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Yemelyan Yegorov
Yemelyan Yegorov

Escape From New York

Escape from New York is a 1981 American science fiction action film co-written, co-scored and directed by John Carpenter, and starring Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Adrienne Barbeau and Harry Dean Stanton.

Escape from New York

Released in the United States on July 10, 1981, the film received positive reviews from critics and was a commercial success, grossing more than $25.2 million at the box office.[3] The film was nominated for four Saturn Awards, including Best Science Fiction Film and Best Direction. The film became a cult classic and was followed by a sequel, Escape from L.A. (1996), which was also directed and written by Carpenter and starred Russell.

In 1997, while flying President John Harker to a peace summit in Hartford, Air Force One is hijacked by a guerrilla fighter of the "National Liberation Front of America" (named in reference to the Viet Cong) posing as the stewardess. Unable to regain control, Secret Service agents attach a tracking device to the President's arm and handcuff him to a briefcase of sensitive documents before putting him in the plane's escape pod. The aircraft crashes while the pod is ejected.

Police are dispatched to rescue the President. Romero, the right-hand man of the Duke of New York, a powerful crime boss, shows them a severed finger with the President's signet ring and warns that he will be killed if any further rescue attempts are made. Meanwhile, former Special Forces soldier Snake Plissken is about to be sent into Manhattan after being convicted of robbing the Federal Reserve. Police Commissioner Bob Hauk offers a deal to Snake: if he rescues the President in time for the summit, Hauk will arrange a full presidential pardon. To keep Snake from going rogue, Hauk has him injected with micro-explosives that will sever his carotid arteries in 22 hours. If Snake is successful, Hauk will neutralize the explosives.

Using a stealth glider to land atop the World Trade Center, Snake follows the President's tracker to a vaudeville theater only to find it on the wrist of a deluded vagrant. Convinced the President is dead, Snake radios Hauk but is told that he will be shot down if he returns without the President. Inspecting the escape pod, Snake is ambushed by dozens of starving "Crazies", and accidentally drops and destroys his radio while trying to flee. He is rescued by "Cabbie", a jovial old man who drives an armored taxi.

Cabbie takes Snake to Harold "Brain" Hellman, an adviser to the Duke and a former associate of Snake's. Brain, a brilliant engineer, has established a small gasoline refinery, fueling the city's remaining cars and tells Snake that the Duke plans to lead a mass escape across the (fictional) 69th Street Bridge by using the President as a human shield and following a landmine map that Brain has drawn up. Snake forces Brain and his girlfriend Maggie to lead him to the Duke's hideout at Grand Central Terminal. Snake finds the President but gets shot in the leg with a crossbow bolt and overpowered by the Duke's men.

While Snake is forced to fight against Duke's champion Slag in a deathmatch, Brain and Maggie kill Romero and flee with the President. Snake kills Slag and finds Brain, Maggie and the President at the top of the World Trade Center trying to escape in the glider. The inmates drop it off the roof, so the group returns to street level and encounters Cabbie who offers to take them across the bridge. Cabbie reveals that he bartered with Romero for the contents of the briefcase: a cassette tape which contains information about nuclear fusion, intended to be an international peace offering. The President demands the tape but Snake claims it.

In addition, frequent Carpenter collaborators Nancy Stephens appeared as the "Hijacker" and Buck Flower appeared as the "Drunk with the president's tracker", respectively, while then-active professional wrestler Ox Baker played "Slag". The narrator was voiced by an uncredited Jamie Lee Curtis. Actor Joe Unger filmed scenes as Snake's partner-in-crime Bill Taylor, but they were cut from the final film.

Carpenter originally wrote the screenplay for Escape from New York in 1976, in the aftermath of Nixon's Watergate scandal. Carpenter said, "The whole feeling of the nation was one of real cynicism about the president."[6] He wrote the screenplay, but no studio wanted to make it because, according to Carpenter, "[i]t was too violent, too scary, [and] too weird".[7] He had been inspired by the film Death Wish, which was very popular at the time. He did not agree with this film's philosophy, but liked how it conveyed "the sense of New York as a kind of jungle, and I wanted to make a science-fiction film along these lines".[8]

