Opinion

A former inmate picks his favourite on-screen cellmates

Posted by
Shortlist Team
Published
  • Share
  • Tweet

Writer and former inmate Eric Allison on his favourite screen cons

1. Max (Midnight Express, below left)

I know a few heroin addicts. Most of them are completely self-centred; completely fixated on scoring. But Max seemed like a good guy in the film, so I’d stand for him. I’ve escaped from prison before, so I’m on that side. I’m all for people trying to escape.

Advertisement

2. Cesar Luciani (A Prophet, above right)

I don’t like gangsters. They’re bad people in jail. I wouldn’t give him the time of day. He tries to use his power to intimidate people. I learned a lesson in prison: all bullies are cowards. Once you know that, you can’t be bullied. If they were brave, they wouldn’t be bullies.

3. Sideshow Bob (The Simpsons, below left)

He’d be an interesting guy. I’ve been in prison with some larger-than-life characters; I was once locked up with a Russian baron who spoke nine languages. Meeting an interesting character who you can learn something from, even if they were slightly difficult, is better than a boring character who wasn’t difficult.

4. Danny Meehan (Mean Machine, above right)

He was OK: anti-authority; on the right side. You choose your sides. I like people who were on the right side and stood up to the guards. We used to have a saying – not very edifying – that you wouldn’t piss on a screw if he was burning to death. In those days, it was them and us.

5. Robert Stroud (Birdman of Alcatraz, below left)

Gangsters tended to carry on behaving like gangsters when they were in prison. Robert was a pimp, but he became a totally changed man inside prison. He must have been massively provoked [to murder a prison officer].

Advertisement

6. Jonathan Clemens (Alien 3, above middle)

I’d be OK with him. My biggest fear in prison was becoming ill. It would have been very useful to have a doctor such as chief medical officer Clemens as a cellmate. I’m told by people who served time with him that Harold Shipman was very, very popular in Wakefield Prison.

7. Charles Bronson (Bronson, above right)

He’s all right, Charlie. I’ve written to him a couple of times. I wish he’d get his head together; he should be out by now. Watching him work out would exhaust me. Apparently he does 3,000 press-ups every day. I actually feel very sorry for him. He’s a pretty good artist.

8. Magneto (X-Men, below left)

If he could do what he wanted with metal, it wouldn’t be long before he got us both out. Everything about prison is metal – bolts and bars, keys. Being stuck in a prison with a genius would be invigorating. Anybody and anything that you can learn from is a valuable asset. I always used my time in prison to learn.

9. Red (The Shawshank Redemption, above right)

A worldly, wise man – good to have with you. What he didn’t know about the prison system wasn’t worth knowing. He was a philosopher, an all-round good guy. He knew everything that went on in the prison – where you could get whatever you wanted. He’s my favourite of them all. 

(Illustrations: James Fosdike)