movie came in under schedule and the only part that went over budget was the production design. The set budget was less than half a million. 

The movie was filmed from August 04, 1980 to October 09, 1980.

• The movie had the alternate titles: Escape From New York City, Breakout, Safety Catch, Ten Seconds to Split, Survival System, Pulsing Red, The Barron, Walled In, Black Dawn, The Slag, The Detonated Man, Mad City, Slam Dome, Skaow City, The Crusher, Snake's Fist, The Panic, The Limit and Snake Karness.

Early drafts had scenes such as Snake Plissken on a futuristic motorcycle being chased by two helicopters, The Statue of Liberty being a guard tower, escape raft prisoner surviving the blast from the helicopter and then being shot in a beach, Plissken having an altercation with a guard in a quarantine room and later kneeing him in the groin in a hallway, Hauk showing Plissken aerial photos of gangs in a screening room, Plissken stepping inside the wreckage of Air Force One and seeing a scalped pilot, Plissken locating the bum with The President's coat and vital signs monitor in an anteroom in a brownstone house, Plissken driving through a completely wrecked Times Square and a car graveyard, The President being kept in a graveyard chamber, The Duke target practicing at The President in a junkyard, Plissken being ambushed by The Duke in a sub-basement garage in World Trade Center, two gypsy cars chasing the taxi at the bridge, The Duke being killed by troopers, Plissken throwing a cigarette at The President which lands on the documents (not tape) etcetera.
 
John Carpenter also had to fight the studio to get Lee Van Cleef as Hauk. Avco Embassy Pictures wanted Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster or William Holden. Lee was reluctant at first but accepted the role when Carpenter wanted him to play the role with his earring on. Lee also had a hard time walking during the shoot. His knee was hurt from a fall of a horse and it had not been fixed so his wife was also on the set to look after him. Hauk and Plissken walking down the corridor at the beginning of the movie was the hardest for him to do because it required him to walk and talk at the same time. He also altered some speech patterns to make them sound more natural for him. Carpenter was also forced to use out of focus close-ups of Lee since he had already left town and could not afford to get him back. Hauk was named after a math teacher in high school who also was a tough guy.

• Ernest Borgnine originally wanted to play the role of Hauk since he found the Cabbie role to be too easy for him but Lee Van Cleef had already been cast. Adrienne Barbeau recalls that he spent every moment that he was not on screen memorizing a one man show he was going to go on the road with after this movie. Isaac Hayes remembers him fondly telling acting anecdotes and stories at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge (69th Street Bridge). Cabbie was also written with him in mind.

British actor Donald Pleasence was reluctant to play The President because he did not think someone not from America could play the part and with an English accent. The United States constitution requires that the president must be a native born citizen of the United States. John Carpenter had to convince him to do the part by writing him a long letter where he explained the comedic elements and why he needed him. Carpenter also made up a story for him how he became the president suggesting that he was a love child between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Carpenter wanted Pleasence because of his role and performance in Roman Polanski's Cul De Sac (1966). Someone abused and scorned who completely loses his dignity. Pleasence also made up a story how he got to be president, including an explanation for how the character was born in the United States and could have an English accent. According to Carpenter it had something to do with Thatcher taking over the world and making the United States a colony again but he never used it since the audience would not care. Pleasence also drew on his own wartime experiences as a prisoner of war for his performance as the imprisoned president. He was a World War II pilot in the Royal Air Force who was shot down and then held and tortured in a German prisoner of war camp where he spent the remainder of the war. On a funnier note, several cast members including Adrienne Barbeau and Isaac Hayes had a hard time holding a straight face in scenes with Pleasance. "He's one of the funniest men I've ever worked with.", recalls Barbeau.

• Isaac Hayes used his experiences being in a gang and living in the ghetto for the part and also suggested the eye twitch to John Carpenter as a kind of signal for The Duke's emotional excitement. Carpenter recalls that he also suggested that he should only twitch when he saw Snake Plissken. He had been given three scars by the make-up department and suggested the twitch to Carpenter with the possibility of a severed nerve due to the slashes. Carpenter wanted the character to have a gimmick of some sort and make him into an eccentric figure and agreed. Hayes also worked out too hard in St. Louis and was so sore that he could hardly walk. Kurt Russell used to call him up in the mornings and work out together. Russell recalls that Hayes answered in the deepest baritone you would ever hear. He was also handpicked by Carpenter for the role since they wanted someone colorful, flashy and unusual. He had seen him on the TV series The Rockford Files and liked the way he looked. They met in Atlanta where Hayes lived while filming scenes from the deleted bank robbery opening sequence.

• John Carpenter and Debra Hill (Producer) originally wanted Warren Oates to play Brain. The role was rewritten to fit him but the actors strike forced him into a bind with another contract. However, Harry Dean Stanton turned out be a great replacement, rehearsing constantly between takes and searching for different values and emphasis in his lines. When he was offered the role on the phone by Carpenter he requested to be able to change his lines if he did not like them and Carpenter agreed as long as he did not mess with his plot. His adlib caused some creative differences between both of them on set though. He played the role like a young poet according to himself.   

