Ben Stiller Shares How He Recreated One of the Country's Most Notorious Prison Breaks for Showtime's Escape at Dannemora in November Emmy Magazine
Although Ben Stiller is one of Hollywood's most bankable stars, he was an unexpected choice to direct some of the industry's top talent in a limited television series depicting the harsh realities of incarceration. The latest issue of emmy magazine explores how a recent, notorious prison break drew a trio of acclaimed performers to Showtime's Escape at Dannemora.
The award-winning official publication of the Television Academy hits newsstands Nov. 20.
Based on the true story of a 2015 prison escape that made national news, Escape at Dannemora, premiering Nov. 18, examines human connection in the hostile and hopeless environment of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York. All eight episodes were directed and executive produced by Stiller, and they feature Oscar-winner Benicio Del Toro, Golden Globe nominee Paul Dano and Emmy- and Oscar-winner Patricia Arquette in leading roles.
While the genre had long been a source of fascination for Stiller, he wasn't initially sure he was the right man for the job. "I was nervous about not getting it right, because it was so outside my experience."
Stiller combatted his inexperience with a meticulous attention to detail, shooting the show exterior right in Clinton's North Yard and casting real-life prison workers, former prisoners and officials who took part in the manhunt as extras. Even the manholes the prisoners used to escape—sealed since the breakout—were reopened for the shoot.
The eight-month-long shoot was a grueling experience for the cast and crew, who often spent hours in the tight quarters and drab surroundings of the cell-block set. Dano, who plays convicted murderer David Sweat, explained how their surroundings fueled each scene. "That same color green, the same tiny spaces every day …" he recalls. "Our work was there for us—rage, claustrophobia, complicated dynamics."
Escape at Dannemora is just one of the many highly anticipated offerings from the premium cable network this fall. The upcoming programming slate also includes Shut Up and Dribble, a docuseries from NBA superstar LeBron James; City on a Hill, a legal drama starring Kevin Bacon; and The Loudest Voice in the Room, a limited series starring Russell Crowe as the late Fox News CEO Roger Ailes.
Additional feature highlights from the new issue include:
- Supporters of Facebook Watch, the video-on-demand service connected to the biggest social network on earth, tout the platform's ability to connect viewers to both original content and their community. "What Facebook Watch can do better than any network is let you engage with other fans," explains Raelle Tucker, creator of the new Watch series Sacred Lies. In What's Not to "Like"?, emmy reports on the dynamic, new next-gen entertainment platform.
- In recent years, industry heavyweights and out-of-the-box creativity have dramatically changed the television landscape. With the award-show season in full swing, emmy explores the relationship between the Emmys and the Golden Globes (airing Jan. 6) in Let the Buzz Begin.
- The SAG Awards (airing Jan. 27 on TNT and TBS) celebrates its 25th anniversary this season but remains the relative newcomer among entertainment award shows. In Screen Spirit, emmy talks to the show's producers about their groundbreaking approach to the program.
Emmy, the official publication of the Television Academy, goes behind the scenes of the industry for a unique insider's view. It showcases the scope of television and profiles the people who make TV happen, from the stars of top shows to the pros behind the cameras, covering programming trends and advances in technology. Honored consistently for excellence, emmy is a six-time Maggie Award winner as Best Trade Publication in Communications or the Arts and has collected 52 Maggies from the Western Publishing Association. Emmy is available on selected newsstands and at TelevisionAcademy.com for single print and digital copies as well as subscriptions.
Download the press release here
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