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Interviews > John Contini (Uncredited Prisoners: Escape From New York)
How did you end up being an actor?
I grew up loving film and TV and my parents supported my love. I went to Saint
Louis University and majored in theatre and education. I worked as a drama
teacher yet always kept my acting career going. About 20 years ago I went full
time as a professional actor.
How did you get
cast as an extra such as an Eye-Patch Prisoner for example in Escape From New York?
I was called in by my agent
for an audition and then called back in by director John Carpenter. I was
interviewed by him and read with him. He cast me as a prisoner.
Actually it is not an eye patch but rather a pair of sun glasses with one lens
broken out. Kurt Russell had the eye-patch.
Which scenes are you in
and how was the experience
filming your scenes?
I was involved
in probably a half dozen scenes and some wound up on the editing floor.
Originally I was to have lines but they wound up being cut also (I suppose for
I was in the street scene after Snake first arrives and walks past the
downed aircraft. I was warming myself by a street fire.
I was also in the scene Frank Doubleday (Romero) hands the severed finger of the
President to Lee Van Cleef (Bob Hauk). I am standing behind.
I am in the train station arena when Donald Pleasence (The President) is handcuffed to the wall
and Isaac Hayes (The Duke) was shooting at him. I am sitting on the floor by the bench
Isaac Hayes was sitting on.
My biggest scene is when I am standing above Kurt Russell with a crossbow
pointed at him.
Interesting story: the crossbow was real and the arrow was real and there was
only a small nail jamming the trigger. I was impressed that Kurt would let me
(this nobody extra) point this lethal weapon at him with such little security on
How long did you work on the movie?
I shot about 10
days, overnight until 4 to 6 in the morning and each evening would begin with a
trip to wardrobe and makeup, then the weapons trailer and then to the location
sites. There was not much time for rehearsal as most of the shooting time was
used in setting camera and lights. We spent a great deal of time sitting and
How was the experience working with the cast and
crew and what went on behind the scenes?
Most of the stars
were very friendly. Kurt Russell was very polite and pleasant. Ernest Borgnine
and Lee Van Cleef were always nice enough to spend time and talk with us. Donald
Pleasance kept us entertained with impromptu and hilarious presidential speeches
as his character.
One evening was especially memorable as I sat at the catered dinner table with
John Carpenter. He was very down to earth, easy to talk to and we shared our
likes and dislikes of horror films (and I was glad to say we had similar taste)
and he told me at that time about his next project: a screenplay by William
Lancaster based on the 1951 version of The Thing. We both agreed this was
What's your favorite memory or memories of working on the
My favorite costume
piece was the weaponed glove I got to wear. It was like something out of a
Mad Max movie.
Another great moment was spending time talking with Lee Van Cleef about his
appearance in Beast From 20.000 Fathoms. He was surprised that I knew and
remembered he was in that. It was one of his first screen appearances and
enjoyed it. We talked about his western movie appearances and he was a very
I will always remember being a passenger in one of the stunt cars with Jesse
Double: Donald Pleasence) as we did 360 degree doughnuts in the middle of an intersection. Scary but
What do you think of the movie personally?
Besides it being a cult favorite, I think it is a well
done and an original science fiction film. It has a unique and clever premise.
Carpenter's direction was very
prepared and he calmly set the scene and told the actors what he was looking for
and then let them create. He would allow over lapping dialogue which is very
similar to one of his idols, Howard Hawks. I was also impressed that he created
the music in the film.
What are you currently doing and what do you enjoy
doing in your spare time?
I am still
working professionally in theatre and film. I have received many awards for my
work and I recently just finished another film called Four Color Eulogy
which should be out soon. I directed and acted in over 200 theatrical
productions around the mid-west.
I am an avid comic book collector
and in fact was going into comic book art before I fell into acting.
- A copy of a newspaper article that ran during the shoot.