• Adrienne Barbeau roasted and then boiled a turkey breast clean to use it as a hair clip and painted her nails silver for the role suggesting that they had melted down batteries due to the lack of beauty supply stores in the prison. She also had to learn how to use a .357 Magnum for the role. In fact, it was the first time she had fired a gun. She ended up with the worst backache she had ever had, from the tension involved in learning to shoot it on the first day at the firing range. On the second day she hit two bull's eyes in a row. The gun made her very uncomfortable and she have not used it since. It is also one of the few movies where she could wear her own hair without having to get it straightened out. Maggie was also written with her in mind.

• Tom Atkins (Rheme) recalls that he "smoked his ass off" due to his character's constant smoking in his scenes which was John Carpenter's idea. His character name "Rehme" is a reference to the President of Avco Embassy Pictures at the time, Robert Rehme.

• Frank Doubleday (Romero) made the role his own and got his hair to stick up the air etcetera. It was all his characterization.

• Dean Cundey (Director of Photography) took full advantage of the Ultra Speed Panatars lenses from Panavision which were new at the time. They permits filming at incredible low light levels with the resulting footage exceptionally sharp. Escape From New York was one of the first movies to test the system. Another first is the use of a computerized light modulator invented and built by Cundey and his friend, electronics engineer Joy Brown which allowed Cundey to mimic the light patterns of fire instead of relying on actual fire during production. The HMI (Hydrargyrum Medium-Arc Iodide) lighting had also become practical. It is a very high outpost light that produces light the color of daylight as well as an intense bluish light. It was used for night exteriors and lighting large areas. They were purchased from the lighting team and then sold back to them. Cundey was always looking for ways to make Manhattan otherworldly and also give it a primitive look. Using strange colors for the street lights which they imagined were run by a small amount of electricity in the movie and occasionally using fires as the only light source contributed to that. 

• Joe Alves (Production Designer) gave the movie two distinctive looks by making the United States Police Force world look futuristic and the Manhattan world look medieval and it was a challenge due to their extreme opposites. He wanted to prove that they could make a very medium budgeted movie and make it look more expensive in a time of financial excess and money just being flaunted indiscriminately. He did this from re-doing existing things, building only what you need and tie into them to confuse the audience as to what is real and what is not. Aside from the sets he also designed the Air Force One escape pod and the radar tracer bracelet etcetera. He also had a hand in the creation of the small "security guard" robot in the Bank of the United States Colorado Federal Reserve from the deleted bank robbery opening sequence. To prepare for this project he, John Carpenter and Larry Franco storyboarded the effects in a room for two weeks.

Steven Loomis (Costume Designer) found Plissken's jacket at a vintage clothing store. It is a 1930s "California Sportswear" brand motorcycle jacket in horsehide. He also did some of his costume shopping at city dumps. The biggest challenge for him was to design the stars outfits which had to be special yet at the same time blend in and be plausible. The inspiration came from photos and books of ancient cultures.

The special effects (involving matte paintings, glass paintings, models and time-lapse photography etcetera) were provided by Roger Corman's New World Pictures special visual effects team. Future director James Cameron (Director of Photography/Matte Artwork: Special Visual Effects) worked here and the Manhattan skyline at Central Park matte painting was one of the matte paintings he worked on. John Carpenter on Cameron: "At one point, Cameron was finishing up just minutes before the scene was shot, so the paint was still wet." He also worked on the Air Force One exterior scene and built the cloudscape which was made out of polyester fiberfill and held up by screening wires. Carpenter first approached John Dykstra and Universal/Hartland to provide the effects but their price tag and celebrity attitude was outrageous according to himself. Debra Hill recalls that he wanted $1 million as his fee. However, a number of specialists, including Dykstra were consulted and their ideas were incorporated into extensive instructions for the New World technicians who agreed to do the project for $360.000. He also approached Jim Danforth but he was involved in another project. Roger Corman had just done his most expensive movie he had ever done, Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) and as a result of that movie a visual effects facility had been built. After the movie was finished they were out of a job and at a party Cameron met Joe Alves who said they were looking for a special effects facility for their 25 shots that they needed to be done. Cameron said they had one not in use which could be ready in a week and guaranteed they would underbid everybody. Corman had no idea that Cameron was selling out his place. Luckily he could keep the facility alive using other people's money until he needed it again which was for Galaxy of Terror (1981) just after Escape From New York was finished.

• Nearly 95 percent of Escape From New York was filmed at night. It proved to be physically exhausting for John Carpenter who took every vitamin known to man through his then wife Adrienne Barbeau who had brought a large apothecary jar with her. For about two and half months he never saw daylight.

