‘They Live’: Artist Shepard Fairey on John Carpenter inspiration

May 08, 2013 | 4:06 p.m.

Much has changed socially and politically since the release of “They Live,” John Carpenter’s 1988 sci-fi action film about a blue-collar Joe, played by Roddy Piper, who inadvertently stumbles onto a vast global alien conspiracy. But watching the movie today, it’s nearly impossible not to be struck by its prescience — Carpenter tackles homelessness, income disparity, even global warming in an entertaining adventure movie.

“They Live” also calls to mind the work of Shepard Fairey and his “Obey” propaganda posters (not to mention, of course, the images crafted by groundbreaking conceptual artist Barbara Kruger). Surely, the Los Angeles-based street artist has a relationship with Carpenter’s film?

As it happens, he does.

In this video from 2011, the artist recalls the first time he saw the movie, in 1993, while living in Providence, R.I.,  Fairey said he picked up a $1 copy of “They Live” at a local grocery store and was struck by the ideas in the movie, which was inspired by the Ray Nelson short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning.”

“The film… has a rather profound concept, which is that people don’t realize they’re being manipulated because they’re so caught up in consumption and the rat race, the drag of day-to-day life, they don’t realize they’re being controlled,” Fairey said.

“They Live” will kick off the fourth annual Hero Complex Film Festival Friday at the Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood. The movie will be paired with Carpenter’s landmark horror entry “Halloween,” and the director will appear onstage between the films to discuss his work and his legacy.

The event is sold out, but a few tickets are still available for other festival screenings, including Saturday afternoon’s matinee of “The Mist” with special guest Frank Darabont, and Sunday’s matinee screening of Roland Emmerich’s “Independence Day,” with the filmmaker set to appear.

Available seats can be purchased here.

— Gina McIntyre

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex


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One Response to ‘They Live’: Artist Shepard Fairey on John Carpenter inspiration

  1. John W. says:

    I remember seeing this movie in the theater and wishing that the financiers had more faith and spent more resources on it because the concept was so important and so powerful. I think it could have been so much more than a B-movie starring a former professional wrester.

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