Press > Trivia > Escape From New York


• John Carpenter wrote the first draft in 1974 (his first professional screenplay) right out of film school (USC), as a reaction to the Watergate scandal and to the increasing crime and urban decay going on in New York in the 70s, something he had witnessed from a trip there. He also drew inspiration from the movies Dirty Harry (1971) and Death Wish (1974) as well as a novel called Planet of the Damned (1962) by Harry Harrison. Snake Plissken was based on a legendary punk teenager a friend of his from film school knew of from his high school (in Cleveland according to some sources) named Larry "Snake" Plissken. He literally wanted to be called "Snake". He also based Plissken on a collage friend who went to Vietnam and came back completely changed. Snake is an alter ego of Carpenter as well.

John Carpenter tried to pitch the project to several studios, but no one wanted to make it because it was deemed to be too dark and too violent. They also felt it made too much fun of the President. Richard Nixon had just left in disgrace and they felt it was too mocking.

• The movie got made due to a two-picture deal with the independent studio Avco Embassy Pictures (1942-1986). The Fog (1980) was the first movie in this contract and the second one was suppose to be The Philadelphia Experiment. However, John Carpenter could not come up with a third act while writing the script for this movie so he junked it and pitched his old Escape From New York script instead and the studio green lighted it. It was a little weird for him at the moment because he had lost interest in it having worked on it years before unsuccessfully. The budget was set to $7 million dollars and it was years since Avco Embassy had invested this much money in a movie, but Carpenter convinced them that it was necessary. It was the largest budget Carpenter had ever gotten at the time, but the medium budget was a bargain according to himself since it could have cost $30 million if they went all the way with it. In retrospect, Carpenter himself says the budget was more around $5.5 - 6.0 million. 5.9 to be more specific. It forced him to cut some corners in certain areas and apply to his low-budget techniques. Avco Embassy also wanted the script to be a little more hipper and funnier, so Carpenter rewrote the script with his former USC film school friend Nick Castle to add a little more humor in it, something New Yorkers would expect to see. They also excised the script's most controversial material such as cannibalism. Carpenter did not want the movie to become too horror-esque. Castle came up with the Broadway element of the movie with the prisoners singing and dancing in the theater. He also added Cabbie (Ernest Borgnine) and chose the song Bandstand Boogie to be the song Cabbie plays in his cab and undoes The President at the end. Bandstand Boogie was also used and sung by Barry Manilow in the Bandstand TV series (1952-1989) as the opening and closing theme during 1977-1989. Dick Clark allowed Carpenter to use it. Brain (Harry Dean Stanton) was also fleshed out and more lines were added. Carpenter had also originally wanted Bob Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) to kill The Duke (Isaac Hayes), but he felt it would be more effective if The President (Donald Pleasence) did it instead. He also originally considered the idea of having Hauk tell Plissken after he rescued The President that the charges in his neck were a fake and that it was all a hoax, but Carpenter decided not to use it (until Escape From L.A. came along).

John Carpenter had to fight for Kurt Russell to play Snake Plissken. Avco Embassy Pictures wanted Charles Bronson or Tommy Lee Jones to play the part. The studio was unsure about Russell and associated him too much with Disney comedies and Elvis, a TV movie from 1979 where Russell plays Elvis Presley which also Carpenter directed. Carpenter refused to cast Bronson (who was interested in the role) on the grounds that he was too old. Bronson's asking price which had gone up dramatically after the Death Wish films was also too high for Avco Embassy. Carpenter originally wanted Clint Eastwood (the role was written for him), but could not afford him and when Jones passed the deal to play Snake, the role went to Russell. However, the studio was still reluctant if they wanted to make the movie or not due to the main character's unlikeability but Russell convinced them that he should play the part because of his innately likeability. According to IMDb's Escape From New York trivia page Nick Nolte and Jeff Bridges were also approached to play the character, but were uninterested. Kris Kristofferson was supposedly also considered as a possible candidate for the lead, but was not approached due to the failure of Heaven's Gate (1980). When Russell was promoting Elvis in Australia he met director George Miller who showed him a rough cut version of Mad Max (1979). Russell later called Carpenter and told him that he knew what kind of movie they should make next. Carpenter remembers getting a phone call from him where he said that he wanted to do a movie and he did not want to play a nice guy. Russell's brother-in-law at the time Larry J. Franco (Larry Franco) (Producer/First Assistant Director) had also told him about this futuristic movie Carpenter had been talking about and that he wanted Russell to play a guy named Snake. Russell wanted to read the script right away, but Carpenter wanted to re-write it first. The script was finished in the spring of 1980 and he finally got to read it and it was something he really wanted to do since he wanted to move on in a new direction in his career.

Kurt Russell was part of the construction of Plissken's outfit and appearance. He purchased the leather shirt from a guy he walked by in Paris just months before the filming begun for instance. He knew immediately that it was the look Plissken's clothes would have. However, the shoulder zippers were lowered a bit for the movie. He also suggested the eye patch and the long hair etcetera. Avco Embassy Pictures did not like the eye patch idea that much at first because they did not liked the idea of covering half the leading man's face up. John Carpenter was onboard immediately. When he asked him why, Russell suggested that Plissken had an injury that was not quite fixed that he will physically visually carry with him. He also suggested that it might have abilities we do not know about since it was a futuristic movie. Two different patches were made. One slightly transparent for scenes involving running and jumping and one you could not see through in close-ups and such (the same method was also used in Escape From L.A.). Carpenter believes Russell got the idea of the eye patch from the movie The Vikings (1958), where Kirk Douglas wears one. In pre-production publicity photos of Plissken he was suppose to have the cobra tattoo on his left bicep instead of his stomach. Russell on the tattoo: "If you're going to have a tattoo of a cobra, that's where it should be." He was also going to have a rifle as opposed to a silenced Ingram MAC-10 machine pistol. His fatigue pants was also green, but due to Plissken's history in the Leningrad war in Siberia they decided to go with something similar to black and white fatigues, which also suited the movie's city surroundings much better. They also thought Plissken looked too much like a soldier and that it did not fit with the character's persona. The same goes for the combat boots which were switched to modified motorcycle boots with golf cleats added by Russell. However, these early publicity photos have been used widely for different Escape From New York merchandise such as posters and DVD's etcetera. Russell also came up with the performance. When he knew that Lee Van Cleef (Bob Hauk) was going to star against him, he chose to do his own take on Clint Eastwood's character in Sergio Leone's western movies. Carpenter on Russell's performance: "He made Snake his own, which is what I wanted him to do. He gave him more depth and dimension, and makes you care a lot more for him than I thought would be possible." Russell also got ready to play Plissken by working out in a gym for 4 months. He also did most stunts himself and cut himself up a lot. Sometimes when Russell came home from shooting he was so tired that he did not change his wardrobe and some mornings he found himself taking care of and feeding his few months old son Boston with his Plissken clothes on.

Despite difficulties during the shoot the movie came in under schedule and under budget.

The movie was filmed from August 04, 1980 to October 09, 1980.

John Carpenter also had to fight the studio to get Lee Van Cleef as Bob Hauk. Avco Embassy Pictures wanted Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster or William Holden. Lee was reluctant at first, but accepted the role when Carpenter wanted him to play the the role with his earring on. Lee also had a hard time walking during the shoot. His knee was hurt from a fall of a horse and it had not been fixed, so his wife was also on the set to look after him. Hauk and Plissken walking down the corridor at the beginning of the film was the hardest for him to do because it required him to walk and talk at the same time. He also altered some speech patterns to make them sound more natural for him. Carpenter was also forced to use out of focus close-ups of Lee since he had already left town and could not afford to get him back.

• Ernest Borgnine (Cabbie) originally wanted to play the role of Bob Hauk since he found the Cabbie role to be too easy for him, but Lee Van Cleef had already been cast. Adrienne Barbeau (Maggie) recalls that he spent every moment that he was not on screen memorizing a one man show he was going to go on the road with after this movie. Isaac Hayes (The Duke) remembers him fondly telling acting anecdotes and stories at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge (69th Street Bridge). Cabbie was also written with him in mind.

