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Interviews > Larry Franco
(Producer/First Assistant Director: Escape From New York)
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
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.
scenes/locations/tasks were the most fun, hardest or 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!
do John and Kurt work together and were there ever any disagreements between
Kurt and John had no disagreements as far as I can
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 for 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.