Press > Escape From New York > Exclusive Interviews > Larry Franco (Producer/First Assistant Director) 


How did you end up being a First Assistant Director and Producer and how did you and John Carpenter meet?
I worked as an extra from 1972 thru 1974. During those years I was applying to the Directors Guild of America Assistant Director Training Plan. I was finally accepted in 1974 and began my career in production. After a few years, I was working as a 1st AD. Kurt Russell (my ex-brother-in-law) called me and announced he had landed the role of Elvis for a TV movie and suggested I try to work on it with him. I called the production and asked for an interview with the director. I met John Carpenter the next day and he hired me as his AD.

How did you came to be both Producer and First Assistant Director for many John Carpenter movies such as Escape From New York for instance and how did you manage being both?

After I had done Elvis and The Fog, John and Debra Hill, who had produced Halloween and The Fog with John, asked me to join the producing team. In those early days, the movies were less complicated and it was unusual for someone to be the Producer and either the AD or Production Manager at the same time. Nowadays it would be impossible.

How did you and Producer Debra Hill collaborate?

I was mainly in charge of the physical production and Debra was mainly in charge of the script, casting and the interaction with the Avco Embassy. It was a great relationship.

How did you prepare for this project and what kind of challenges did this project provide? Were there any filming locations you wanted to use or was hard to get access to for instance? You originally wanted to use BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) in San Francisco for the Opening Bank Robbery Scene and Liberty Island had bombings by Croatian Freedom Fighters three months earlier that made it hard to get permission. Also, were there any problems with actors or the studio etc?

The biggest challenge for the movie was where to shoot destroyed New York. We knew it had to be practical, we didn't have the money to build the streets. We put the search out for an urban environment that was abandoned. Fortunately, we found a
three block area in St. Louis that had be ravaged by a fire storm three years earlier.

I don't recall ever discussing BART. We were always headed for Atlanta to shoot in the newly constructed, not yet opened MARTA system. As I recall we shot in Atlanta for two nights

I don't recall any problems with any of the locations.

The studio wanted to cast Tommy Lee Jones as Plissken and John fought hard for Kurt. That was a big battle won and I remember John being upset when he couldn't get Warren Oates for the role of Brain, but that turned out OK.

Were there any scenes or material in earlier drafts such as the Times Square scene or Snake on a futuristic motorcycle being chased by two helicopters scene for instance you were disappointed to see go?

I was not involved in the earlier drafts of the script so there wasn't anything in the script I read that was taken out.

Which scenes or locations were the funniest, hardest or most problematic to work on? How was the experience being the first movie crew to be granted permission to film underneath the Statue of Liberty at night for instance? Also, did anything mess up the shooting schedule? The car chases took longer than expected due to intricate lighting set-ups for example.

The most fun we had on the movie was the six weeks of all-nighters in St. Louis. We were on a role and everybody was into it. The work on the bridge was challenging as were the car chases, but none of it was insurmountable. I remember it as being on schedule. If not on schedule, we were definitely on budget. There really wasn't an option then. I didn't realize until now that we were the first to shoot on Liberty Island at night so it wasn't very special at the time! 

How do John and Kurt work together and were there ever any disagreements between them?

Kurt and John had no disagreements as far as I can remember.

How was the experience working with the cast and crew and what went on behind the scenes? How was the experience being Kurt Russell's brother-in-law for instance?

We were all young and in the movie business on location. I can't think of any other experience that can top that. We were having a blast, all of us. Kurt and I even today are the best of friends, but we rarely talk about our movie experiences. We spend most of our time talking about our families.

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

It has to be the St. Louis location work and the laughs we all shared together.

What do you think of the movie personally and how come John, Kurt and Debra reunited for Escape From L.A. and not you?

I love the movie. Escape and Starman are the top two favorites on my resume.

I wasn't involved because I was on another project when Escape From L.A. started production. I think the movie missed on several of levels. One of them being that audiences expected the visual effects to be better. It worked for Escape From New York, but Escape From L.A. was in different climate.

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

I am currently working on The Nutcracker and The Four Realms for Disney. I enjoy traveling and playing golf when I'm not working.

Thank you for your time, Larry.