British actor Donald Pleasence was reluctant to play The President because he did not think someone not from America could play the part and with an English accent. The United States constitution requires that the president must be a native born citizen of the United States. John Carpenter had to convince him to do the part by writing him a long letter where he explained the comedic elements and why he needed him. Carpenter also made up a story for him how he became the president suggesting that he was a love child between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Carpenter wanted Pleasence because of his role and performance in Roman Polanski's Cul De Sac (1966). Someone abused and scorned who completely loses his dignity. Pleasence also made up a story how he got to be president, including an explanation for how the character was born in the United States and could have an English accent. According to Carpenter it had something to do with Thatcher taking over the world and making the United States a colony again, but he never used it since the audience would not care. Pleasence also drew on his own wartime experiences as a prisoner of war for his performance as the imprisoned president. He was a World War II pilot in the Royal Air Force who was shot down and then held and tortured in a German prisoner of war camp where he spent the remainder of the war. On a funnier note, several cast members including Adrienne Barbeau (Maggie) and Isaac Hayes (The Duke) had a hard time holding a straight face in scenes with Pleasance. "He's one of the funniest men I've ever worked with", recalls Barbeau.

• Isaac Hayes (The Duke) suggested the eye twitch to John Carpenter as a kind of signal for The Duke's emotional excitement. He had been given 3 scars by the make-up department and suggested the twitch to Carpenter with the possibility of a severed nerve due to the slashes. Carpenter wanted the character to have a gimmick of some sort and make him into an eccentric figure and agreed. Hayes also worked out too hard in St. Louis and was so sore that he could hardly walk. Kurt Russell used to call him up in the mornings and work out together. Russell recalls that Hayes answered in the deepest baritone you would ever hear. He was also handpicked by Carpenter for the role since they wanted someone colorful, flashy and unusual.

• John Carpenter and Debra Hill (Producer) originally wanted Warren Oates to play Brain. The role was rewritten to fit him, but the actors strike forced him into a bind with another contract. However, Harry Dean Stanton turned out be a great replacement, rehearsing constantly between takes, searching for different values and emphasis in his lines. When he was offered the role on the phone by Carpenter he requested to be able to change his lines if he did not like them and Carpenter agreed as long as he did not mess with his plot.

• Adrienne Barbeau (Maggie) had to learn how to use a .357 Magnum for the role. In fact, it was the first time she had fired a gun. She ended up with the worst backache she had ever had, from the tension involved in learning to shoot it on the first day at the firing range. On the second day she hit 2 bull's eyes in a row. The gun made her very uncomfortable and she have not used it since. Maggie was also written with her in mind.

• Tom Atkins (Rheme) recalls that he "smoked his ass off" due to his character's constant smoking in his scenes which was John Carpenter's idea. His character name "Rehme" is a reference to the President of Avco Embassy Pictures at the time, Robert Rehme.

• Frank Doubleday (Romero) made the role his own and got his hair to stick up the air etcetera. It was all his characterization.

• Dean Cundey (Director of Photography) took full advantage of the Ultra Speed Panatars lenses from Panavision which were new at the time. They permits filming at incredible low light levels with the resulting footage exceptionally sharp. Escape From New York was the first project to test the system. Another first is the use of a computerized light modulator invented and built by Cundey and his friend, electronics engineer Joy Brown which allowed Cundey to mimic the light patterns of fire instead of relying on actual fire during production. The HMI lighting had also become practical. It is a very high outpost light that produces light the color of daylight. It was used a bit for night exteriors and lighting large areas. Cundey was always looking for ways to make Manhattan otherworldly and also give it a primitive look. Using strange colors for the street lights which they imagined were run by a small amount of electricity in the movie and occasionally using fires as the only light source contributed to that. 

• Joe Alves (Production Designer) wanted to prove that they could make a very medium budgeted movie and make it look more expensive in a time of financial excess and money just being flaunted indiscriminately. He did this from re-doing existing things, building only what you need, and tie into them to confuse the audience as to what is real and what is not. Aside from the sets, he also designed the Presidential escape pod and the radar tracer bracelet etcetera. He also had a hand in the creation of the small "security guard" robot in the Bank of the United States Colorado Federal Reserve from the deleted Bank Robbery Opening Sequence.

Steven Loomis (Costume Designer) found Plissken's jacket at a vintage clothing store. It is a 1930's "California Sportswear" brand motorcycle jacket in horsehide. He also did some of his costume shopping at city dumps. The biggest challenge for him was to design the stars outfits, which had to be special yet at the same time blend in and be plausible. The inspiration came from photos and books of ancient cultures.

Ken Chase (Makeup Artist Supervisor) was responsible for Snake Plissken's cobra tattoo. Chase on the tattoo: "I had ordered a tattoo for Plissken's chest and a schedule change required me to paint the tattoo by hand as the tattoo was ready in time. The story indicated it was a snake. The usual routine was to have a pattern stamped on a special transfer paper. As I explained it fell on me to draw the snake by hand with a marking pen. It was really hard keeping it from smearing."

The special effects (involving matte paintings, glass paintings, models and time-lapse photography etc) were provided by Roger Corman's "New World Cinema". Future director James Cameron who worked here is credited as a director of photography of special visual effects and matte artwork. He worked on the Manhattan skyline at Central Park matte painting. John Carpenter on Cameron: "At one point, Cameron was finishing up just minutes before the scene was shot, so the paint was still wet." He also worked on the Air Force One exterior scene and built the cloudscape which was made out of polyester fiberfill and held up by screening wires. Carpenter first approached John Dykstra and Universal/Hartland to provide the effects, but their price tag and celebrity attitude was outrageous according to himself. However, a number of specialists, including Dykstra were consulted, and their ideas were incorporated into extensive instructions for the New World technicians. He also approached Jim Danforth, but he was involved in another project. Roger Corman had just done his most expensive film he had ever done, Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) and as a result of that movie a visual effects facility had been built. After the movie was finished they were out of a job and at a party Cameron met Joe Alves (Production Designer) who said they were looking for a special effects facility for their 25 shots that they needed to be done. Cameron said they had one not in use which could be ready in a week and guaranteed they would underbid everybody. Corman had no idea that Cameron was selling out his place. Luckily he could keep the facility alive using other people's money until he needed it again which was for Galaxy of Terror (1981) just after Escape From New York was finished.

• The 1979 actors strike resulted in many closed down major studio soundstages and back lots. Therefore Escape From New York was mostly shot on location.

• An average day started at the office, at 2:00 PM. Dailies were screened between 4:00 and 5:30. The lightning and prop crews would go to work with John at 6:00. The actors would start arriving for make-up and costumes. Dinner and sunset watching followed until 8:30. Filming began a half hour later and stopped around 5:30 in the morning. They wrapped Saturday midnight and Sundays was a day off. Everybody was so exhausted, they would go to bed and get up at noon Sunday, and disrupt their usual sleeping pattern. The crew had to find ways to stay awake all nights on weekends, but bars closed at 1:00 AM in St. Louis. Luckily for them they could drive across the river to Illinois, where a strip joint named P.T.'s stayed open till 5:00. P.T.'s is mentioned in the credits of the movie.

• Nearly 95 percent of Escape From New York was filmed at night. It proved to be physically exhausting for John Carpenter who took every vitamin known to man through his then wife Adrienne Barbeau (Maggie) who had brought a large apothecary jar with her. For about 2 1/2 months he never saw daylight.

• The camera dolly broke down during the filming of the first scene for the movie in Atlanta, Georgia so John Carpenter had to use a sound cart for the camera.
They originally wanted to film parts of the deleted opening bank robbery sequence at BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) in San Francisco but they were not too crazy about the plans they had in mind.

• The only scene shot in New York was the dolly shot of The Statue of Liberty introducing and following Rehme into a sentry post with a helicopter in the background. The morning shot of Manhattan where a helicopter is seen was also filmed here. These were the last scenes to be filmed for the movie. New York officials not only approved the script, they also helped them to shoot on Liberty Island. In fact, it was the first movie in history to be allowed to shoot underneath the Statue of Liberty at night. However, there were many New Yorkers that were defensive and hostile about seeing New York as a prison. On the contrary, a lot of New Yorkers did not think it was science fiction at all. They had the whole island for themselves for an all-night shoot. They were extremely careful and cleaned up their messes afterwards. It was not easy to get permission though. Only 3 months earlier they had bombings by Croatian Freedom Fighters and they were worried about trouble. 