• Most of the deleted bank robbery opening sequence was filmed in Atlanta and the camera dolly broke down during the filming of the Colorado Terminal Corridor scene at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport so John Carpenter had to use a sound cart for the camera.
Joe Unger's (Taylor) blood squibs would not work so they had to redo the scene over and over at Dome/GWCC/Philips Arena/CNN Center Station. They originally wanted to film parts of the deleted opening bank robbery sequence at BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) in San Francisco but they were not too crazy about the plans they had in mind.

• The only scene shot in New York was the dolly shot of The Statue of Liberty introducing and following Rehme into a sentry post with a helicopter in the background. The morning shot of Manhattan where a helicopter is seen was also filmed here. These were the last scenes to be filmed for the movie. They were originally going to be filmed August 05, 1980 but had to be postponed to October 09 due to the actors strike which did not affect the production much otherwise due to a signed interim agreement to permit production. New York officials not only approved the script, they also helped them to shoot on Liberty Island. In fact, it was the first movie in history to be allowed to shoot underneath the Statue of Liberty at night. However, there were many New Yorkers that were defensive and hostile about seeing New York as a prison. On the contrary, a lot of New Yorkers did not think it was science fiction at all. They had the whole island for themselves for an all-night shoot. They were extremely careful and cleaned up their messes afterwards. It was not easy to get permission though. Only three months earlier they had bombings by Croatian freedom fighters and they were worried about trouble.  

• The majority of the movie was filmed in St. Louis, Missouri which had four city blocks burned out on April 02, 1976 during a massive urban fire. The area was more or less abandoned due to economic trouble at the time. It had a run down look that they wanted. The city's architecture was also similar to that of a major east coast city and it also had a big and accessible yet closed bridge within close proximity (Old Chain Of Rocks Bridge) as well as an old abandoned train station (St. Louis Union Station). They decided early on that New York was not going to work because the look there would be much harder to control and make it look like a devastated city after a trip there while standing on the top of the World Trade Center. Budgetary restraints and lack of necessary permission also prevent them to shoot the movie there. John Carpenter suggested going to a movie back lot and trash it but Joe Alves convinced him to use real streets for a more authentic look. The manhole covers were however made out of wood due to real ones being too heavy and the streets were sprayed with water to give them more texture. It was Barry Bernardi (Associate Producer/Location Manager) who found this city with a goal to find the worst city in the United States. He also scouted in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit and New York. Adrienne Barbeau recalls being warned several times that it was not a good area of town to go walking. This led Donald Pleasence to order a cab to a Chinese restaurant the hotel had recommended to him. The cab driver drove him around the block to the back entrance of the hotel where the restaurant was located across the street. Kurt Russell recalls running down a street in character around a corner without a crew visible and facing rugged residents in St. Louis who quickly backed off. He later told Carpenter that this character is probably going to work.  

The city of St. Louis was very cooperative and helpful. They allowed the production to shut down all the electricity in this part of the town and do whatever was needed. The police, street, lighting and fire departments all helped out. It was the first major film in 15 years the city hosted so they did not even have a film commission. It was the biggest and most expensive film to be filmed in the city.

• Around 600 people auditioned in St. Louis and about 150 extras were chosen. Among them 30 Gypsies, 28 Broadways and 55 Prisoners. Only 13 were women. A punk rocker who played a prisoner intimidated Kurt Russell due to his aggressive appearance and stares until Russell asked his girlfriend what his job was. The answer was hair dresser. A reporter from St. Louis Post-Dispatch was cast as a Crazy and he wrote three articles about the movie and his experiences.

• An average day started at the office at 2:00 PM. Dailies were screened between 4:00 and 5:30. The lightning and prop crews would go to work with John at 6:00. The actors would start arriving for make-up and costumes. Dinner and sunset watching followed until 8:30. Filming began a half hour later and stopped around 5:30 in the morning. They wrapped Saturday midnight and Sunday was a day off. Everybody was so exhausted they would go to bed and get up at noon Sunday and disrupt their usual sleeping pattern. The crew had to find ways to stay awake all nights on weekends but bars closed at 1:00 AM in St. Louis. Luckily for them they could drive across the river to Illinois where a strip joint named P.T.'s stayed open till 5:00. P.T.'s is mentioned in the credits of the movie.

• The movie was shot in the summer of 1980 in St. Louis during a searing heat wave. The temperature was around 95-110 degrees at midnight. The entire crew was also plagued by persistent mosquitoes. Especially at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge (69th Street Bridge.)

• The Missouri National Guard was used in the first attempt to rescue The President sequence in St. Louis. The Huey helicopters were also provided by them. It started out with 30 men pouring out of the choppers and into the streets but ended with only 15 tired Guardsmen left due to heat exhaustion, hard to see through helmets, a broken ankle and a dislocated shoulder etcetera.

