Escape From New York Star Recalls the Unexpected Influence J.J. Abrams Had on the Film
Filmmaker J.J. Abrams has been leaving his mark on Hollywood for more than two decades, but according to Escape from New York star Adrienne Barbeau, his impact goes back even further, as she recalled an anecdote that a young Abrams attended a test screening of the film and, based on his reaction, more footage was shot to address his concerns. Despite director John Carpenter having earned an impressive reputation by the time of the screening, he still had independent-film sensibilities, resulting in him taking the advice to heart to make the requested tweaks. Leigh Whannell is reportedly developing a reboot of Escape from New York.
“Apparently, J.J. raised his hand afterwards and asked John, ‘What happened to Maggie?’” Barbeau shared with Variety about the reported test screening. “I guess he didn’t think it was clear enough that she died when the car hit her. So a short while later, John [Carpenter] and I got together with a very small film crew, and we went into our home’s garage and shot that final image of Maggie covered in blood. I got back in my costume and makeup, roasted another turkey for my hair, laid down on the floor of the garage, and they poured blood all around me and shot that last scene of dead Maggie.”
While this encounter might seem like nothing more than a funny story, Abrams himself had previously recalled that situation and his indirect impact on the film decades ago.
“I remember I finally had the guts to raise my hand. And I said … I said I couldn’t tell that this one character that Adrienne Barbeau, who was his wife at the time, played — I couldn’t tell that she had died in this crash on the bridge. And he said, ‘Oh, interesting. That’s interesting,'” Abrams recalled to NPR in 2011. “And anyway, years later, I see the movie — the movie had come out later that year and not only was that opening scene gone, but there was a shot of Adrienne Barbeau dead on the ground after she was killed. And I said, ‘Oh, my God, that’s cool to put that in.’ Years later, I was working for Steven Spielberg — doing a couple weeks’ work on a script for this movie they were doing. And Dean Cundey was the DP and he was also the director of photography of Escape from New York.”
He continued, “And I went up to him and I said, ‘Excuse me, Mr. Cundey, my name is J.J. Abrams. I’m a big fan. It’s funny, because I was at the screening of Escape from New York at Paramount years ago,’ I was describing it, he said, ‘Oh, no, no, no. I totally remember that night. And I remember a kid in the back saying that.’ He said, ‘The next night, we went out onto John Carpenter’s driveway and shot Adrienne Barbeau dead on the ground because people needed to see that she had actually been killed.”
The original 1981 film would go on to earn the sequel Escape from L.A. in 1996, which saw the returns of both John Carpenter and Kurt Russell.
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