• The majority of the movie was filmed in St. Louis, Missouri which had 4 city blocks burned out on April 2, 1976 during a massive urban fire. The area was more or less abandoned due to economic trouble at the time. It had a run down look that they wanted. The city's architecture was also similar to that of a major east coast city and it also had a big and accessible, yet closed bridge within close proximity (Old Chain Of Rocks Bridge.) as well as an old abandoned train station (St. Louis Union Station). They decided early on that New York was not going to work because the look there would be much harder to control and make it look like a devastated city. Budgetary restraints and lack of necessary permission also prevent them to shoot the movie there. John Carpenter suggested going on a movie back lot and trash it, but Joe Alves (Production Designer) convinced him to use real streets for a more authentic look. It was Barry Bernardi (Associate Producer/Location Manager) who found this city on a paid vacation with a goal to find the worst city in the United States. Adrienne Barbeau (Maggie) recalls being warned several times that it was not a good area of town to go walking. This led Donald Pleasence (The President) to order a cab to a Chinese restaurant the hotel had recommended to him. The cab driver drove him around the block to the back entrance of the hotel where the restaurant was located across the street. Kurt Russell recalls running down a street in character around a corner without a crew visible and facing rugged residents in St. Louis who quickly backed off. He later told Carpenter that this character is probably going to work.

The city of St. Louis was very cooperative and helpful. They allowed the production to shut down all the electricity in this part of the town and do whatever was needed. It was the first major film in 15 years the city hosted, so they did not even have a film commission.

• The movie was shot in the summer of 1980 in St. Louis during a searing heat wave. The temperature was around 95-110 degrees at midnight. The entire crew was also plagued by persistent mosquitoes. Especially at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge (69th Street Bridge.)

• Many in the first attempt to rescue the President sequence in St. Louis were actually from St. Louis National Guard. It started out with 30 men pouring out of the choppers and into the streets, but ended with only 15 tired Guardsmen left due to heat exhaustions, hard to see through helmets, a broken ankle and a dislocated shoulder etcetera.

• 3 dump trucks were used to transport junk from local garbage landfill sites and every night bulldozers piled up mountains of garbage and old cars to prepare for the night shooting. During the day all the debris, garbage and ruined cars had to be stored in a local junkyard due to morning-rush traffic. Carpenter deliberately chose to populate his future with classic cars because he wanted to include a little bit of reality and a little bit of the past to give the movie resonance.   

• The President's downed plane was an old DC-8 bought from a guy in St. Louis. Joe Alves (Production Designer) and his assistant art director Chris Horner were first at an airplane graveyard in Tucson, Arizona scouting for parts when the guy there told them about this plane for sale for
$8000 in St. Louis. The plane was carved up into 3 separate pieces and had to be trucked to the film's location in the dead of night as they did not have the requisite paperwork and a guard had to be brought in for 8 hours to prevent curious visitors to get away with pieces of the plane. The next day the St. Louis news paper had a picture of the sight along with eye witnesses telling them having seen it crash which was false of course.

• The Grand Central Station scenes were filmed at the Union Station in St. Louis which was as mentioned abandoned at the time. It was once the busiest and largest passenger rail terminal in the world. It's operation ceased in 1978 and in the early 1980s, the Station underwent a $150 million restoration. It was reopened 1985 as the largest adaptive re-use project in the U.S. housing a 539 room Hyatt Regency Hotel (now DoubleTree By Hilton), a 10-screen movie theater, luxury offices, a lake, 4 active train tracks and a plaza for festivals, concerts and other special events.

• The production team purchased the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge (69th Street Bridge) in St Louis for $1 from the government  (or more specific the US Army of Corps of Engineers) and then returned it to them for the same amount after filming was completed so that they would not have any liability.

The wall at the bridge took 1 month to construct with a crew over 60 working at the east end of the bridge at most and the scenes at the bridge took 4 days to shoot. The buildings on the side of the 69th Street Bridge entrance were also built by the film crew.

The car chases were the single most difficult part of the production. John Carpenter had never directed such scenes before, and was delayed by the intricate lighting set-ups. The actors and their stunt doubles remained available for 6 weeks, making the sequence expensive and tedious.

They worked on 4 different versions of the taxi on the bridge.

• Roy Arbogast (Special Effects Supervisor) had liquid smoke shipped to St. Louis from Los Angeles which was brought into a plane unchecked as a flammable material. The bottle broke and it started to smoke while landing. The pilot thought the plane was on fire and a runway for emergency landing was prepared. FBI later came to the production office in a St. Louis hotel and questioned the production coordinator. They also later came to the Old Chain of Rocks bridge (69th Street Bridge) to get the liquid smoke. Later there was a claim that they had to settle for years afterwards. The production company ended up having to pay $10.000.

During a day off in St. Louis a bunch of the crew consisting mostly of camera men went to Hannibal, Missouri to see where Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) lived. Mark Walthour (Gaffer) was a big Mark Twain fan and he organized it.

There was still a big mess on the streets when shooting was over and the studio was billed a pretty penny to have it cleaned up.

• John Carpenter read the script for The Thing while shooting the movie in St. Louis.

• A crew of 65 helped Joe Alves (Production Designer) to turn the Sepulveda Dam Control Resin in Los Angeles into Liberty Island Security Control and the wall they built was a 33-feet-high, 200-feet-long monolith which took over a month to build.

• The skeletal weapons being carried by the police in the beginning of the movie are M16A1 rifles with the ventilated hand-guards and gas tubes removed. In reality, though the rifles can fire without the hand guards, they are unable to fire with the gas tube removed. Cocking manually, the M16 can fire single shots even with the gas tube removed, but not in semi-automatic, full automatic or three-shot burst modes. M16A1 rifles were used in Vietnam and John Carpenter originally wanted to 'class up' weapons used in Vietnam as well as some of the present-day automatic weapons and make them very deadly, but not to the extent of being lasers or ray guns. Snake's gun is an Ingram MAC-10 machine pistol and was also used in Vietnam.

• The model of Manhattan measured 10 foot by 10 foot and was built by 4-5 guys including Robert Skotak (Director of Photography: Special Visual Effects/Matte Artwork), Dennis Skotak (Director of Photography: Special Visual Effects/Matte Artwork), Steve Caldwell (Camera Assistant: Special Visual Effects) and Tom Campbell (Engineer: Special Visual Effects/Uncredited Model Builder) and they had around 10 days to build it. To make an accurate Manhattan they photographed a map of it and projected the negative in a slide projector on a wall and made the foundation out of plywood. Due to the modest budget they had to use cardboard and Xeroxes for the buildings and hand colored them with color pencils since they did not have the option for color photographs. A pamphlet of Manhattan was used to match the scale of the buildings.

• Secret Service guy #2 (the blond guy with glasses banging on the cabin door) in Air Force One is played by Steven Ford, former President Gerald Ford's son.

• Kurt Russell came up with an idea about a self-lighting cigarette. They did try to make it work but due to budget it never really materialized. It also burned his fingers.

• John Carpenter paid tribute to director's George A. Romero and David Cronenberg by naming two characters in the movie: Romero and Cronenberg.


• The Hartford, CT Summit mentioned in the film had two visiting Communist nations (People's Republic of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) - the USSR/Soviet Union ceased to exist in late 1991.


• Bill Bartell was the pilot in the glider when it took off and landed. He sold the glider to the production company and then flew it. The glider used had the designation N2927B and was a Romanian-made IS28-B2. During the World Trade Center roof top landing scene it bumped and smashed against the edge, so it took 2 years to get it sold by Debra Hill (Producer). In the meanwhile she leased it to a school that teached gliding. Bartell nailed the landing in one take though. Hill first hired a helicopter to scout for a suitable roof top in San Fernando Valley to land on, but it was deemed too dangerous because of the lack of light required for the scene. 3 miniature gliders in different scales were also made by Eugene P. Rizzardi (Gene Rizzardi) for the movie.

