Press > Escape From New York > Exclusive Interviews > Garrett Bergfeld (Gypsy #2)

How did you end up being an actor?

I was very shy as a teenager and got into high school plays as a way to express myself and also to escape into the persona of some one else. Over the many years since then, I've done nearly 100 plays including turns as Hamlet and Macbeth. I've only done a few films and EFNY is certainly the most well known of those.

How did you get cast as Gypsy #2 in Escape From New York?

My initial audition was taped by a local talent agency and then sent to John Carpenter. Now you have to remember that this was 1980 and there was a TV commercial airing selling televisions sets and using the tag line: "My shirt is blue, my jacket is yellow, and my tie is bright red. If these colors don't look right to you, then you're not watching on a Motorola TV." So in an attempt to get noticed, I introduced myself on the tape, described the opposite of what I was actually wearing and then said, "If these colors look right to you, then you're doing the same drugs I am." It worked and when John interviewed me in person we had a good laugh about it.

How did you prepare for the role and how was the experience filming your scenes?

I'm in two scenes. The first is a very brief close-up as my character spies Brain and Maggie absconding with the President during the wrestling match. Then a few minutes later as the fight ends, I'm seen running up to The Duke in the balcony to tell him about it. The Duke leaves and I jump on the railing of the balcony with the line, "The President's gone! Brain took him!" John Carpenter told me before the shoot that he'd given me "the worst line I've ever written. But I have to clear the room of about 300 people. Do whatever you can with it." When it actually came time to shoot the scene, John was downstairs by the wrestling ring and I was up on the balcony. I realized that the crowd of extras down below was still loudly cheering Snake's victory and would never hear the line. So I took it upon myself to ad lib and very loudly shout, "Listen! LISTEN! LISTEN!" Once the crowd quieted down I delivered that immortal line of John's.

How was the experience working with the cast and crew and what went on behind the scenes?

I had just finished working on a very low budget local film and when I came on the set of EFNY, I was impressed by the efficiency and professionalism of the cast and crew. I was blown away by how the set designer had transformed St. Louis' Union Station into that wrestling arena. The atmosphere was exactly what the scene required. The first actor I met was Harry Dean Stanton (Brain) who, when I asked him where I could find one of the PAs (Production Assistants), responded by describing the guy down to the color of his socks... explaining that he was playing a memory game he had learned from his acting classes. I briefly spoke with Donald Pleasence (The President) who I found was quite aptly named. Ernest Borgnine (Cabbie) had already wrapped but I got to use his trailer for my dressing room. I did not get a chance to talk to Kurt Russell... he seemed to want his privacy. At a wrap party I spoke for a few minutes with Adrienne Barbeau (Maggie) and she was very kind and friendly. I should also say that she was even more beautiful in person than on the screen.

What's your favorite memory or memories of working on the movie?

My favorite memory comes from the wrap party after the shoot. John Carpenter told me that I should come out to L.A. to work as an actor. I told him I'd do that if he would promise to cast me in his next movie. John smiled and just said, "Okay." His next film was The Thing and I've always wondered if he was serious and if so, what role I might have been given.

What do you think of the movie personally?

I can't honestly say that EFNY is one of my favorite movies but I think it was a good film that achieved exactly what the director wanted it to. I believe it was one of John Carpenter's best.

What are you currently doing and what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Even though I've worked in St. Louis theatre semi-professionally for decades, acting was always just an advocation for me, albeit an important one. My actual vocation is as a college professor of Physiology which I love. I recently came out of a self imposed retirement from acting to do an original play called Black and Blue about the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO.

Thank you for your time, Garrett.