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Interviews > Jeff Sillifant (Uncredited Prisoners: Escape From New York)
How did you get
cast as an extra in Escape From New York?
I owe that to Ann Robinson, 1953's War of the
Worlds star. She hooked me and some of our mutual friends up with a lady she
knew who cast non-union extras from her agency.
Which scenes are you in
and how was the experience
filming your scenes?
I was part of the group shouting at the
helicopter making a food drop in the only daytime sequence filmed. We shot that
at Sepulveda Dam in the San Fernando Valley heat and did around three takes
running through high weeds and stickers. The scene was cut to the bone, of
Another element of the sequence was
a skyline matte painting lined up with the foreground trash. Bob Skotak
(Director of Photographer: Special
Visual Effects/Matte Artist)
had a little bit of trouble getting it all matched
perfectly I think. Bob and his brother (Dennis Skotak)
(Director of Photographer: Special Visual
Effects/Matte Artist) were
there. We talked between takes.
They're both old friends.
1: Gang posed at food drop
Me out front at food drop
site after our portrait shoot
- Eric Caidin, owner of Hollywood
Book and Poster Co. and my dearest friend, is in
#1 wearing a cowboy hat at center. I'm to his left wearing sunglasses. We
lost him May 18, 2015 at age 62 while attending a Palm Springs film convention.
The Chock full o'Nuts shoot was quite an experience for me as a newbie to film
acting. I'm whistling past Kurt Russell as he sidles along the outside
restaurant wall before we moved inside. While John Carpenter put Kurt and Season Hubley
(Girl in Chock full o'Nuts) through set-ups, stunt man Dick Warlock and I were getting
prepared for the take-down scene in a cubbyhole under the floor. As Kurt is
machine-gunning Crazies bursting through the front door, Season tries to run
away but yours truly grabs her legs and pulls her under. This was pretty tricky.
Dick elevated me with his shoulder and arms in the cramped chamber and blew
smoke from a canister after the hole was boarded up with balsa wood. We had to
hold our breath as the scene above unfolded and the "fog" came close to turning
me blue by the time Season and I got up close and personal. Two takes on
that… don't think I would have survived a third. I was filmed crashing up out of
the floor and crawling directly toward the camera all mean and gnarly but my
close-up ended up on the ole cutting room floor. Between filming, a couple of fun
things happened. The Smothers Brothers, friends of Carpenter, showed up and we
had some laffs. The next night, a giant screen remote was rolled onto the
outdoor set in order to watch a Mohammed Ali boxing match, which he lost.
Me second from left
restaurant as Production Assistant (Geoffrey Ryan) prepares for run
Me sprinting past Snake
entire restaurant gang. I'm second from left holding a lethal weapon made out of
4: Kurt, Season rehearse with
Carpenter as I proceed into my hole
After pulling Season through
the flooring, I crash out. Cut scene.
- Mark Groseclose
#1 at left smoking a cigarette and
kneeling at my feet. Mark was part of the Wiltern and restaurant gang but didn't
get used for the drop. He died in 1988 at only 42. My best friend for many years.
Was the most talented soul I've ever known. He excelled as a surfer, band drummer
and artist. One of his greatest paintings hangs on my living room wall. He did
backgrounds on the animated TV series, BraveStarr from 1987 until his
Then came the stage show sequence in which Ernest Borgnine's Cabbie spies Snake
walking past him. The theater audience pan shot captures my zombie-like presence
before focusing on Cabbie happily rocking in his seat. Men in drag pranced
around and sang as Carpenter played the guitar and kazoo with his band at the
stage pit. A funny bit but somehow I managed to keep a straight face. Got my close-up after all! The entire sequence that began with Snake entering the
building was shot at the Wiltern Theatre in West Los Angeles before being
remodeled. During a break two of us wandered down the block to a grocery store
to glares and stares. The look on the cashier's face when two scummy-looking
tramps produced twenty dollar bills to pay for snacks was priceless. Only then
did we spill about our movie roles. Too hard to resist. The only input any of us
had dealt with choosing our wardrobes. I had three changes that included dirt
makeup and black paint spray to make the costumes look even more grungy. Other
than that we just followed the 2nd AD's (Assistant Director) directions.
Sitting in front of Cabbie at
the theater. It may look like I'm not enjoying the stage show but I'm laughing
How long did you work on the movie?
I believe the dam shoot took two
days. The restaurant shoot lasted four nights and
took us into the early morning hours. A lot of hurry up and wait as I'm sure you
My scene with Ernie only took two
takes each for the head-on and the side view when Snake passes by. Scenes away
from me took longer but I wasn't around by then.
How was the experience working with the cast and
crew and what went on behind the scenes?
The entire experience stood out since the only
other part I played was "Victim" in a much smaller science-fiction yarn called
The Aftermath, my only screen credit. A small business I started in 1977
regrettably prevented me from continuing with extra work. Just being involved in
a John Carpenter film, one that ultimately earned cult classic status, rewarded
me with a life highlight.
What's your favorite memory or memories of working on the
You know, my favorite memories involved the
goof-off time with my two best friends, Mark Groseclose and Eric Caidin, acting
out our characters with a juvenile lack of aplomb. I
miss them terribly.
What do you think of the movie personally?
It ranks #2 on my Carpenter film list. Have to
go with Assault on Precinct 13 as #1.
What are you currently doing and
what do you enjoy
doing in your spare time?
After a four-year stint in the Air Force
followed by a career as a newsman and police reporter in Los Angeles, I began
the aforementioned memorabilia business called Still Things. I sell movie and TV
photos, posters, autographs and other goodies through mail order and eBay after
a lifetime of collecting. Up through the 1990's I also sold at science-fiction
and other types of conventions. From 1995 to 1998 I co-hosted Starcon and
Hollywood Memories shows at the Pasadena Convention Center, sometimes bringing
more than 100 celebrity guests together. I quit that entire scene by moving to
Las Vegas with my wife in 2000. Wanted to get closer to my money.
Since moving to the gambling capital, I've written 11 thoroughbred horse racing
handicapping booklets, all of which have been Top Ten ranked by a racing
newsletter considered the bible of the biz. My wife, meanwhile, cares for all
variety of dogs in our Northwest valley home. Area friends and neighbors
appreciate having a place other than a kennel to leave their pets when taking a
vacation. That's the pinnacle of our adventure at the moment but plans for our
50th wedding anniversary next April are in the works, speaking of adventures.
Thank you for your time, Jeff.
Visit Jeff's Still Things site here:
Photos by Kim Gottlieb-Walker/Mark