The graphic displays in the movie were not computer graphics. Computers capable of 3D wire-frame imaging were large and expensive machines located at large corporations and universities at the time. The effects required for the movie were also too complicated to achieve on a computer. Instead, three model sets were built by John Wash (Graphic Displays/Uncredited Model Builder) and Mark Stetson (Uncredited Model Builder). John C. Wash on the models: "One was a 4' by 8' model of the island of Manhattan. The buildings were made of white plexiglass that was cut to size and painted black. The edges was then routed to reveal a white line on each edge. The other set of models involved larger scale buildings, about 24 to 36 inches high so that they could fly a motion-control camera (Elicon Camera Control System) with a snorkel lens between rows of these graphic skyscrapers. These larger models were made of wood and cardboard, with high-contrast lithographic line art glued onto them. The models were shot at the original Dream Quest facility, which at that time was in the garage of a ’50s ranch-style house just south of Santa Monica. Once we had shot all of the models on high-contrast film, the footage was then colored and combined with graphic overlays at Modern Film, an optical effects house in Hollywood." Wash also did the opening prologue animation for the movie as well as the other animation. The large wireframe city model sets were also used in early pre-production in the model shop for Blade Runner (1982). Mark Stetson (Chief Model Maker) worked on this movie as well and used it to experiment with the look of the city and then repainted and reused some for the movie.

When Kurt Russell was to work on the wiring to open the elevator on the roof of the World Trade Center the elevator control box exploded from the wall and burned his hands a little bit. It scared him more than it hurt. Afterward he told them to use the take for its element of surprise.

Debra Hill (Producer) wore a sexy outfit and sweet talked the building manager to use the Century Plaza Tower buildings for the World Trade Center entrance scenes.

Everyone's Coming To New York, the song sung by the men in drag at the stage show scene where
Plissken first meets Cabbie (Ernest Borgnine) was recorded in post-production and was based on the song There's No Business Like Show Business. Steven Sondheim's song Everything's Coming Up Roses was their original choice and the one that was used for filming, but somehow they could not get the rights from Sondheim to use it afterwards.

• Nick Castle (
Co-Writer) wrote the new lyrics and the show was also choreographed by him. His parents were famous dancers and choreographers.

• The lyrics are as follows: Shoot a cop, With a gun, The Big Apple is plenty of fun, Stab a priest, With a fork, And you'll spend your vacation in New York, Rob a bank, Take a truck, You can get here by stealing a buck, This is bliss, It's a lark, Honey, everyone's coming to New York! No more Yankees Strike the word from your ears, Play the roulette, There's no more opera at the Met, This is hell, This is fate, But now this is your home and it's great, So rejoice Pop a cork Honey, everyone's coming to New York!

• The band consisted of
Nick Castle (Co-Writer) on piano, John Carpenter on guitar and kazoo, Dean Cundey (Director of Photography) on sax, Barry Bernardi (Associate Producer/Location Manager) on violin and Clyde Bryan (First Assistant Cameraman) on trumpet. Carpenter also made a cameo as the United States Police Force guy sitting in a helicopter during the Central Park scene.

• The actress playing the rape victim in the basement of the theater tried to talk John Carpenter out of doing this scene. This scene was cut out of the movie when it was aired for the first time on TV. This theater (Wiltern Theatre) was in a bad shape during the shooting of this movie. Carpenter recalls that people actually came in here to live.

The scene where Plissken decides to sit on a chair in front of the escape pod was improvised on the set. 

The woman in the diner is played by Season Hubley, who was, at the time, Kurt Russell's wife. She had just given birth to their son Boston Russell prior to doing this film. It was her first role after Boston's birth.

Season Hubley's character, the Girl in Chock full o'Nuts, was originally named "Maureen." Said name was revealed only in the Movie-Tie In Novel, never in the movie.

• Maureen was originally described by Kurt Russell to be a "crime groupie" since it would be more fitting in a penal colony. She was originally going to wear a t-shirt covered with crossed off names of criminals except for just one: Snake Plissken. In another article she was described to be a female gang leader. 

• The running gag used in the film about everybody thinking Plissken was dead was also used in the John Wayne western Big Jake (1971).

John Carpenter used his influence as a former USC student to shoot the interior library scenes at their facilities. The campus facility proudly allowed their famous graduate to erect a full-size oil rig in the middle of the floor for an entire day's shooting.

Isaac Hayes's (The Duke) '77 Cadillac Fleetwood sedan with the fender-mounted chandeliers has been used as an influence for the modern-day art car - a vehicle decorated or customized as works of art. Two other vehicles used in the film (a late 1970s Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon fitted with rebar around the windshield and windows, along with Cabbie's (Ernest Borgnine) Checker Cab with wire mesh cages) were the ancestors of the mutant vehicles seen at Burning Man (a public art festival outside Reno, Nevada) or during the annual Houston Art Car Parade.

• The day scene was added during production since people felt the movie was going to be too night oriented and that the audience would want a moment of brightness at some point.

• The movie was suppose to have a food drop sequence but when they realized that the packages would fall behind the Manhattan skyline at Central Park which was a matte painting on a piece of glass the camera would film through they dropped this idea.

• Many sources mentions Madison Square Garden as being The Duke's lair. The correct building is in fact Grand Central Station. It is mentioned in the script as well as the Movie-Tie In Novel and Debra Hill (Producer) clarifies this in the commentary track she did for the US Special Edition DVD.  

Professional wrestler Ox Baker (Slag) struck Kurt Russell very heavily with some of his blows during the gladiator ring fight scene. He also threw a trash can in Russell's face about 5 times. Baker had problems remembering the moves and began to swing very wildly. Russell finally had enough and asked him to take it easy, tapping him in the groin to let him know he was serious. Baker then calmed down. It was the hardest scene in the movie to do since it took a whole day to shoot and was very physical and somewhat dangerous according to Russell who also wore an eye patch. Real bats with real nails were also used in this scene. Russell got his payback when he was going to kill Slag with one. A nervous Baker had to lie still while Russell aimed his bat for a nail that was sticking out of a block taped on Baker's head. Luckily for him, Russell succeeded on his first try. Baker also cut his leg while he was entering the ring to shoot the scene. John Carpenter asked him if it hurt. Baker responded: "Does what hurt?" 500 extras were used in this scene.

The idea of being put a wig on while being in captivity was improvised by Donald Pleasence (The President) on the set.

CalArts (World Trade Center Lobby) would not allow Joe Alves (Production Designer) to graffiti their walls, so he had to use hundreds of yards of butcher paper instead. Students also helped out making the graffiti. Harry Dean Stanton (Brain) ran up and down the stairs to make him look exhausted before the take where they run down to the lobby.

• The 69th Street Bridge was invented by John Carpenter since they could not stop the ten-lane, double-decker traffic of the George Washington Bridge and could not afford to rebuild it somewhere else. The 69th Street Bridge was built somewhere between 1980 and 1997 and Debra Hill (Producer) suggested calling it the Richard N. Nixon Memorial, or even the John B. Anderson Memorial, but that was before the election. In a later interview Carpenter claimed naming it the 69th Street Bridge was a cheap adolescent joke. In a more recent interview he claims he did not know New York that well and that it was meant to be the The 59th St. (Ed Koch Queensboro) Bridge.

Plissken was originally written to throw his cigarette at the president's chest and let it bounce it off his body at the end of the movie, but Kurt Russell was not comfortable with that, so a compromise was done to throw it in his direction instead. 

• Inserts and close-ups of Plissken's life-clock on his wrist and interior helicopter shots had to be filmed additionally for the movie. Inserts of Plissken's hands on the joystick inside the glider, him crawling up the wall and The President's hand on the rope lever were shot at Roger Corman's New World Pictures/Venice effects facility where they built a portion of the wall on the parking lot.

Once filming was completed, John Carpenter realized audiences wanted to see what happened to Maggie after The Duke hit her with his car. Therefore Carpenter and then-wife Adrienne Barbeau (Maggie) decided to arrange and shoot the scene in their garage. Apparently this scene was added after a then teen-aged J.J. Abrams suggested it to Carpenter. Abrams saw an early cut because his father worked for the studio that produced the film, and pointed out to Carpenter that Maggie's death was never fully established.