• Three dump trucks were used to transport junk from local garbage landfill sites and every night bulldozers piled up mountains of garbage and old cars to prepare for the night shooting. During the day all the debris, garbage and ruined cars had to be stored in a local junkyard due to morning-rush traffic. Carpenter deliberately chose to populate his future with classic cars because he wanted to include a little bit of reality and a little bit of the past to give the movie resonance.   

• The Air Force One wreckage was an old DC-8 bought from a guy in St. Louis. Joe Alves and his assistant art director Chris Horner were first at an airplane graveyard in Tucson, Arizona scouting for parts when the guy there told them about this plane for sale for
$8.000 in St. Louis. The plane was carved up into three separate pieces and had to be trucked to the film's location in the dead of night as they did not have the requisite paperwork and a guard had to be brought in for eight hours to prevent curious visitors to get away with pieces of the plane. The next day the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had a picture of the sight along with eye witnesses telling them having seen it crash.

• The Grand Central Station scenes were filmed at the Union Station in St. Louis which was as mentioned abandoned at the time. They didn't have to dress it much. It was once the busiest and largest passenger rail terminal in the world. Its operation ceased in 1978 and in the early 1980s the Station underwent a $150 million restoration. It was reopened 1985 as the largest adaptive re-use project in the US (United States) housing a 539 room Hyatt Regency Hotel (St. Louis Union Station Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton), a 10-screen movie theater, luxury offices, a lake, four active train tracks and a plaza for festivals, concerts and other special events.

• The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge (69th Street Bridge) in St. Louis was purchased for $1 from the government by the production team (or more specific the United States Army of Corps of Engineers) and then returned it to them for the same amount after filming was completed so that they would not have any liability. Joe Alves also considered building a section of a bridge near a huge wall.

The wall at the bridge took one month to construct by 65 crew members and it was 33-feet-high and 200-feet-long. The buildings on the side of the 69th Street Bridge entrance were also built by the film crew.

The scenes at the bridge took four days to shoot and the car chases were the single most difficult part of the production. John Carpenter had never directed such scenes before and was delayed by the intricate lighting set-ups.

They worked on four different versions of the taxi on the bridge.

• Roy Arbogast (Special Effects Supervisor) had liquid smoke shipped to St. Louis from Los Angeles which was brought into a plane unchecked as a flammable material. The bottle broke and it started to smoke while landing. The pilot thought the plane was on fire and a runway for emergency landing was prepared. FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) later came to the production office in a St. Louis hotel and questioned the production office coordinator Chip Fowler. They also later came to the Old Chain of Rocks bridge to get the liquid smoke. Later there was a claim that they had to settle for years afterwards with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and the production company ended up having to pay $10.000.

During a day off in St. Louis a bunch of the crew consisting mostly of camera men went to Hannibal, Missouri to see where Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) lived. Mark Walthour (Gaffer) was a big Mark Twain fan and he organized it.

A trailer was stolen from the set and a $500 reward ad was put in St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

• Kurt Russell worked out at a YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association) everyday in St. Louis unaware of its gay culture and was approached by men in the showers who admired the result of his training. 

There was still a big mess on the streets when shooting was over and the studio was billed a pretty penny to have it cleaned up.

• 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 hand guards 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. M16A1 rifles were used in Vietnam and John Carpenter originally wanted to "class up" weapons used in Vietnam as well as some of the present-day automatic weapons and make them very deadly but not to the extent of being lasers or ray guns. Snake Plissken's gun is an Ingram MAC-10 machine pistol and was also used in Vietnam. The sound of the gunfire of his Smith & Wesson Model 67 with a scope mounted on it was processed to make it sound slightly futuristic.   

• The model of Manhattan measured 10 foot by 10 foot and was built by four-five guys including Robert Skotak (Matte Artist/Uncredited Supervisor: Special Visual Effects), Dennis Skotak (Director of Photography: Special Visual Effects), Steve Caldwell (Camera Assistant: Special Visual Effects) and Tom Campbell (Engineer: Special Visual Effects) and they had around 10 days to build it. To make an accurate Manhattan they photographed a map of it and projected the negative in a slide projector on a wall and made the foundation out of plywood. Due to the modest budget they had to use cardboard and Xeroxes for the buildings and hand colored them with color pencils since they did not have the option for color photographs. A pamphlet of Manhattan was used to match the scale of the buildings.

• Secret Service #2 (the blond guy with glasses banging on the cabin door) in Air Force One is played by Steven Ford, former President Gerald Ford's son.

• Kurt Russell came up with an idea about a self-lighting cigarette. They did try to make it work but due to budget it never really materialized. It also burned his fingers.

• John Carpenter paid tribute to director George A. Romero and David Cronenberg by naming two characters in the movie: Romero and Cronenberg (John Strobel).


• The Hartford, Connecticut summit mentioned in the movie had two visiting communist nations: People's Republic of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The latter ceased to exist in late 1991.


