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The Only 4 Main Actors Still Alive From The Cast Of Escape From New York

It's hard to name a more iconic movie duo from the '80s than John Carpenter and Kurt Russell. From 1981 to 1986, the director-actor combo went on an all-timer run with "Escape from New York," "The Thing," and "Big Trouble in Little China." Each film has since become a defining entry in its respective genre — near-future dystopia, sci-fi horror, and action comedy, respectively — but it all started with "Escape from New York."

Anchored by Carpenter's signature synth-heavy beats and driven by one of Russell's greatest tough-guy performances, the film paints a slick, jet-black image of a failing America and a global order under threat of nuclear collapse. But, of course, the film owes its success to many more people than just its star and director.

Actors like Harry Dean Stanton and Isaac Hayes turned Carpenter's New York prison into a vibrant sci-fi world — a place where every street corner might hide another dangerous, unpredictable, and instantly memorable character. Sadly, both Stanton and Hayes, along with many of the other main cast members of "Escape from New York," have passed away in the decades since the film was first released. Only a handful of the classic movie's leading stars are still with us today.

Kurt Russell

"I like a lot about Snake [Plissken]," Kurt Russell said of his "Escape from New York" character in a 2024 interview with GQ. "He's an escape artist is really what he is, and he's doomed to never be able to escape the one thing he wants to escape from, and that's himself."

Now 72 years old, Russell remains the Hollywood icon he's been for decades. After "Escape from New York," he went on a tear through the rest of the '80s and early '90s, starring in movies like "Overboard," "Tequila Sunrise," "Tombstone," "Stargate," and "Tango & Cash." He hasn't slowed down in recent years, either, whether starring in Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight," playing Ego in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or chewing scenery as Mr. Nobody in the latter-numbered "Fast and Furious" films.

Most recently, Russell teamed up with his son Wyatt for the MonsterVerse Apple TV+ series "Monarch: Legacy of Monsters." The father and son play the same character at two drastically different ages, building a story arc together that spans decades and reaches higher emotional highs than anyone would have expected from a Godzilla spin-off show. If you're a fan of Russell's work with John Carpenter in the '80s, "Monarch" is worth a watch. The character of Lee Shaw is written so specifically for the father-son pair that it frequently evokes the elder Russell's most iconic roles. Plus, it's fun to see Wyatt Russell play the kind of character his father would have taken on back in his heyday.

Adrienne Barbeau

Adrienne Barbeau was already a star by the time she was cast as Maggie in "Escape from New York." Her career began on the New York stage, where she became a bankable Broadway star in the 1960s and '70s, even earning a Tony Award nomination in 1972 for originating the role of Rizzo in "Grease."

Starting in the late '70s, Barbeau had several collaborations with then-husband John Carpenter. "I first worked with John on the TV movie 'Someone's Watching Me' in 1978, so I knew from the beginning that the type of women's roles he wrote were the Howard Hawks women, as he called them," the actor told Variety in 2021. "Strong, assertive, take-no-prisoners types of women, so it never crossed my mind that Maggie was unique. But then again, I've always played strong women, whether on television, in movies, or on stage."

Now 78, Barbeau continues to work extensively across film, television, and even as a voice actor for video games like "Starfield" and "Spider-Man 2." She played Maria Murdock in Netflix's 2021 live-action adaptation of "Cowboy Bebop" and continues to pop up in sci-fi and horror movies, like 2018's "Big Legend," 2020's "Unearth," and 2022's "Hellblazers." There's still a special place in her heart for "Escape from New York," though. "It's amazingly gratifying to me," she told Variety. "I'll do an occasional appearance or an autograph signing, and so many people come up and say it's their favorite movie. That kind of reaction is just fantastic."

Tom Atkins

Tom Adkins plays Captain Rehme in "Escape from New York," the no-nonsense police commander who helps out at mission control throughout Snake Plissken's infiltration. He plays second fiddle a bit to the late Lee Van Cleef's Bob Hauk, but Atkins still leaves a lasting mark on the film. With a mustache like that, how could he not?

A veteran of the horror genre, Atkins was quite active in the '80s, playing roles like Stan in George Romero's "Creepshow" and Nick Castle in 1980's "The Fog," which was also directed by John Carpenter. He even made an appearance in the first "Lethal Weapon," playing the character of Michael Hunsaker, and starred in "Halloween III: Season of the Witch" in 1982, though Carpenter was not involved.

Thrillers and horror flicks are still Atkins' bread and butter today. In 2023, he appeared in the Shudder reboot of "Creepshow." His other recent roles include the 2018 Luke Hemsworth sci-fi film "Encounter," the 2019 Omar Epps-led thriller "Trick," and the Showtime series "City on a Hill."

Charles Cyphers

Charles Cyphers plays the relatively minor role of the Secretary of State in "Escape from New York." A frequent John Carpenter collaborator, Cyphers also worked with the director on films like "Assault on Precinct 13," "The Fog," and, most famously, "Halloween," in which he played the role of Sheriff Leigh Brackett. He reprised the latter role in 1981's "Halloween II," once again working with Carpenter and star Jamie Lee Curtis.

Cyphers largely stepped away from acting in the mid-2000s after appearing in films like "Mach 2," "Critical Mass," "Dead Calling," and "Methodic." However, he emerged from this apparent retirement in 2021 to reprise his beloved role of Leigh Brackett in "Halloween Kills." "It was wonderful," Cyphers said in a 2022 interview with Slime House. "To be called back again, in a film, it's unheard of after 40 years, most people are dead. Fortunately, I didn't die, so they brought me back. It was wonderful to come back and do it again."