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Where Is The Cast From Escape From New York Today?

In 1981, director John Carpenter was best known for his work in the horror genre, thanks to the back-to-back hits "Halloween" and "The Fog." But the filmmaker wasn't just about scary movies — he was also an action director with a keen eye for building out big concepts, and he proved it with "Escape from New York."

Set in a dystopian future America with a sky high crime rate, the film imaged the entire island of Manhattan walled off and left to rot as an open-air prison, then concocted a situation in which an ex-soldier named Snake would have to sneak in under cover of night to rescue the President of the United States.

The result was one of the best sci-fi action films of the 1980s, and a film that heavily featured a tremendous ensemble cast made up of up-and-coming stars and established screen legends. Though many of them are no longer with us today, others are still making their impact on the entertainment world. This is what the "Escape from New York" cast is doing now.

Kurt Russell - Snake Plissken

After launching his career on television in the 1960s, Kurt Russell became a star in the 1970s thanks to frequent work for the Walt Disney Company, which cast him in family-friendly films like "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" and "Superdad." In 1979, he logged his first collaboration with John Carpenter by playing Elvis Presley in the filmmaker's TV movie "Elvis," and a legendary partnership was born.

Two years later, Russell started remaking himself as an action hero thanks to Carpenter's "Escape from New York." As the tough-as-nails Snake Plissken, Russell became a 1980s genre movie icon, and went on to work with Carpenter again on "The Thing" in 1982 and "Big Trouble in Little China" in 1986.

After a decade that also included Golden Globe-nominated work in "Silkwood" and hits like "Overboard" and "Tango & Cash," Russell ended the '80s as one of the biggest stars in the world. He continues to work regularly; other notable films include "Tombstone," "Death Proof," "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," "The Hateful Eight," "The Fate of the Furious," "The Christmas Chronicles," and many more. In 1996, he returned to work with Carpenter once again, reprising the Snake Plissken role for "Escape from L.A."

Adrienne Barbeau - Maggie

After launching her career onstage in Broadway productions like "Grease," Adrienne Barbeau broke through to television in the early 1970s with a supporting role on the hit sitcom "Maude." Her steady work in TV throughout the decade made her a sex symbol and attracted the attention of John Carpenter, who cast her in the TV film "Someone's Watching Me!" and married her in 1979.

It was through Carpenter that Barbeau landed her first major film role, in 1980's "The Fog." "Escape from New York" soon followed, and Barbeau was instantly memorable in the role of Maggie, a resourceful woman who works with Snake to try and get off Manhattan Island. A string of other genre classics, including "Creepshow," "The Cannonball Run," and "Swamp Thing," soon followed, and by the end of the 1980s Barbeau had added "Scream Queen" to her list of honorary celebrity titles.

Barbeau continues to work regularly in film and television through both live-action and voice acting. She was famously the voice of Catwoman in "Batman: The Animated Series," and her recent work includes a return to "Creepshow" through its Shudder original series form, the horror film "Unearth," and the anthology series "American Horror Stories."

Harry Dean Stanton - Brain

Like many character actors of his generation, Harry Dean Stanton began his screen acting career on television in the 1950s, quickly building a resume that included dozens of guest starring roles for shows like "The Texan," "The Rifleman," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "The Untouchables," and many more. Film roles followed, and in 1979 Stanton secured a role that would make him a cinema icon, playing Brett in Ridley Scott's "Alien."

Increased visibility meant more film roles that took advantage of Stanton's particular look and voice, including the role of Brain — the bookish New York prisoner who agrees to help Snake — in "Escape from New York." It would become one of Stanton's most celebrated roles, and more major films soon followed.

After appearing in everything from "Private Benjamin" to "Red Dawn" and "Pretty in Pink" in the 1980s, Stanton gained notoriety among cinephiles as one of the great character actors of the era, something which persisted for the rest of his career. His final major roles included the TV series "Big Love," the acclaimed indie film "Lucky," and an appearance in David Lynch's "Twin Peaks: The Return." He died in September of 2017 at the age of 91.

Ernest Borgnine - Cabbie

Ernest Borgnine was already an Oscar-winning legend by the time "Escape from New York" came along. After launching his career on television in the 1950s, Borgnine became an in-demand character actor in both TV and film, with credits including "From Here to Eternity," "The Great Escape," "Johnny Guitar," "McHale's Navy," "The Dirty Dozen," "The Wild Bunch," and "Marty," for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1956.

As Cabbie in "Escape from New York," Borgnine provided a happy-go-lucky counterpoint to many of the film's other characters, and was able to expand the world of the film by explaining things to Snake without ever bogging the story down. It remains one of his most memorable roles.

Borgnine continued working in film and television throughout the rest of his storied career, with key roles in "Airwolf," "Ocean," and more. He also started yet another chapter in his career as a voice actor, which culminated in voicing the superheroic Mermaid Man on "Spongebob Squarepants," introducing his voice to millions of children. He died in 2012 at the age of 95.

Isaac Hayes - The Duke of New York

Isaac Hayes had an established, acclaimed career as a songwriter and musician well before he began acting, even winning an Oscar in 1971 for the theme from "Shaft." By the mid-1970s, he was appearing in films like "Truck Turner" and in the hit TV series "The Rockford Files," and his distinct look and voice made him an attractive prospect for Carpenter's Duke of New York in "Escape from New York." In the film, Hayes used his legendary voice to create the character of an intimidating showman who wanted to step into an even bigger spotlight.

