John Carpenter and Kurt Russell Talk About Filming ‘Escape From New York’ in St. Louis
The movie 'Escape From New York' came out in 1981. I finally saw it last weekend. With a title like 'Escape From New York,' one might think that the movie was filmed in New York, but actually quite a bit of it was shot in and around St. Louis.
'Escape From New York' was directed by John Carpenter, and stars Kurt Russell in the role of Snake Plissken, an outlaw that is recruited to save the President of the United States from a future New York City that has been sectioned off from the rest of the country and serves as giant prison housing the country's most dangerous criminals.
Famous St. Louis locations including Union Station and the Fox Theater were used in the movie. There is a filmmaker's commentary by both John Carpenter and Kurt Russell on some DVD and Blu-ray releases of 'Escape From New York' that talks about the exprience of filming the movie in St. Louis. A few highlights include:
- St. Louis is hot! It was really hot and humid as filming took place, even at night. Kurt Russell said that his snake tattoo kept sweating off as they were filming in Union Station.
- One of the major set pieces of the movie is a "crashed" airplane on a street. Apparently some residents in that neighborhood did not get the memo that a film was being shot. Some called authorities to report a plane crash.
- St. Louis had experienced a fire that heavily damaged several buildings in the late 70s, before the movie was filmed. The burned out buildings made a perfect backdrop for a post-apocalyptic New York City.
- The fictional "69th St. Bridge" at the end of the film was actually the Chain of Rocks Bridge, which is on the famous Route 66. The bridge is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
If you're wondering what I thought of the movie, now that I've seen it some 37 years after the fact, I enjoyed it! I liked it enough to watch it again with the filmmaker's commentary. If it had't been from the commentary, I wouldn't have recognized a lot of the St. Louis landmarks. The Fox Theater and Union Station were both in pretty bad shape when the movie was filmed. They have since been renovated.
Carpenter and Russell teamed up again for a sequel, 'Escape From L.A.' in 1996, but the sequel was not filmed in St. Louis.