International Film Investors agreed to provide 50% of the budget, and Goldcrest Films signed a co-financing deal with them. They ended up providing 720,000 of the budget and making a profit of 672,000 from their investment after earning 1,392,000.[9]

AVCO Embassy Pictures, the film's financial backer, preferred either Charles Bronson or Tommy Lee Jones to play the role of Snake Plissken to Carpenter's choice of Kurt Russell, who was trying to overcome the "lightweight" screen image conveyed by his roles in several Disney comedies. Carpenter refused to cast Bronson on the grounds that he was too old, and because he worried that he could lose directorial control over the film with an experienced actor. At the time, Russell described his character as "a mercenary, and his style of fighting is a combination of Bruce Lee, The Exterminator, and Darth Vader, with Eastwood's vocal-ness."[10] All that matters to Snake, according to the actor, is "the next 60 seconds. Living for exactly that next minute is all there is." Russell used a rigorous diet and exercise program to develop a lean and muscular build. He also endeavored to stay in character between takes and throughout the shooting, as he welcomed the opportunity to get away from the Disney comedies he had done previously. He did find it necessary to remove the eyepatch between takes, as wearing it constantly seriously affected his depth perception.[11]

Carpenter had just made Dark Star, but no one wanted to hire him as a director, so he assumed he would make it in Hollywood as a screenwriter. The filmmaker went on to do other films with the intention of making Escape later. After the success of Halloween, Avco-Embassy signed producer Debra Hill and him to a two-picture deal. The first film from this contract was The Fog. Initially, the second film he was going to make to finish the contract was The Philadelphia Experiment, but because of script-writing problems, Carpenter rejected it in favor of this project. However, Carpenter felt something was missing and recalls, "This was basically a straight action film. And at one point, I realized it really doesn't have this kind of crazy humor that people from New York would expect to see."[12] He brought in Nick Castle, a friend from his film-school days at University of Southern California, who played "The Shape" in Halloween. Castle invented the Cabbie character and came up with the film's ending.[13]

Bernardi suggested East St. Louis, Illinois because it was filled with old buildings "that exist in New York now, and [that] have that seedy run-down quality" that the team was looking for.[15] East St. Louis, sitting across the Mississippi River from the more prosperous St. Louis, Missouri, had entire neighborhoods burned out in 1976 during a massive urban fire. Hill said in an interview, "block after block was burnt-out rubble. In some places, there was absolutely nothing, so that you could see three and four blocks away."[14] Also, Alves found an old bridge to serve as the "69th St. Bridge". The filmmaker purchased the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge for one dollar from the government and then gave it back to them, for the same amount, once production was completed, "so that they wouldn't have any liability," Hill remembers.[14] Locations across the river in St. Louis were used, including Union Station and the Fox Theatre, both of which have since been renovated,[16] as well as the building that would eventually become the Schlafly Tap Room microbrewery.

Carpenter and his crew persuaded the city to shut off the electricity to 10 blocks at a time at night. The film was shot from August to November 1980. It was a tough and demanding shoot for the filmmaker as he recalls. "We'd finish shooting at about 6 am and I'd just be going to sleep at 7 when the sun would be coming up. I'd wake up around 5 or 6 pm, depending on whether or not we had dailies, and by the time I got going, the sun would be setting. So for about two and a half months I never saw daylight, which was really strange."[12] The gladiatorial fight to the death scene between Snake and Slag (played by professional wrestler Ox Baker) was filmed in the Grand Hall at St. Louis Union Station. Russell has stated, "That day was a nightmare. All I did was swing a [spiked] bat at that guy and get swung at in return. He threw a trash can in my face about five times ... I could have wound up in pretty bad shape."[citation needed] In addition to shooting on location in St. Louis, Carpenter shot parts of the film in Los Angeles. Various interior scenes were shot on a sound stage; the final scenes were shot at the Sepulveda Dam, in Sherman Oaks. New York served as a location, as did Atlanta, to use their futuristic-looking rapid-transit system (the latter scenes were cut from the final film).[17] In New York City, Carpenter persuaded federal officials to grant access to Liberty Island. "We were the first film company in history allowed to shoot on Liberty Island at the Statue of Liberty at night. They let us have the whole island to ourselves. We were lucky. It wasn't easy to get that initial permission. They'd had a bombing three months earlier and were worried about trouble".[18] 041b061a72

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