• Bill Bartell was the pilot in the glider when it took off and landed. 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. During the World Trade Center roof top landing scene it bumped and smashed against the edge so it took two years to get it sold by Debra Hill. In the meanwhile she leased it to a school that taught gliding in the Mojave Desert. Bartell nailed the landing in one take though. Hill first hired a helicopter to scout for a suitable roof top in San Fernando Valley to land on but it was deemed too dangerous because of the lack of light required for the scene. Three miniature gliders in different scales were also made by Eugene P. Rizzardi (Gene Rizzardi) for the movie.

The graphic displays in the movie were not computer graphics. Computers capable of 3D wire-frame imaging were large and expensive machines located at large corporations and universities at the time. The effects required for the movie were also too complicated to achieve on a computer. Instead, three model sets were built by John Wash (Graphic Displays) and Mark Stetson. John C. Wash on the models: "One was a 4" by 8" model of the island of Manhattan. The buildings were made of white plexiglass that was cut to size and painted black. The edges was then routed to reveal a white line on each edge. The other set of models involved larger scale buildings, about 24 to 36 inches high so that they could fly a motion-control camera (Elicon Camera Control System) with a snorkel lens between rows of these graphic skyscrapers. These larger models were made of wood and cardboard, with high-contrast lithographic line art glued onto them. The models were shot at the original Dream Quest facility, which at that time was in the garage of a '50s ranch-style house just south of Santa Monica. Once we had shot all of the models on high-contrast film, the footage was then colored and combined with graphic overlays at Modern Film, an optical effects house in Hollywood." The large wireframe city model sets were also used in early pre-production in the model shop for Blade Runner (1982). Mark Stetson (Chief Model Maker) worked on this movie as well and used it to experiment with the look of the city and then repainted and reused some for the movie.

When Kurt Russell was to work on the wiring to open the elevator on the roof of the World Trade Center the elevator control box exploded from the wall and burned his hands a little bit. It scared him more than it hurt. Afterward he told them to use the take for its element of surprise.

Debra Hill wore a sexy outfit and sweet talked the building manager to use the Century Plaza Tower buildings for the World Trade Center entrance scenes.

Everyone's Coming To New York, the song sung by the men in drag at the stage show scene where
Snake Plissken first meets Cabbie was recorded in post-production and was based on the song There's No Business Like Show Business. Steven Sondheim's song Everything's Coming Up Roses was their original choice and the one that was used for filming but somehow they could not get the rights from Sondheim to use it afterwards. Nick Castle wrote the new lyrics and the show was also choreographed by him. His parents were famous dancers and choreographers. The band consisted of Nick Castle on piano, John Carpenter on guitar and kazoo, Dean Cundey on sax, Barry Bernardi on violin and Clyde Bryan (First Assistant Camera) on trumpet. Carpenter also made a cameo as the United States Police Force guy sitting in a helicopter during the Central Park scene. He also dubbed Steven Ford's (Secret Service #2) lines.

• The actress playing the rape victim in the basement of the theater tried to talk John Carpenter out of doing this scene. This scene was cut out of the movie when it was aired for the first time on TV. This theater (Wiltern Theatre) was in a bad shape during this time and they had to acquire special permission to film there due to it being condemned. Carpenter recalls that people actually came in here to live.

The scene where Snake Plissken decides to sit on a chair in front of the escape pod was improvised on the set. 

The Girl in Chock full o'Nuts is played by Season Hubley who was married to Kurt Russell's at the time. She had just given birth to their son Boston Russell prior to doing this movie. The character was originally named Maureen which was revealed in the Movie-Tie In Novel. Maureen was described by Kurt Russell to be a "crime groupie" as suggested by Hubley since it would be more fitting in a penal colony. She was originally going to wear a t-shirt covered with crossed off names of criminals except for just one: Snake Plissken. The gangs Skulls and The Turks she mentions having been in and the latter one being in was based on real gang names Russell remembered from his neighborhood in Los Angeles.    

• The running gag used in the movie about everybody thinking Snake Plissken was dead was also used in the John Wayne western Big Jake (1971).

John Carpenter used his influence as a former USC (University of Southern California) student to shoot the interior library scenes at their facilities. The campus facility proudly allowed their famous graduate to erect a full-size oil rig in the middle of the floor for an entire day's shooting.

• The day scene was added during production since people felt the movie was going to be too night oriented and that the audience would want a moment of brightness at some point.

• The movie was suppose to have a food drop sequence but when they realized that the packages would fall behind the Manhattan skyline at Central Park which was a matte painting on a piece of glass the camera would film through they dropped this idea.

• Many sources mentions Madison Square Garden as being The Duke's lair. The correct building is in fact Grand Central Station. It is mentioned in the script as well as the Movie-Tie In Novel and Debra Hill clarifies this in the commentary track she did for the US Special Edition DVD.  

Professional wrestler Ox Baker (Slag) struck Kurt Russell very heavily with some of his blows during the ring fight scene. He also threw a trash can in Russell's face about five times. Baker had problems remembering the moves and began to swing very wildly. Russell finally had enough and asked him to take it easy, tapping him in the groin to let him know he was serious. Baker then calmed down. It was the hardest scene in the movie to do since it took a whole day to shoot and was very physical and somewhat dangerous according to Russell who also wore an eye patch. Real bats with real nails were also used in this scene. Russell got his payback when he was going to kill Slag with one. A nervous Baker had to lie still while Russell aimed his bat for a nail that was sticking out of a block taped on Baker's head. Luckily for him, Russell succeeded on his first try. Baker also cut his leg while he was entering the ring to shoot the scene. John Carpenter asked him if it hurt. Baker responded: "Does what hurt?" 500 extras were used in this scene.

The idea of being put a wig on while being in captivity was improvised by Donald Pleasence on the set.

CalArts (World Trade Center Lobby) would not allow Joe Alves to graffiti their walls so he had to use hundreds of yards of butcher paper instead. Students also helped out making the graffiti. Harry Dean Stanton ran up and down the stairs to make him look exhausted before the take where they run down to the lobby.

• The 69th Street Bridge was invented by John Carpenter since they could not stop the ten-lane, double-decker traffic of the George Washington Bridge and could not afford to rebuild it somewhere else. The 69th Street Bridge was built somewhere between 1980 and 1997 and Debra Hill suggested calling it the Richard N. Nixon Memorial or even the John B. Anderson Memorial but that was before the election. In a later interview Carpenter claimed naming it the 69th Street Bridge was a cheap adolescent joke. In a more recent interview he claims he did not know New York that well and that it was meant to be the The 59th St. (Ed Koch Queensboro) Bridge.

Snake Plissken was originally written to throw his cigarette at the president's chest and let it bounce it off his body at the end of the movie but Kurt Russell was not comfortable with that so a compromise was done to throw it in his direction instead. 

• Inserts and close-ups of Snake Plissken's life-clock on his wrist and interior helicopter shots had to be filmed additionally for the movie. Inserts of Plissken's hands on the joystick inside the glider, him crawling up the wall and The President's hand on the rope lever were shot at Roger Corman's New World Pictures/Venice effects facility where they built a portion of the wall on the parking lot. John Carpenter recalls that Kurt Russell had gained some weight a few month after shooting for the inserts so the costume did not quite fit.

Once filming was completed, John Carpenter realized audiences wanted to see what happened to Maggie after The Duke hit her with his car. Therefore Carpenter and then-wife Adrienne Barbeau decided to arrange and shoot the scene in their garage. Apparently this scene 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 movie and pointed out to Carpenter that Maggie's death was never fully established. Carpenter wanted a shot of Maggie dead as well.

• The movie had a crew of 180 people since it was a union-made movie. It was the first fully union-made movie John Carpenter and Debra Hill had ever done and in order to get some of the crew they had worked with earlier on Escape and into the union, Hill had to find a way around a catch-22 situation. You could not work on an union film unless you were in the union and you could not get in the union unless you had worked 30 days on an union film. Hill solved this by signing contracts with the ones they wanted on Escape before signing the union contracts. That way they had to honor the previous contracts.

• Every time something went wrong during production John Carpenter, Larry Franco and Jeffrey Chernov (Second Assistant Director) would cover their nose and grab their balls. This pose is described as: "We're going down!" Several other crew members did this as well.

Approximately 25 percent of the movie was shot using a Panaglide to draw the audience voyeuristically into the situations. The Panaglide is a variation of the famed and award winning Steadicam and allows the operator to achieve extremely steady hand-held shots, even in smaller areas.

• The wrap party was held at the Roller Boogie Palace and Kim Gottlieb-Walker (Kim Gottlieb) (Stills) who wore skates for the first time of her life got hit by a very large guy, fell and broke all three bones in her wrist. Debra Hill brought her to a hospital and stayed with her all night. This was on a Saturday night and since they had one more day left to shoot on Monday which was going to be the 30th day required to get into the union, Walker had to return with her arm in cast and take pain pills. 

• The Elicon Camera Control System was used to capture roughly 12 to 14 special effects segments. The exceedingly precise "computer-controlled camera movement repetition device," which earned its developers, Peter Regla and Dan Slater, an Academy Award in Technical Achievement allowed for the creation of in-camera mattes. In Escape From New York the device was predominantly used to recreate the movie's New York City backdrop. This eased and expedited the matting process by eliminating the need for more complex blue screen matting techniques. As a result, the sequences captured using the Elicon Camera Control System were completed nearly a month ahead of schedule.