• The movie had a crew of 180 people since it was a union-made movie. It was the first fully union-made movie John Carpenter and Debra Hill (Producer) had ever done and in order to get some of the crew they had worked with earlier on Escape and into the union, Hill had to find a way around a catch-22 situation. You could not work on an union film unless you were in the union and you could not get in the union unless you had worked 30 days on an union film. Hill solved this by signing contracts with the ones they wanted on Escape before signing the union contracts. That way they had to honor the previous contracts.

• Every time something went wrong during production John Carpenter, Larry Franco (Producer/First Assistant Director) and Jeffrey Chernov (Second Assistant Director) would cover their nose and grab their balls. This pose is described as: "We're going down!" Several other crew members did this as well.

Approximately 25% of the movie was shot using a Panaglide to draw the audience voyeuristically into the situations. The Panaglide is a variation of the famed and award winning Steadicam and allows the operator to achieve extremely steady hand-held shots, even in smaller areas.

• US Army Corps of Engineers was very supportive and provided the production team with helicopters etcetera.


• The wrap party was held at the Roller Boogie Palace and Still Photographer Kim Gottlieb-Walker (Kim Gottlieb) who wore skates for the first time of her life got hit by a very large guy, fell and broke all three bones in her wrist. Debra Hill (Producer) brought her to a hospital and stayed with her all night. This was on a Saturday night and since they had one more day left to shoot on Monday which was going to be the 30th day required to get into the union, Walker had to return with her arm in cast and take pain pills. 

• The Elicon Camera Control System was used to capture roughly 12 to 14 special effects segments. The exceedingly precise "computer-controlled camera movement repetition device," which earned its developers, Peter Regla and Dan Slater, an Academy Award in Technical Achievement, allowed for the creation of in-camera mattes. In Escape From New York, the device was predominantly used to recreate the film’s New York City backdrop. This eased and expedited the matting process by eliminating the need for more complex blue screen matting techniques. As a result, the sequences captured using the Elicon Camera Control System were completed nearly a month ahead of schedule.

• According to IMDb's Escape From New York Trivia Page: "The opening narration is not, as some reported, provided by an uncredited Jamie Lee Curtis. The computer voice in the opening and in the first prison scene is producer Debra Hill." It is none of them. John Carpenter has confirmed this. That means that it was Kathleen Blanchard who did the voice. She also did the narration in Escape From L.A. Also, the prologue narration for Escape From New York, introducing the audience to the movie was added at the beginning instead of later on in the movie. The early version Carpenter screened for a test audience confused them.

Claude Debussy's composition Engulfed Cathedral is used during the glider flight into New York. It was not intended to be in the movie. Todd C. Ramsay (Todd Ramsay) (Editor) used it on the tempo track and John Carpenter felt that it worked well with the scene so they incorporated it. For some reason a few disgruntled folk claimed that Carpenter stole it without attribution, but it is clearly credited in the end titles. It would be a crime against nature according to himself. 

• John Carpenter and Debra Hill (Producer) approached Marvel to make a comic book of Snake Plissken, but Marvel passed on the deal, claiming they did not have enough lead time to be on sale during the film's release. The Bally Pinball Machine Company was also interested in producing an Escape game.

The film previewed to an enthusiastic audience as an unannounced feature at Filmex, the former-annual Los Angeles film festival. It had also been set to screen at the USA Film Festival in Dallas, but was pulled from the schedule because they did not have the equipment to screen the film's "double system (work) print".

Kurt Russell could not get his family in the theater for free when watching it on the first with an audience in New York on 42nd Street. He could not convince them that he was in the movie.

• Debra Hill (Producer) and Isaac Hayes (The Duke) were sent to Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Washington and New York on a publicity tour in The Duke's '77 Cadillac Fleetwood. Hayes recalls that cops yelled: "What's that?" He answered: "Don't write me up!" They went to several drive-in theaters with Hayes as The Duke and signed autographs and such etc. Hayes was also interested in buying the Cadillac, but a crew member beat him to it.

• It was during this movie John Carpenter got exposed to helicopters for the first time and later he decided to become a pilot for many years. He started taking lessons in 1981.

In the Korean dub of the film, Snake Plissken was called "Cobra" while in the Italian version he was called "Hyena".

When released in Italy the subtitles mistranslated nuclear fission as nuclear fixation.

John Carpenter about the Statue of Liberty's fallen off head in the poster: "Here's the thing – before the poster ever existed, we shot the Statue of Liberty, because it's part of the police base out there. So it was in the movie. That was put in the poster by the artist that did it, and I didn't have anything to do with it. Someone thought it would be an interesting idea – I don't know why – that something waaaay out over the water would be in the middle of the street. It didn't make any fucking sense, but it sold the film. 

So I wasn't thinking of that necessarily as much as I was thinking 'Boy, whatever knocked that head…' We were out there at night shooting the statue of liberty, and the sun came up on us – the crew – so we kind of trudged back across the water. It is forever to the city (laughs)! Forever! So I don't know about that, it's like throwing something from Heathrow over to London Bridge. So you go 'Wait a minute now…'. But I accepted it." -
The Den of Geek interview: John Carpenter


• The original German one-sheet poster prominently misspells Snake's last name as "Plessken".

The movie grossed $25.2 million in American theaters in the summer of 1981, with around the same amount grossed in foreign markets. It was a modest box-office hit. In US the film opened to just over $4.1 million in box-office grosses on 579 screens, screening best in New York City, where it pulled in $922,367 from 96 theaters. An Avco Embassy Vice-President (Robert Rehme) identified the film's 10-day opening of just over $9 million as the biggest in the company's history.

• Around 80,000 copies of the soundtrack on vinyl was sold in the 80's and it was the most expensive and eclectic score John Carpenter had created to date. It was the biggest selling soundtrack on Varèse Sarabande at the time and it helped them to establish their label. However, the images of Kurt Russell, Adrienne Barbeau and Donald Pleasence on the cover had to be covered by a yellow sticker with the composer's names on due to rights issues of the images. It was Alan Howarth's (Co-Composer/Special Synthesizer Sound) decision to release it as a soundtrack album after Varèse Sarabande had reached out to Debra Hill (Producer) about the idea. Carpenter did not think anyone would listen to the music outside of the movie. During the scoring session he brought in a Police record to the studio which had influenced him. He also started to overdub the music to bring in more rock influences to it besides the synth work. Howarth decided to watch the movie on tape while playing the music to synchronize the movie with the music which was new to Carpenter at the time. Escape From New York was Carpenter's and Howarth's first project together. Howarth got acquainted with Carpenter by pure coincidence. When he worked on Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) as a sound designer, he slipped some cassettes over to the editor Todd Ramsay (who knew he was a musician) when he found out that his next assignment was Escape From New York and that Carpenter needed someone to work on the soundtrack with. Suddenly Carpenter comes over to his house in Glendale. Howarth then played him a few things in his dining room studio and it was a go. The score was created at Howarth's home studio with the entire latest technology. The Main Title is one of only two themes that Carpenter can think of that he had ahead of time instead of improvising it on the spot. It took some time for it to come out though. Kurt Russell regards the score as one of his favorite scores ever.       

Kurt Russell has stated that Escape From New York is one of his favorite of all his films and that Snake Plissken is his favorite character of all the ones he has played. Snake's costume is the only one he has ever kept from a movie. Although, he gave away the boots and a shirt to his kids friends who were Escape From New York fans. Russell also got many fan letters from women after the movie. Many of them found the cobra tattoo very appealing. John Carpenter and Russell also got many fan letters about how Plissken lost his eye, but they have decided to keep it to themselves with many possibilities. One example being that he just decided to put an eye patch on one day and another one being due to gas earlier in Siberia or something as suggested by a letter someone wrote who most likely must have read the Movie-Tie In Novel. Carpenter and Russell have also decided to keep stuff about Snake's personality and statistics for themselves.

• Kurt Russell's favorite line in the movie is: "The President of what?"

John Carpenter has said in retrospect that he would have liked to have had a superimposed countdown clock during the 69th Street Bridge chase scenes.

