Press > Escape From New York > Exclusive Interviews > Tony Papenfuss (Theater Assistant)

How did you end up being an actor?

Got involved in acting in High School. Was enamored by it and never looked back. Got to L.A. through a teacher from college who was working for The Mark Taper Forum and hired me there.

How did you get cast as Theater Assistant in Escape From New York?                       

John Carpenter was holding interviews just to see people and said I had a good look and that my long hair was an asset. I don't think I cut it for at least three years after that. Apparently that was good enough to get me the part. My very first in any film.

How did you prepare for the role and how was the experience filming your scenes? You had the misfortune to be involved in a scene that was cut out of the movie where you and Borah Silver (Theater Manager) had an altercation with Snake in the theater.

I had no idea what the movie was about and there were no lines so my prep was basically keeping a grip and not becoming a babbling fool and determination not to get in the way. I'm not sure since, it was my first experience, but I recall it being a quick and efficient shoot especially compared to a lot of my experiences after that. Endless waiting. No improv that I recall. I believe most of Carpenter's direction to me was to keep my acting to as much of a minimum as possible. In other words it's too much. Maybe I was trying to make basically a walk-on part into Hamlet. Classic rookie.

Were you disappointed that the aforementioned scene was cut out of the movie?

Of course I was crushed and heartbroken when I saw that my bravura debut performance was distilled down to Snake walking past my left shoulder.
But that only lasted about two days. Then oddly I was kind of amused about being part of the Hollywood cliché "My best work winding up on the cutting room floor". Classic start of a Career In The Movies.

How was the experience working with the cast and crew and what went on behind the scenes?

Backstage was friendly and comfortable and professional. Borah and I had a friend in common so that helped conversation and passing the time. Nice man.

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

My clearest and fondest memory is having makeup with Kurt Russell in the next chair. He said hi and welcome to the set and we were just a couple of guys on the job. That made it real. I was really there and I was really gonna be in a real movie. Kinda dazzled.

What do you think of the movie personally?

At first I was entertained by the film but very skeptical about its relative worth. Then I saw it twice and knew it was damn good. Now I realize its place as a true classic of its type. That's another cliché right there. But in this case right on the money.

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

I'm still at it here in Minnesota doing stage and film surprisingly often. More going on than one might expect. That, golf and reading fill the time. Guess that's it.

Thank you for your time, Tony.