John Carpenter’s 1981 film Escape From New York had a low budget for such an ambitious movie, but the producers and crew made it work somehow. It was set in 1997, a future in which New York City was one big prison colony. It seems weird now, but it made more sense in the early '80s. And what’s even weirder is what happened behind the scenes in getting the movie made. Here are a few tidbits:
The movie, famous for its gritty 1997 setting, was set in a future wasteland for financial reasons: New York of the early 1980s was just too expensive to shoot in. So instead, the film crew capitalized on a major fire that had happened in downtown St. Louis, a much cheaper city to film in. St. Louis was also extremely cooperative when it came to shooting according to Carpenter
Chuck Norris and Tommy Lee Jones were considered for the Role of Snake Plissken. The studio actually preferred both Norris and Jones over Kurt Russell, as they deemed Russell to be way too well known. According to AMC, Chuck Norris was passed over because Carpenter felt he was too old. Jones was perfect, because at the time he hadn't really been in anything of note — but Russell was eventually selected, because of his work with with Carpenter on the 1979 Elvis biopic aptly named Elvis.
Other people that were considered for the role were Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson.
Working behind the scenes was a young man that would go on to make a bit of name for himself. James Cameron worked backstage as the director of special effects photography as well as the matte painter. Cameron tried to make the practical effects in the glider scene look as much like the then-new field of CGI as possible.
There’s a lot more you didn’t know about Escape From New York, like the scenes that were cut, how the fights were filmed, and more that you’ll find out about at io9.