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Interviews > Paul Chadwick (Poster Artist: Escape From New York)
How did you end up being an artist, writer for comic books and a
poster artist etc?
I was a comics fan as a teen, but at that time, the mid '70s, the
conventional wisdom was that comics were dying, supplanted by TV and mortally
wounded by the fading away of mom-and-pop candy stores. Of course, we couldn't
have been more wrong. Hobbyists and comic book stores came to the rescue.
Nevertheless, I figured I'd better use my love of drawing in another field:
illustration for magazines, advertising, and book covers. So I went to Art
Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, and earned a BFA (Bachelor of Fine
Arts) in illustration. I
freelanced after that, and also began storyboarding movies.
Ironically, drawn and painted illustration has very nearly disappeared from
magazines (which are themselves dying because of the internet) and books and
advertising, supplanted by Photoshop imagery. And comics have never had a higher
How did you get the assignment to do an Escape From New York
When I graduated from Art Center in 1979, there were a number of small ad
agencies in Los Angeles devoted to the movie industry, known as "Movie
Boutiques." B. D. Fox & Friends, Seiniger & Associates, and Rod Dyer are some
that I remember working for. They'd commission numerous illustrators to execute
perhaps twenty, thirty poster ideas. The studio people would pick one, or
combine elements of two, to go to finish -- whereupon one of the top
illustrators in town like Drew Struzan or Robert Tannenbaum or John Solie would
execute the finished art. I was one of the many comp artists. I think
Escape From New York might've been for B. D.
Fox. I was a pretty good sketch artist, though my painting skills weren't
top-drawer. Still, I eventually got three or four finish jobs, for other movies.
How was the poster conceived and did
you have any other ideas or drawings prior to the final one?
Agency people assigned us ideas that came out of their brainstorming
sessions. We freelancers would paint the illustrations, then they'd overlay
typography. It's strange to think of all the great ads and designs never seen by
anybody but the clients, then put in a closet or thrown away. Attached is the
first finished drawing I turned in. As you see, they decided to have the crashed
Presidential plane in the background instead of Isaac Hayes (The Duke) and the gunner.
Incidentally, I originally turned in a sketch that didn't have the forced
perspective on the gun, which seems out of place to me still.
How long did it take to make the poster art and
what reactions did you get from it?
I had four or five days, as I recall. Never enough time. They liked it
well enough; I think I got more work, afterward. But of course it wasn't used.
Some time later, I interviewed with director Joe Dante, to do storyboards for
the sf film The Philadelphia Project. He saw
the piece in my portfolio, and said that he'd lobbied John Carpenter to use
mine. That gave me a glow for the rest of the day. Incidentally, directing
chores passed to Stewart Raffill for that film, though I still did some
illustration for the SFX (Special Effects) department on it.
Were you disappointed that your poster art wasn't used?
Sigh. It would've been one
of the highlights of my career. But I can't honestly say it would have been as
good as Barry Jackson's beautiful, crazy poster that they used, despite its
head-scratching logic. How the devil did the Statue of Liberty's head get on 6th
Are there any other anecdotes you'd like to share
with us about the poster?
Just that I wish I had the original, or at least a better record of it
than the 35mm slide with parallax problems that form the basis of the scan
attached. A lot of detail has dropped out. I also seem to have flopped it
inadvertently! Entropy never rests. Hey internet, if anybody owns it, contact me
via my blog!
What do you think of the movie
This may seem churlish, but I had been supplied the screenplay
beforehand, and thought it was the best thriller script I'd yet read, fast and
inventive and funny and suspenseful. But they clearly didn't have the budget to
achieve the kinetic drive present in the script -- and I was a little
disappointed when I first saw it. It just wasn't as grand as the mental images
the words inspired. Of course, I also knew all the surprises in the plot, so I
was robbed of those little pleasurable discoveries. I still liked it enough to
buy the spooky soundtrack, though, which I played through many an hour at the
drawing board. It's in my computer's music file to this day, in fact.
You know what still gives me a chuckle? There is a long lead time on Disney
animated films, and their soundtracks are recorded early in the process. So a
considerably younger Kurt Russell appeared as the adorable Fox in
The Fox and the Hound the same year he played
battered, hard-bitten Snake Plissken in Escape
From New York.
Also, it's ironic that the script, probably written in the seventies when
New York was going to hell, envisioned Manhattan walled off and abandoned to
criminals, when the 80's actually saw Manhattan gentrified into glossy
What are you currently doing and what do you enjoy
doing in your spare time?
I'm finishing a graphic novel, Best Wishes,
that will be out next year. Then, more Concrete.
I balance writing and art by caring for the family farm, hitting the gym most
days, and wasting hours on the fascination machine -- the internet. I simply
cannot believe how different life is, with every question quickly answerable,
every subject easily investigated. Even 34-year-old cult movies like
Escape From New York have people documenting
their every aspect!
Thank you for your time, Paul.
More about Paul Chadwick here: