15 Facts About Lock Up

TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures / TriStar Pictures

This 1989 Sylvester Stallone prison flick had exactly what it needed to be authentic: real prisoners.

1. “Gateway Prison” in the movie is actually Rahway State Prison in New Jersey. (These days, it goes by East Jersey State Prison.) The production team visited eight different maximum-security prisons around the U.S. before settling on Rahway. Besides Lock Up, the prison has appeared in The Hurricane, Malcolm X, He Got Game, Rounders, and Ocean’s Eleven.

2. The extras in the film were actual inmates at Rahway State Prison.

3. Each morning, director John Flynn had the producers hand-select 200 of the prison’s 1900 inmates to work from 7:30 a.m to 5 p.m. that day. The production reportedly provided the lucky inmates with donuts and coffee each day—luxuries they weren’t normally allowed.

4. Flynn made a career out directing gritty, no-nonsense dramas, including the 1991 Steven Seagal action flick Out For Justice. But perhaps his most praiseworthy film is one he never got credit for. Flynn served as an uncredited assistant director on another prison-escape drama, 1963’s The Great Escape, starring Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, and more.

5. Most of the guards in the film were actual guards of the prison as well.

6. The guards received the standard SAG pay-rate for extras at $93 per day. 

7. The prisoner extras received a minimum wage of $26 per day.

8. Stallone knows his way around a prison set. Including Lock Up, he has starred in 10 movies where incarceration plays a key role, including Victory, First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Over the Top, Rambo III, Tango & Cash, Demolition Man, Judge Dredd, and Escape Plan.

9. There were no body doubles during the muddy football scene. Stallone himself was repeatedly tackled by real prison extras while shooting the scene.

10. Cincinnati Bengals fans will recognize the dance that Eclipse (played by actor Frank McRae) does after scoring a touchdown in the football scene as the “Ickey Shuffle,” the touchdown celebration made famous by former Bengals fullback Ickey Woods.

11. McRae was a solid choice for the football scene – he’d actually spent a short stint as an NFL defensive tackle, playing six games for the Chicago Bears during the 1967 season.

12. Danny Trejo makes an appearance as one of the gang members led by the character Chink Weber (played by actor Sonny Landham).

13. “Maybelline” is an original 1965 Ford Mustang GT. It was from the first year of the legendary car’s production.

14. Lock Up is the first starring film role for Tom Sizemore, who plays fellow convict Dallas. The same year he appeared in a brief background part in director Kathryn Bigelow’s film Blue Steel.

15. Composer Bill Conti, who did the score for the film, rose to fame for composing the music in Rocky—most notably the much-imitated theme, “Gonna Fly Now.” 

For more Stallone and fun facts, tune in to Lock Up on IFC Movies with a Twist - Stirred by mental_floss kicking off Thursday 4:30p.