• Ernest Borgnine (Cabbie) kept Cabbie's hat in his home through his life.

Adrienne Barbeau (Maggie) still owns and occasionally wears Maggie's boots.

• Robert Rodriguez has said that after seeing Escape From New York at age 12, 1981 in a theater, he knew he wanted to be a filmmaker
.

• The glam metal band Motley Crue was influenced by the Escape From New York look to stick out from the pack.

The movie was not shown on TV for around a year after 9/11 in the US.


Escape From L.A.


Kurt Russell approached John Carpenter on doing a sequel in 1985 on a plane back from New York when doing press for Big Trouble In Little China. There were some plans on doing another Snake Plissken movie earlier and both Lee Van Cleef (Bob Hauk) and Russell wanted to do it if Carpenter was involved. However, the ending of Escape From New York pretty much summed it all up in terms of the character and left Carpenter clueless what to do after that. He also could not come up with something with a resonance. He decided to commission screenwriter Coleman Luck to write a draft of Escape From L.A. based on an outline by him and Russell which would serve as a prequel to Escape From New York. It was Russell's idea from the beginning to have L.A. (which was always their choice) being broken off from a giant earthquake. Carpenter on Luck's script: "It was interesting and had some really fine scenes in it, but as a whole movie it wasn't what we wanted and was a bit too jokey." he also described it as: "Too light, too campy." Russell on Luck's script: "It just wasn't the original. It was like looking at a painting that was kind of a copy." Both Carpenter and Russell though it was ok, but it did not quite work. In Luck's version L.A. (set in 1995) has turned into a lunatic asylum as a result of a mutated harmless genetically engineered virus used to combat a plague of fruit-destroying med flies creating violent insanity to the people. Bob Hauk then captures Snake and wants him to evade a new, top secret military weapon. Snake Plissken from Escape From New York also turned out to be a clone etcetera. It also had an explanation how Plissken lost his eye. The project was being set up at DeLaurentis Studios, but unfortunately, it never came to be because Dino De Laurentis company went under so the project died. However, Debra Hill (Producer/Co-Writer) pursued the rights to Escape while it passed to one bankrupt company's hands to other.

The project remained dormant following that time until L.A. started to become a more dangerous place to be in with more riots, drive-by shootings, mudslides and earthquakes going on. And 5 months after the 1994 Northbridge earthquake when Kurt Russell described L.A. as Pompeii, a city waiting for the volcano to blow and denying it they finally had a story and decided it was time to do the long awaited sequel. Russell also wanted to do it because age wise he was still able to pull off these kind of movies. John Carpenter, Russell and Debra Hill got together in July (after the January 1994 earthquake) and talked about how the earthquake had effected them for 5 hours in the kitchen in Hill's home. Carpenter did not want to do a sequel at first since he did not know what they would be able to do that would be different. However, the recently released Collector's Edition LaserDisc of Escape From New York contributed to his interest in making a sequel as well as the fact that Francis Ford Coppola originally refused requests to make a Godfather (1972) sequel. He insists that it was Russell's persistence and big stardom that allowed the film to be made since Snake Plissken was a character he loved and the only one he wanted to play again. Russell had also been doing some informal market research when promoting Stargate (1994) in Europe where he asked people if they would be interested in an Escape sequel with much positive responses. Fans in the US also wanted to see another Escape. Carpenter also saw his chance on doing a big-budget movie and was encouraged by Russell's and Hill's enthusiasm to write the script. The idea was that Carpenter would write a spec script to avoid development hell and then get it out to the market place, but while writing it, many, many story conferences were held where also Russell and Hill got involved with the screenplay. Carpenter suggested to them that they should write the scenes and ideas they came up with, then he would edit it all together. He was also busy directing and scoring Village of the Damned during this time. Carpenter then continued with the ideas and premise that he and Russell had penned over a weekend in Aspen, then he put together the first draft with help from Hill that ended up being 160 pages. She wrote the whole Beverly Hills part for instance. Carpenter then continued cutting it down with help from Russell who also helped to make the dialogue scenes play for actors and got it to 137 pages. Carpenter believes he worked harder on this script than any other he has written. The initial idea was to make a brand new Snake Plissken movie but while writing it with Russell, the more it started to resemble a remake due to nostalgia for the original movie and the fact that he felt everything he wrote was "bullshit". They decided to reinvent the film for a new audience since many younger people had not seen the original, but with their old fans in mind as well. Carpenter saw two choices for his second Escape. Either doing a complete Xerox of the first film or do something completely different. He later realized that audiences want the same movie dressed up a different way. The script took 8 months to write and was sold in May, 1995.

Many studios were interested in making this sequel including Warner Bros, Rysher Entertainment, Universal and Cinergi. New Line Cinema even had a poster campaign already worked out, but only Paramount trusted and understood their vision right from the beginning. Although, they wanted the picture as soon as August the next year. One company wanted it to have futuristic gangs instead of ethnic ones etcetera. Sherry Lansing (former Chief executive officer of Paramount) was also a fan of the first movie and chased it for a long time. John Carpenter was a bit reluctant to work for a big studio again after his negative experiences on Big Trouble in Little China (1986), but it turned out to be the best time he had ever had with a studio. Contractual agreements allowed him greater control of the finished product and they never interfered. At the beginning Carpenter, Debra Hill and Kurt Russell originally felt they needed a $56 million dollar budget, but they ended up getting a $50 million dollar budget. $10 million went to Russell who had become a very bankable star during the 90's. However, according to Carpenter they really needed to spend $75 million. Although it is the largest budget Carpenter has ever gotten, certain things from the script had to go due to length and budgetary reasons. It went down to 100 pages and finally back up to 112 pages. The visual effects department also got their budget cut. There were talks about actually giving Plissken a cause this time since Paramount Pictures wanted a more grown Plissken and some more humanity in the movie, but after many months, Carpenter just looked at Russell and said: "You know what Snake would say about this." That inspired them the go on with the ending in the movie which also Russell wrote. Carpenter had a similar ending, but Russell made it clear what was going on. They also decided to speed up the pace by using more quick-cuts and cameras since audiences had become used to getting their input fast from watching MTV and other movies made in the 90s. Carpenter was a little nervous before starting to shoot the movie wondering if he could go back to the style of the first movie which was written and made with a vision of a young man's ideas, but after 10 minutes after he started shooting it all came back to him. Russell felt like they had just finished shooting the first movie on Friday and being back after a long weekend. It was a blast to make, according to Carpenter despite the grueling schedule and many cold nights etcetera. It also came in $1 million under budget so they used the extra cash to enhance the film visually and musically and add another 81 special FX shots. Russell did many of his own stunts as usual. He also had to use hair extensions since his hair was not long enough for the role. He also originally wanted to team up with many of the original crew from Escape From New York for this movie.

• The movie was filmed from December 11, 1995 to March 20, 1996.

Another early script was written by English screenwriter Peter Briggs, of Aliens vs Predator fame. The Briggs version was written "on spec", meaning he did it on his own, without getting paid for it, in the hope of selling it to the rights owners. However, they, (Debra Hill, John Carpenter & Kurt Russell etc) never got to read it, as it wasn't distributed or promoted at all.

The movie was shot for 70 nights straight. It left Debra Hill (Producer/Co-Writer) working during the daytime hours and even make some creative and producing choices for John Carpenter so that he could shoot at night as problem-free as possible.

When John Carpenter and Lawrence G. Paull (Production Designer) were location scouting around L.A. they only found a couple of useful untouched sites in Northbridge from the 94 earthquake. Everything else they had to create because it looked too beautiful everywhere else, even in the worse areas. 

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power had to turn off the lights in entire sections of downtown Los Angeles. Location Managers were then responsible for trashing the city at night including removing mail boxes, street signs and news racks and then putting everything back to order the next morning when everything went back to normal.
However, coordinating all the buildings and floors to shut down was not an easy task. They had to work with all the building owners and all of their maintenance people in order to shut down dozens and dozens of buildings and floors consisting of different businesses. It required getting all of the approvals of the city and getting the signatures from everyone involved so that everybody knew about it. However, a lot of the stuff they did was in between Christmas and New Years Eve, so a lot of city agencies and city offices were undermanned or not manned at all. The city's idea of an emergency was to put it on a schedule and get to it when they could which did not work well for the production team. The crew that sometimes numbered almost a thousand was supported by 30 fully loaded trucks and semis, working on the already congested city streets. The logistics for the film were a nightmare.

• In early drafts the Forum and the Getty Museum were also going to be in the movie. The Forum was the original choice for the basketball scene. Rodeo Drive scenes were also cancelled due to budget.

• Isaac Hayes (The Duke of New York) was eager to come back and called many times, but Debra Hill (Producer/Co-Writer) had to declare that The Duke was dead. Hayes then said that he could be The Duke's twin brother or an earl. He even took Hill out to dinner and tried to talk her into it. He also lobbied to play the role of Hershe, but John Carpenter and Kurt Russell wanted to have a little fun with the role and casted Pam Grier instead. There was a rumor that the bald, black guard wearing sunglasses holding a gun Snake has a brief eye contact with after the basketball scene was Isaac Hayes in an uncredited cameo. This is not true. Carpenter himself has confirmed it. Hershe's voice was however originally going to be done by Hayes.

• Gary B. Kibbe (Director of Photography) was required by John Carpenter to utilize the same lenses used by Dean Cundey on the first movie which are low-level light lenses called Panatars. Carpenter loves the lens flare it causes when shooting fires burning in the streets. However, they chose to avoid the almost all-blue lighting scheme of the original since Carpenter thought it had became too much of an action-movie cliché. Instead a color combination were used together with warmer colors such as amber and orange since the movie takes place in the West Coast.

• Lawrence G. Paull (Production Designer) was inspired by his own travels in far east like Beijing, Cairo and Singapore experiencing the poverty of third world nations when designing the street life in Escape From L.A. He was also inspired by the 1994 Northbridge earthquake in L.A. (which also caused sustained cosmetic damage to his home) where he saw huge piles of rubble that sat on the sides of the road, and almost became mountains. He also did research on earthquake aftermath scenarios. He studied the historic tremors that rocked L.A. and San Francisco in the first half of the century as well as The Great Hanshin earthquake, or Kobe earthquake that occurred in Japan in 1995 etcetera. 50 to 60 piles were constructed and put on wood rollers for the movie. He used 29,000 lbs. of rubble to create Sunset Boulevard and Santa Monica Freeway and strategically blocked the L.A. skyline with it. A mile-long strip of scrap-metal shacks and crumpled buildings was created for the Sunset Boulevard scenes and 200 trashed vehicles were brought in from an auto demolition yard and dumped in a jumbled maze for The Santa Monica scenes. While shooting in a finished dressed Los Angeles area another film company came and scouted a location and avoided to shoot there believing it all was real.

• Carol Kiefer (Art Department Coordinator), Lawrence G. Paull (Production Designer) and Bruce Crone (Art Director) studied Escape From New York and its graphics as well as screened other John Carpenter films to prepare for this project. Keifer recalls that there was a lot of tension about the budget and that it was a struggle to stay within numbers.

• Robin Michel Bush (Costume Designer) pulled a lot of their material from clothes found in junk yards, hardware stores and down town alley ways. Each group from the various areas of the island was given a completely different look. Each gang was also distinctively dressed. A lot of the groups that was similarly dressed even started to hang out together and got really into their characters. They also wanted to put Utopia (A.J. Langer) in a fur coat to symbolize a Patty Hearst character, a good girl gone bad due to circumstances, but Debra Hill (Producer/Co-Writer) was not fond of fur politically. Instead they gave her a black velvet jacket with Cuervo Jones (George Corraface) likeness painted on neon colors on the back. Over a thousand costumes were made and transported in 3 compartmentalized 40-foot trailers for the big scenes. The United States Police force designs was carried over from Steven Loomis (Costume Designer of Escape From New York) who was the head of the made-to-order work room on Escape From L.A.

• Karin Costa (Assistant to Director) worked for John Carpenter from 1987-2000 and got the job from her best friend Sandy King (Carpenter's wife) growing up. Costa on Carpenter's requirements: "Coffee. Lots of coffee and breakfast for whatever time the meal was." She also ads: "John is a great guy and has an amazing sense of humor. I adore him."

The only returnees from the original film except John Carpenter, Kurt Russell and Debra Hill (Producer/Co-Writer) were sound crew members Joe Brennan (Boom Operator) and Tommy Causey (Sound).

Steve Buscemi (Map to the Stars Eddie) took the part in this film to help fund his directorial debut, Trees Lounge (1996).

• Peter Fonda (Pipeline) had to tell gossip about Easy Rider (1969) and Dennis Hopper during the reading with John Carpenter, Debra Hill (Producer/Co-Writer) and Kurt Russell instead of talking about the movie or the part.

• The President (Cliff Robertson) is based on televangelist Pat Robertson as well as a Canadian Prime Minister who predicted something that came true and was regarded as a hero. It was Kurt Russell's idea to incorporate this idea to the movie.

• Taslima (Valeria Golino) means "greetings" and is an Arabic name. Debra Hill (Producer/Co-Writer) describes her as the heart in the movie.

• Stacy Keach (Malloy) himself brought in a cactus to put on his desk in the movie. John Carpenter recalls him saying that: "That's the only thing that grows around here."

Pam Grier (Hershe Las Palmas) would put a sock in her pants during shooting and behaving like a guy on the set, slapping other male crew members on the back and get slapped on the back and such to get into the character as a transvestite. She ended up with big bruises as a result of the movie and her manly behavior. She saw many action movies and observed its stars mannerisms to prepare for the role. She also saw boxing matches, wrestling matches and observed them as well. It was Russell's suggestion to make the character into a transsexual and make Snake kind of like that person. Her voice was lowered by an octave and a half in the edit.

• Bruce Campbell's (The Surgeon General of Beverly Hills) make-up was close to 4 and a half hours long and was based on Michael Jackson and Sigfried and Roy. The make-up was all based on real plastic surgery technique, only done more crudely. Rick Baker (Special Makeup Effects) was inspired by his old plastic surgery books studies.

The collapse of L.A.'s Four Level Interchange at the beginning of the movie was constructed by Stirber Visual Network, Inc and was a two-story, 1/4 scale miniature that weighted 11 ton and was shot outside in one take. It is one of the largest miniatures ever built. The entire set was about 40' tall, so they had to work with lighter materials such as fiberglass to hold something that big up. Breakaway concrete and rebar were also putted inside the pillars. Then they put all of the pillars that was holding up the four-level freeway section on sliders that lifted up and down forward and backward to make it crack. The columns were individually rigged so they could run separately or together and vary the motion to create the motion of a real earthquake. It also had radio controlled miniature cars. The action was then slowed down to create the illusion of an earthquake.

At the beginning of the film, Kurt Russell wears his costume from the original film, which still fit after 15 years. John Carpenter and Russell discussed having Plissken wear the same outfit again throughout the movie, but decided not since they did not want him to turn him into a cartoon character.

The orphan in the cap that Plissken makes eye contact with while being escorted down the hallway at Firebase 7 in the beginning of the movie was played by Kurt Russell's son Wyatt Russell. He also wanted Kate Hudson (His stepdaughter) to play Utopia in the movie and despite a successful audition and being perfect for the role she turned it down because she did not wanted her first significant role to be associated with her stepdad.

During the hijacking, Utopia (A.J. Langer) is wearing a big pin on her suit that says: "True Love Waits", according to the virginity pledge of the TLW program. During this scene cult director Paul Bartel can also be seen.

The fabric of the so-called Stealth Suit Plissken wears was invented and custom made for the movie. It was a combination of silk screenings and  some bonding of different fabrics. They wanted Plissken to be undetectable like the stealth bomber and needed it to reflect in sunlight and go black in other light. No fabric on the market could be found that allowed this.

• Those two guards guarding Plissken before he enters the submarine are Los Angeles morning DJs Mark Thompson and Brian Phelps (KLOS-FM). They have had minor roles in about 40 movies and TV shows. They are uncredited in the movie. Kurt Russell put them in.

