It was my thoroughly depressing duty last week to break the news that the Escape from New York remake, which had fallen into development hell, was alive and well under a new team. So yes, once again we’re going to be subjected to Hollywood returning to a well that was thoroughly drained the first time. But the thing that bothers me more than the idea of an Escape from New York remake? Somebody other than Kurt Russell in the role of one-eyed badass Snake Plissken. I don’t like to throw around words like “heresy,” but if this were the middle ages I’m pretty sure the Escape from New York reboot team would be burned at the stake.
It was just a matter of time until somebody asked Russell himself what he thought about somebody else slipping on the eyepatch. Surprisingly, he has one main qualification for his successor, but it’s one that might disqualify both of the current frontrunners for the role. Here’s what Russell told Empire Magazine:
There are two guys who really do know Snake Plissken and the Escape world. Number one, John [Carpenter]. Number two, me. When it comes to Snake, I can tell you one thing… he’s American. It’s really important that he’s American. There’s a reason why that great fight in the arena [in Escape From New York] is with a baseball bat. That’s American, OK? He knows what he’s doing with that bat in his hand! I thought Gerard Butler was great in 300.
The problem is not Snake, you can find a good Snake. You gotta get John Carpenter. Escape From New York is just weird because of the way he sees the world, man. He sees it slightly off. It’s his world, it’s a night world. This is his thing.
Butler was rumored for the role of Plissken during the previous incarnation of the Escape remake, so there’s no evidence that he’s involved at this point. Instead, the two frontrunners are said to be Jason Statham and Tom Hardy. They’re both solid talents who could bring very different things to the role, and if you absolutely have to go forward with this harebrained remake, you could certainly do worse than hiring one of them for the lead role. But they’re both British. It’s unclear from context whether Russell is saying Plissken the character has to be American, or that the actor playing Plissken has to be American, but for the sake of argument let’s say it’s the latter.
Obviously, Russell is right, he’s one of two guys who are pretty much the definitive experts when it comes to the subject of Escape from New York and the character of Plissken. That alone should give weight to the actor’s opinions on the subject, but assuming we’re interpreting him correctly, I can see where he’s coming from here. There are certain iconic characters where it would just seem wrong to have a different nationality playing the role. James Bond and the Doctor should always be played by folks from the UK. Assuming they eventually (or inevitably) decide to reboot their respective series, I’d say John McClane and Indiana Jones should always be played by Americans. And yeah, I’d say it makes sense for Plissken to be on that “Yanks only” list as well. Then again, we’ve currently got a Brit playing Superman in Man of Steel and it’s supposedly great, so what the hell do I know.
What do you think? Would Statham or Hardy be a worthy successor to Kurt Russell, or should U.S. residents only apply?