Press > Exclusive 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 cultural profile.

How did you get the assignment to do an Escape From New York poster?

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 avenue?!

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 personally?

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 unaffordability.

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: http://www.paulchadwick.net/