Escape From New York was John Carpenter's and Alan Howarth's (Co-Composer/Special Synthesizer Sound) first project together. Howarth got acquainted with Carpenter when he worked on Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) as a sound designer where he slipped some cassettes over to the editor Todd Ramsay (who knew he was a musician) when he found out that his next assignment was Escape From New York and that Carpenter needed someone to work on the soundtrack with. Carpenter then came over to his house in Glendale where Howarth played him a few things in his dining room studio and it was a go. The score was created at Howarth's home studio with the entire latest technology. Howarth had to acquire a Linn LM-1 Drum Computer which had just been invented due to Carpenter's need for drums for instance. He called the inventor Roger Linn and and went to his garage where he had just done his first batch of them and purchased it personally from him. Linn even modified it afterwards for him. During the scoring session Carpenter brought in a Tangerine Dream and a Police record to the studio which had influenced him and also overdubbed the music to bring in more rock influences to it besides the synth work. Howarth decided to watch the movie on tape while playing the music to synchronize the movie with the music which was new to Carpenter at the time. A piano was also rented and Howarth achieved the sound effects in the Up The Wall part from the track Up The Wall/Airforce #1 by hitting the piano with his hands. The sound effects in The Crazies Come Out part from the track Back To The Pod/The Crazies Come Out were achieved by banging around on a pedal steel guitar with a steel slide. The Main Title is one of only two themes that Carpenter can think of that he had ahead of time instead of improvising it on the spot. It took some time for it to come out though. The rest of the music was improvised on the spot. Howarth about their collaboration: "I would prepare the studio, dial up all the sounds, create a palette for the synthesizer, keep all the sequencers and John's interest was to light cigarettes, have coffee and play black and white notes and then say, 'alright, give me something else, give me something else'. I was the engineer housekeeper person and my main job was to make sure the red light was on when he was playing." However, Howarth came up with the sequence for Chase Across The 69th Street Bridge.

Claude Debussy's composition Engulfed Cathedral is used during the glider flight into New York. It was not intended to be in the movie. Todd C. Ramsay (Todd Ramsay) (Editor) used it on the tempo track and John Carpenter felt that it worked well with the scene so they incorporated it. For some reason a few disgruntled folk claimed that Carpenter stole it without attribution but it is clearly credited in the end titles. It would be a crime against nature according to himself.

• Mr. Walter Abell and Lt. (Lieutenant) Col. (Colonel) Dennis R. Foley received a special thanks credit in the end credits. Abell was a director of street in St. Louis and Foley arranged getting the Huey helicopters for the Sepulveda Dam Flood Control Basin (Station 17/Liberty Island Security Control/Station 21/Central Park/Station 19) filming location located in San Fernando Valley, California. Foley about his involvement: "My involvement was so short that it's hardly worth your time. I was working in the Los Angeles Army Public Affairs Office and got a call from someone in the crew that they needed a few helicopters to fly over the Sepulveda Dam for the film. I made a few calls, arranged it with the local Army Reserve unit and it was done. I simply called the aviation unit to see if they could fly over. That's the extent of it."  

• According to IMDb's Escape From New York Trivia Page: "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." It is none of them. John Carpenter has confirmed this. That means that it was Kathleen Blanchard who did the voice. She also did the narration in Escape From L.A. Also, the prologue narration for the movie introducing the audience to the movie was added at the beginning instead of later on in the movie and a graphic display of a map was added as well. The early version Carpenter screened for a test audience confused them. Especially some kids who did not know that Manhattan was an Island that could be closed off.

The Movie Tie-In Novel by Mike McQuay includes more motivations and backstories such as Snake Plissken's parents being killed by the United States Police Force in a hostage situation, Plissken losing his eye due to gas in Leningrad, Plissken and Fresno Bob in Kansas City, New York being the first North American target to be attacked by deadly nerve gas (and fire bombs) as a result of World War III that turns the survivors into Crazies and then spreading and turning other poor Americans from a collapsed economy into criminals and Crazies, The United States Police Force being mad war veterans, Hauk's past being similar to Plissken's, Hauk becoming the warden, Hauk having a Crazy son living in the prison etcetera.

• John Carpenter and Debra Hill approached Marvel to make a comic book of Snake Plissken but Marvel passed on the deal, claiming they did not have enough lead time to be on sale during the movie's release. The Bally Pinball Machine Company was also interested in producing an Escape game.

• Avco Embassy thought they made too much fun of the president but John Carpenter told them to relax since it was in the future and that the audience would enjoy that. The studio also trusted the filmmakers and did not interfere during production.
 
The movie previewed to an enthusiastic audience as an unannounced feature at Filmex, the former-annual Los Angeles Film Festival. It had also been set to screen at the USA Film Festival in Dallas but was pulled from the schedule because they did not have the equipment to screen the movie's "double system (work) print".

Test showings were held in Hartford, Las Vegas, Newport and Victoria etcetera.

• Isaac Hayes and Debra Hill were sent to Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Washington and New York on a publicity tour in The Duke's '77 Cadillac Fleetwood together with the car's owner and designer Mario Simon. They also went to St. Louis where the movie opened on June 26 instead of July 10. Hayes went to several drive-in theaters and signed autographs as well. At the premiere party at New York New York in New York the car was parked illegally and got a ticket. Hayes was also interested in buying the Cadillac but a crew member beat him to it. The car 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 movie (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.