• There was some talks about actually building and using miniature models for the underwater San Fernando Valley sequence, but Michael Lessa (Visual Effects Supervisor: Buena Vista Visual Effects) chose to do it in CG due to the scope of the movie. It would have required a football-field-sized model according to himself. They first opted to use digital matte painted backgrounds based on photographs of the actual route, with the CG animated sub in the foreground. However, John Carpenter wanted something more dynamic in the sequence and since matte paintings limits perspective changes they went for an entirely 3-D environment so they could have more fun with the virtual camera. The original digital matte paintings were then utilized as guidelines for building the sunken structures in 3-D. It took over 150 computer-generated effects to create one underwater sequence. The Bonaventure Hotel that was destroyed during the beginning of the movie was also relegated to CG. It would have cost at least a million dollar to build a quarter scale 35-to 40-foot-tall model of it which was required according to Lessa. They also had to write additional 3-D programs to achieve more realistic shots of buildings collapsing.

The building Plissken crashes into is the "black tower" at Universal. It is where movie executives work. Carpenter: "I've had my own fights over there and have always wanted to take something through it."

In an homage to the famed studio tour where Jaws pops out of the water, a shark tries to bite the mini-sub just as it passes the sign for Universal Studios.

• Kurt Russell came up with the reoccurring line: "I thought you'd be taller." based on recurrent real life commentaries from people he has met.

• Several of John Carpenter's female business associates, such as his publicist, press agent and his manager's assistant plays prostitutes in the film. They all asked Carpenter if they could do it. However, his press agent insists that it was Carpenter who asked her to be one.

• A mudslide scene cut out of the movie and the Sunset Boulevard chase sequence was the toughest things to do in the movie for Kurt Russell. The crew was a little worried about him doing the mudslide scene, but Russell wanted to do it and got his way. John Carpenter teased us that this scene perhaps would might end up on the LaserDisc release of the movie. The Sunset Boulevard sequence took 4 nights to shoot and he had to put out every time when leaping over car to car so he would not fall and get run over which was close at times. According to himself he did this probably 50 or 60 times every night. 

Kurt Russell practiced playing basketball between scenes at a hoop which had been set up for him as he wanted to make all of his shots legitimately in the basketball scene later on. He made all of those shots purely on his own talent, even the full-court one. He ran 10 miles that night and got very tired. The eye patch did not help much. In the meantime the crew betted money on him. He also did all of these shots with a bad back. The first thing he did during this mist full night shoot was to slip on the wet floor and hurt his back. In fact, he slipped up and felt a lot. The heat was rising up through the floor which was made out of plastic and it was as a cold night.

John Carpenter did not think the Wilshire Canyon surfing scene would be approved by Paramount Pictures, but they liked it and wanted to keep it. Carpenter wrote it because he always wanted to see a scene like that if only for once in a movie. Parts of this scene were shot at Schlitterbahn Water Park Resort, New Braunfels, Texas on a FlowRider called Boogie Bahn which is an artificial sheet wave surfing environment. Skate legends and professional surfers Tony Hawk and Chris Miller had to stand-in for Peter Fonda and Kurt Russell on this FlowRider since it required sustained surfing and only 5 people came in mind that could do it. They rode it in the chill of the night during a grueling three-day greenscreen shoot. Close-ups of Russell and Fonda were shot in a separate greenscreen session in a warehouse in Los Angeles. The idea of putting the actor's faces onto their surfing doubles were discarded. Buena Vista Visual Effects had no idea how to shoot this scene at first but solved it by a combination of CG buildings and pavement, digital matte-painted backgrounds, CG water built up by some practical shots of high-speed water filmed at the Texas park or at the Santa Monica shore and as mentioned above separate greenscreen shots of the actors on surfboards. A miniature car driven by a 1/5 scale Map to the stars Eddie (Steve Buscemi) puppet was also used and a lot of surfing footage were studied. Another obstacle was to match the effects footage with Gary B. Kibbe's (Director of Photography) principal photography. Michael Lessa (Visual Effects Supervisor: Buena Vista Visual Effects) spent a lot of time with him to later mimic his lighting in the computer. The background elements also had to be color timed to match the production footage.

The Walt Disney Co. refused to allow John Carpenter to taint the name of Disneyland so they decided to call it The Happy Kingdom instead, which Carpenter explains is a bankrupt amusement park that, due to the earthquake, is now by the ocean.

It was production designer Lawrence G. Paull's suggestion to use Universal Studios Courthouse Square for The Happy Kingdom  scenes since he also was the production designer for Back to the Future (1985) and saw the possibilities of turning the buildings into a main street of an amusement park.

The hang glider attack at The Happy Kingdom was inspired by the flying monkeys attack in The Wizard of Oz. Neighbors started complaining about the noise while this scene and the rest of it was being shot on the Universal Studios lot. To compromise, John Carpenter agreed not to fire any guns or shoot any noisy scenes after midnight, instead they had to optically add the fires later.  The entire shooting schedule was disrupted and it became a chaotic shoot and everyone became very tired. Carpenter also got the flu.

During the final escape, when Cuervo Jones fires the rocket at the helicopter, just after it is hit, you can see it narrowly avoid crashing into the mountain in Paramount Pictures logo or the Matterhorn at Disneyland if you will. Paramount produced the film.

• The futuristic helicopter was a full-sized 42' mock-of flown on a crane. Miniatures and CG helicopter shots were also used. A full-sized silhouette of the helicopter was also built for the crash landing. The cutout was shot locked-off, in the hope that the explosion would wrap around the helicopter shape like a life-sized matte, creating a more realistic effect when Buena Vista Visual Effects tracked the explosion to their miniature helicopter later on. Nothing was left after the explosion which was much bigger than anticipated. 

• The Plutoxin 7 virus hoax was originally going to be part of the first movie, but was never used.

Snake's line to Malloy (Stacy Keach) near the end of the movie, "got a smoke?" is the same line that Napoleon Wilson says repeatedly in John Carpenter's other film Assault on Precinct 13 (1976).

• The pack of smokes Plissken picks up at the end of the movie is American Spirit and is a real brand of cigarettes. John Carpenter uses it to show that Plissken represents the true nature of the American spirit.

• The line "Welcome to the human race" that ends the movie was originally used by Plissken earlier in the movie in the scene where Plissken is told that he will be killed if he tries to come out of L.A. John Carpenter felt it did not work there so he cut it out, then Edward A. Warschilka (Editor) added it at the end of the movie.

• 500 extras were almost used.

The movie boasts nearly 200 effects shots.

Due to time restraints, John Carpenter could not do all the music himself, so he brought in and collaborated with Shirley Walker who also did the score for his Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992) to give it a certain amount of orchestral bang which the movie required. The idea was to start the movie in the electronic musical style of Carpenter and make the orchestra more noticeable halfway through the movie. Carpenter's involvement was mostly sending Walker tapes of his material which was transcribed by an orchestrator and then tailored by Walker to work with the scenes. Walker's approach to the score was to do the music different every time Snake Plissken turns around and make his new environment into a different universe and make the music play his thought process to figure out what the ground rules are so he can get to from Point A to Point B and survive.

• White Zombie contributed the track The One written specifically for the soundtrack to Escape From L.A. White Zombie's front man Rob Zombie later went on to direct a remake of John Carpenter's Halloween (1978).

• This was the last movie Buena Vista Visual Effects did before it was dissolved. It was replaced by Dream Quest Images.

• John Carpenter only had 9 total weeks of post-production and 1 day to look at his rough cut before it had to be sent to Paramount for release.
In an interview with Robert Rodriguez, Carpenter said he wished he could have had 15 weeks of post-production time.

The movie was a notorious failure on release, making around $25 million (just half its budget) at the US box office. It was criticized for being too violent, campy and for being too similar to the original film. Although, it has gotten a growing cult following over the years which also Kurt Russell predicted if the movie was not an immediate hit. Russell has also explained that decisions were made during the writing and making of it about which would be the best movie to watch 50 years later. He also believes that it came out in a very politically incorrect time. The movie came out following the Olympics which was held in Atlanta and there was a lot of patriotism going on. Medals were won and adversities were overcome. It did not benefited the movie which was a little more subversive.