Press > Exclusive
Interviews > Howard Chaykin (Co-Executive Producer: Escape TV Series)
How did you
end up being a comic book artist and writer?
frequently and elsewhere, I became obsessed with comics at the age of four, and
from that point on, it was the only true ambition of my life. Anything else I've
done was the direct result of this ambition. Working in television was the
choice imposed on my when I came to realize I had the potential of becoming an
old man, and that I was never going to be a star in comics - so money was
needed. Hence, twelve years staffing television shows I'd never watch.
How did the Escape TV Series come about and how did you
get the assignment to be the chief writer for it?
I was working on what might arguably
be called the worst television show ever, Earth: Final Conflict. Another
writer on the show - I should actually say "writer," as far as I can tell,
he's never had anything other than the utter shit he wrote for this video train
wreck produced, was fired by one set of the executives, and I was a
counter-fire to just show them.
I immediately rolled into development on the TV series version of Escape From
New York - and there's no such title as "chief writer." I was hired to be the showrunner and co-executive producer. Trust me
- these titles, as ephemeral and
irrelevant as they may seem from the outside, are an imperative.
How come that you decided to set the show before Escape
From New York, aim for 100 episodes and having Snake be a roving agent for
the U.N. visiting surviving cities around the world and helping to bring
normalcy to the devastated populace instead of being a notorious outlaw? Who's
idea was it were more ideas discussed?
As in so many decisions made in the
world of low to no budget shitty television in that now lost era of utter dreck,
any and all of these decisions were logistic rather than creative. Tribune had a
pending deal with an Australian entity - the landscape thus dictated our creative
choices. My wife and I were already preparing to relocate to Australia when the
How involved were John Carpenter, Debra Hill and Kurt
Russell in the project and what kind of requests and input did they have? Was
there any talks who was going to take over the role of Snake Plissken or Bob
Hauk for instance?
John seemed to take a very laissez
faire attitude to the whole enterprise - he seemed, for the most part, not to
really give a shit one way or the other. Debra was deeply involved, contributing
absolutely nothing but obfuscation and pointless digressions that served no
one. Kurt was very engaged, and had the strongest sense of what could, should
and would be possible in a television series. He was also, I might add, a total
pisser - funny and fun.
We were seriously talking about casting Gerard Butler as Snake. Go figure.
How far was the TV Series developed before it was
cancelled and were any treatments or drafts written? If so, are there any
stories, characters, ideas or plans you'd like to mention or discus?
Any documents are long lost to
systems crashes, as well as staff changes and indifference at Tribune - so,
no - and sorry.
Is it true that Tribune Entertainment canned the plans for
the series after 9/11 and that it was turned down by all the major networks for
being "too dark and bleak"?
It is true they pulled the plug, but
well before 9/11 - and I've never quite understood why. And there were no "major
networks" in this mix - as all Tribune developed product, this was intended for
airing on US owned Tribune stations, then for foreign sales after the fact.
Were you disappointed that the TV Series was canned and
what did you look forward to the most about working on this TV Series?
Yes, I was deeply disappointed... and the idea of moving to Australia to
start this franchise seemed like a dream job back then.
What's your favorite memory or memories of working on the
Russell was the highlight of the experience.
I can't put a wonderful anecdote about Kurt up for the world to
see. Unfortunate, as it's a beautiful story, a perfect reflection of what I
gather is an honest man's genuine character - but this isn't the place.
quotes him saying something he might not want out there. Nothing scabrous, or
scandalous - merely self aware and not necessarily appropriate for the current
virtue signaling culture in which we find ourselves marooned.
What are you currently doing and what do you enjoy doing
in your spare time?
I'm working on book from Image, entitled The Divided States of
Hysteria, about the aftermath of the next successful terrorist attack on the
United States, which seems to have angered a tiny but loud chorus of willfully
ignorant narcissists. My spare time is spent obsessed with television and
Thank you for your time, Howard.