Press > Exclusive
Interviews > Francis Delia
(Pre-Production Still Photographer: Escape From New York)
How did you end up being a Still Photographer as well as a Screenwriter and
I grew up as a rock 'n' roll musician with my brothers and we were signed to RCA
(Radio Corporation of America)
The Bruthers resurfaced on compilations when the internet arrived with Bad
Way To Go being recognized as a "garage punk classic". A Bruthers album was
released on Sundazed Records in 2003. We never became the second coming of the
Beatles so I became a photographer and operated as a commercial photographer in
NYC in the mid 70s and got some cinematography experience. When a work
opportunity brought me to LA, I opened a studio in Hollywood with some friends
where I took the photo of Kurt as Snake Plissken.
How do you work with people to get the photos you want?
It will always depend on the
scope of the situation, your crew and the talent in front of the camera. "Previsualization"
is always a key to getting what you want - imagine what you want to depict, then
organize the troops to get it on film. Working with those in front of the camera
is always a series of trials and errors - some subtle, some more extreme. (See
below for more details)
How did you get the assignment to be the Still Photographer for the promotional
pre-production photos for
Escape From New York?
My studio in Hollywood was very
often hired to produce and shoot key art for movie ad campaigns. I was
surrounded by a talented team that would build and help execute whatever was
required for me to light and shoot. A boutique agency called B.D. Fox & Friends
hired us to do the EFNY shot.
How long did it take to prepare for this project and how did you turn Richard
Hescox's pre-production art for
into reality? The skyscrapers depicted in his art were however missing in your
photos. Were these originally going to be in the photos as well?
I'm guessing the prep took a
day or two - simply an arrangement of barbed wire, set smoke, lighting.
Standard purchases/rentals were used to dress and/or light the set.
I never intended to use
skyscrapers per se but concentrated more on "mid-wife-ing" the birth of the
How was the experience working with Kurt Russell and how was Plissken's initial
Did he bring any clothes or suggestions to the set? In Hescox's art Plissken was
suppose to be bare chested and have a futuristic weapon for instance.
We were provided with a copy of
an ink drawing of the character. I was unaware of who the illustrator was. I can
say that the character depicted in the ink drawing I worked from was Clint
Eastwood, not Kurt. Bea Williams, our wardrobe stylist created the
zippered-no-sleeve black shirt off the drawing. The others in our crew were
Steve (Stephen) Sayadian and Paulie Peterson. I'm sure Paulie cobbled together
the prop gun and the tattoo.
Kurt brought nothing
special or any suggestions - we worked from the drawing plus any suggestions
from the agency. My studio pretty much prepped
and handled everything.
My memory of Kurt was a
cooperative bright-eyed young man eager to transition from Disney kid to full
blown movie star.
Where/when were the photos taken, how long did it take to do the shoot, how many
photos did you take and did you encounter any challenges or problems during this
At our studio known as Francis
Wolfe & Associates, 6646 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA. I can only say that the
photography was done prior to the Cannes festival that year. If the movie was
released in 1981, an educated guess would put the photo session in early 1980.
The shoot went for 3-4 hours. I photographed using 2 1/4" square Ektachrome.
Estimated frames exposed: 144 plus countless polaroids. One brief challenge came
when John Carpenter walked in mid-shoot; instantly enamored of the way things
were looking, he peered down the periscope finder on my Hasselblad. I think I
remember a slight "wow" but ever the director, John began to offer a lighting
suggestion (something about pin lights in Kurt's eyes) then thought better of it
realizing if it works don't risk collapsing the house of cards. (I used a
custom-built Gordon Willis-inspired directional soft key light).
What's your favorite memory or memories of working on the movie? Also, what kind
of comments from people have you got about the photos?
Favorite memory: A big wet kiss
(on the cheek) from Kurt when I presented him with a finished polaroid in the
dressing room after the shoot. Like you, not that many are aware that I am the
photographer, so I can't think of too many comments. My own (immodest) comment?
In a sense, I feel the real Snake was born that day at our studio.
What happened to the photos after the work was completed?
transparencies were processed by our lab and delivered to the client. I'm not
aware of any originals or outtakes other than that.
What do you think of the movie personally?
I'm a fan of all of John's work
and very much EFNY.
What are you currently doing and what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I am currently developing up to
2 dozen feature and television projects and have just finished the second draft
of feature film script The Forger. Our front burner series is entitled
Voodoo Guitar Man. I read a lot in my spare time: Norman Mailer, Ernest
Hemingway, listen to Bob Dylan and love to spend time with my kids,
grandchildren, friends and goddaughter.
Thank you for your time,
More about Francis Delia here:
Photo provided by Francis Delia