Though he never entirely left music behind, Hayes continued to pursue acting, appearing in films like "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka," "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," "Blue Brothers 2000," and more. In 1997, his career entered a new chapter when he was cast as the music-and-women loving Chef on the animated series "South Park," a role that would make him an icon of a different sort for a new generation. He died in 2008 at the age of 65.

Lee Van Cleef - Hauk

Though he made all kinds of film and TV appearances over a career spanning nearly five decades, Lee Van Cleef is today perhaps best remember as an icon of the Western. Thanks to early TV credits in series like "The Long Ranger," "The Range Rider," "The Adventures of Kit Carson," "The Rifleman" and more, he gained steady work in the subgenre that culminated when Sergio Leone cast him in his spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s. Thanks to roles in "For A Few Dollars More" and "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," Van Cleef was cemented as one of the great movie villains, and one of cinema's best tough guys.

It was that reputation that led Carpenter to cast him as Liberty Island's commander, Hauk, in "Escape from New York." His first scenes set the tone for the film, and add a layer of power to an already unforgettable cast.

Unfortunately, Van Cleef's career didn't last long beyond the film. He continued working throughout the 1980s with roles in projects like "The Master," "Jungle Raiders," and "Thieves of Fortune," but he didn't survive the decade. He died in 1989 at the age of 64.

Donald Pleasence - President John Harker

In a career that had already spanned nearly 30 years by the time "Escape from New York" came along, Donald Pleasence had managed to turn in no less than three performances which have become cornerstone pieces of pop culture. As Blythe, he was one of the most memorable parts of "The Great Escape," and he followed that up just four years later with the ultimate villain, Blofeld, in the James Bond film "You Only Live Twice." All of that, plus dozens of other roles, made him the perfect fit for Dr. Sam Loomis in John Carpenter's breakthrough film, "Halloween." At the time, Pleasence was the biggest star in the cast, and his willingness to make the film added legitimacy to the production.

Carpenter and Pleasence just kept working together after that. In "Escape from New York," he played the embattled but ultimately cynical President of the United States, delivering some of the film's most memorable lines. That same year, he played Dr. Loomis again for "Halloween II," then six years later played a tormented priest in Carpenter's "Prince of Darkness." Even after Carpenter had left the franchise, Pleasence also kept coming back for more "Halloween," playing Loomis in the fourth, fifth, and sixth films in the series. "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers" was one of his final roles, and the film is dedicated to his memory. He died in 1995 at the age of 75.

Tom Atkins - Captain Rehme

Tom Atkins began his breakthrough as a memorable character actor in the 1970s with regular gigs on TV shows like "Harry O," "The Rockford Files," and "Serpico." By the 1980s he was making more regular appearances in films and caught the eye of John Carpenter, who cast him in one of the leading roles in "The Fog." While his role in "Escape from New York" is smaller, his scenes opposite Lee Van Cleef in the Liberty Island control room make him an essential part of the production and its suspense.

Atkins worked with Carpenter yet again in 1982 for the Carpenter-produced "Halloween III: Season of the Witch," then landed another classic genre role four years later with the cult sci-fi horror classic "Night of the Creeps." With all of those roles combined, he became an icon of 1980s horror, something he still reminisces about in documentaries like "In Search of Darkness."

Now in his '80s, Atkins doesn't appear in quite as many films anymore, but he's still around turning in memorable appearances. His recent roles include "Drive Angry," "Apocalypse Kiss," "Trick," and "Final Summer."

Frank Doubleday - Romero

In a film like "Escape From New York," tone-setting is very important, and John Carpenter needed just the right actor to sell the kind of unhinged wasteland he was trying to set up with his vision of Manhattan as an open-air prison. He found that actor in Frank Doubleday, who he'd previously worked with in "Assault on Precinct 13." With his short stature, slight frame, and wild eyes, Doubleday made it clear right away what kind of world Snake Plissken was dealing with.

Though Doubleday didn't appear in many films over the course of his career, he was always a memorable presence. His other credits include "Avenging Angel," "Space Rage," "Nomads," "Broadcast News," "L.A. Bounty," and "Shakespeare's Plan 12 From Outer Space." After one final appearance in a pair of episodes of "Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction," he largely disappeared from the screen. He died in 2018 at the age of 73, but the family acting legacy lives on in his daughters, Kaitlin and Portia Doubleday.

Charles Cyphers - Secretary of State York

After small roles in films like "Truck Turner" and shows like "Cannon" in the early 1970s, Charles Cyphers began to come into his own as a gifted character actor in the late 1970s through roles in series like "The Betty White Show" and "Barnaby Jones." He became a part of genre cinema history in 1978 when John Carpenter cast him in "Halloween" as Sheriff Leigh Brackett, who utters the immortal line "You know, it's Halloween. I guess everyone's entitled to one good scare, huh?"

Carpenter made Cyphers a mainstay of his films in the coming years, casting him in "Elvis" and "The Fog" before giving him the role of the Secretary of State in "Escape from New York," a key part of the Liberty Island sequences. The pair worked together again on "Halloween II" that same year.

Though Cyphers has slowed down in recent years, he's still acting, and recent roles include "Critical Mass," "Dead Calling" and "Methodic." He also reprised the Sheriff Leigh Brackett role in 2021's "Halloween Kills."