Kurt Russell could not get his family in the theater for free when watching it on the first with an audience in New York on 42nd Street. He could not convince them that he was in the movie.

• A convict escaped from a drive-in theater in Riverton, Wyoming while watching the movie with three other inmates and a guard during a supervised excursion.

• A youth gang about 20 assaulted a group in a drive-in theater in Carson before a screening of the movie.

• It was during this movie John Carpenter got exposed to helicopters for the first time and later he decided to become a pilot for many years. He started taking lessons in 1981.

In the Korean dub of the movie, Snake Plissken was called "Cobra" while in the Italian version he was called "Hyena".

When released in Italy the subtitles mistranslated nuclear fission as nuclear fixation.

John Carpenter about the Statue of Liberty's fallen off head in the poster: "Here's the thing - before the poster ever existed, we shot the Statue of Liberty, because it's part of the police base out there. So it was in the movie. That was put in the poster by the artist that did it, and I didn't have anything to do with it. Someone thought it would be an interesting idea - I don't know why - that something waaaay out over the water would be in the middle of the street. It didn't make any fucking sense, but it sold the film. So I wasn't thinking of that necessarily as much as I was thinking 'Boy, whatever knocked that head…' We were out there at night shooting the statue of liberty, and the sun came up on us - the crew - so we kind of trudged back across the water. It is forever to the city (laughs)! Forever! So I don't know about that, it's like throwing something from Heathrow over to London Bridge. So you go 'Wait a minute now…'. But I accepted it." - The Den of Geek interview: John Carpenter

• The original German one-sheet poster prominently misspells Snake's last name as "Plessken".

The movie grossed $25.2 million in American theaters in the summer of 1981 with around the same amount grossed in foreign markets. It was a modest box-office hit. In US the film opened to just over $4.1 million in box-office grosses on 579 screens, screening best in New York City, where it pulled in $922.367 from 96 theaters. An Avco Embassy Vice-President (Robert Rehme) identified the movie's 10-day opening of just over $9 million as the biggest in the company's history.

• Around 80.000 copies of the soundtrack on vinyl was sold in the 80s and it was the most expensive and eclectic score John Carpenter had created to date. It was the biggest selling soundtrack on Varèse Sarabande at the time and it helped them to establish their label. However, the images of Kurt Russell, Adrienne Barbeau and Donald Pleasence on the cover had to be covered by a yellow sticker with the composer's names on due to rights issues of the images. It was Alan Howarth's decision to release it as a soundtrack album after Varèse Sarabande had reached out to Debra Hill about the idea. Carpenter did not think anyone would listen to the music outside of the movie. Kurt Russell regards the score as one of his favorite scores ever. It is also one of his favorite things about the movie.

Kurt Russell has stated that Escape From New York is one of his favorite movie that he has starred in and that Snake Plissken is his favorite character that he has played. Plissken's costume is the only one he has ever kept from a movie. Although he gave away the boots and a shirt to his kids friends who were Escape From New York fans. Russell also got many fan letters from women after the movie. Many of them found the cobra tattoo very appealing. John Carpenter and Russell also got many fan letters about how Plissken lost his eye, but they have decided to keep it to themselves with many possibilities. One example being that he just decided to put an eye patch on one day and another one being due to gas earlier in Siberia or something as suggested by a letter someone wrote who most likely must have read the Movie-Tie In Novel. Carpenter and Russell have also decided to keep stuff about Snake's personality and statistics for themselves.

• John Carpenter's favorite sequence in the movie is Snake Plissken walking to the escape pod which includes him contemplating his hopeless situation which was not a common thing to do for a protagonist of this kind.

• Kurt Russell's favorite line in the movie is: "The President of what?"

John Carpenter has said in retrospect that he would have liked to have had a superimposed countdown clock during the 69th Street Bridge chase scenes.

• Ernest Borgnine kept Cabbie's hat in his home through his life.

Adrienne Barbeau still owns and occasionally wears Maggie's boots.

• Robert Rodriguez has said that after seeing Escape From New York at age 12, 1981 in a theater he knew he wanted to be a filmmaker
.

• The glam metal band Motley Crue was influenced by the Escape From New York look to stick out from the pack.

The movie was not shown on TV for around a year after 9/11 in the US.

• The movie Lockout (2012) was found guilty of plagiarism in 2015 and $95.000 was the original sum the makers were going to pay John Carpenter, Nick Castle and rights holder StudioCanal. The sum went up to more than $500.000 in 2016 after the movie's producer Luc Besson had appealed an original ruling in the case. StudioCanal also wanted to go after the video game Metal Gear Solid which they also felt was a rip-off but Carpenter told them not to do that because he knew the director of those games and consider him to be a nice guy.