I want to get one thing out of the way up front. Remaking John Carpenter’s 1981 classic Escape From New York is a terrible, terrible idea, and completely unnecessary to boot. That’s not what we’re debating here, because that’s not even a real question. They should just leave well enough alone.
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, onward.
Jason Statham Should Be Snake
If either Tom Hardy or Jason Statham is going to attempt to take over the role of Snake Plissken, made famous by badass cinematic titan Kurt Russell, it should totally be the latter.
Out of the two, Hardy is by far the superior actor. To argue otherwise is to make a difficult case. Take a quick look at their respective bodies of work and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Statham is a one-trick pony, but he does what he does well, and that one weapon in his arsenal just so happens to line up perfectly with what the part requires.
Snake Plissken is a tough guy, a grim outlaw not above killing someone when the situation requires. At the same time he has, not quite a heart of gold, but a strongly developed sense of right and wrong. Take a gander at Statham’s filmography, and that’s exactly what you get. From Snatch and the Transporter movies, up through his most recent movies like Safe, Parker, and The Expendables, that’s the part he plays in every single goddamned movie. He was practically born to play Plissken. Sure, Hardy could infuse the character with all manner of feelings, emotions, and depth, but that’s not what Snake Plissken is all about.
Hell no. He has an eye patch, a scowl, and weirdly tight pants; he doesn’t need feelings. This isn’t a man who’s in touch with his emotions or that is going to sit down and have an in depth conversation about motivation. No, he’s going to kick your ass and get the job done. Which is precisely what Statham is best at.
John Carpenter and Kurt Russell are not only movie co-conspirators, they’re close friends. If you have a chance, their DVD commentary tracks are a good time, especially Big Trouble in Little China. Eventually they’re just drunk and talking about their families, completely ignoring the movie.
Carpenter once told The Hollywood Reporter, “Snake is one of my fondest creations. Kurt Russell did an incredible job, and it would be fun to see someone else try.”
So he’s on board with another actor taking a crack at Plissken. Do you think he’d be okay with Statham’s take on a character he created? Perhaps. The two have already worked together. In 2001 Statham played a space cop in Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars, which is a totally underrated motion picture. Maybe that gives him a leg up on Hardy for the part.
In my humble opinion, unless you’re talking about drastically altering the character, Statham is simply a much better fit to take over the role of Snake Plissken. Besides, Hardy has already had the chance to re-imagine an iconic science fiction character from my youth, given that he’s playing Max Rockatansky in George Miller’s Mad Max reboot, Fury Road. Why does hardy get to hoard all of the parts? Let someone else have a chance, dammit.
Tom Hardy Should Be Snake
Look, I like Jason Statham. Jason Statham is, as my esteemed colleague above explains, very good at doing the one thing he does. He’s a more than capable action-movie guy, and I have no doubt he could infuse the horrible, awful, unnecessary Escape from New York remake with, if not a badassery equal to the unequaled Kurt Russell, at least enough badassery so as to not be an outright insult. But here’s the thing: Jason Statham has pretty much only ever played Jason Statham, and Jason Statham isn’t Snake Plissken.
Oh sure, there are plenty of surface similarities, but the Snake Plissken that John Carpenter and Kurt Russell created is a very specific take on the well-worn trope of the reluctant antihero. I think that’s why it’s crucial that, if you absolutely must remake Escape from New York — and, again, you totally shouldn’t — you need an actor who can give the character their own spin, rather than just doing a subpar Kurt Russell impersonation. And while the way Statham would play the character would certainly be different than the way Russell did, I don’t think that difference could overcome one crucial obstacle. Statham would almost certainly just be playing Jason Statham yet again. Except with an eyepatch and possibly a mullet.
Tom Hardy, however, is an actor who has both talent and range. He’s proven he can be a badass with movies such as The Dark Knight Rises and Inception, but even with those roles, he brings more to the characters than simply “Here’s Tom Hardy with a different haircut doing the same thing he always does.” Even with his roles that focus a lot on his physical performance, such as his deeply broken MMA fighter in Warrior, he finds ways to make his character more than the sum of his uppercuts.
And when he does take a role with a strong physical component, he rises to the occasion and transforms his body into a slab of marble that is just as imposing, if not more so, as Statham. Hell, this guy made Bane intimidating while delivering every line in one of the most ludicrous accents in cinematic history. (Also, if you were taking applications for somebody to be Snake Plissken, “Broke Batman’s spine” would be a damned impressive bit of “Previous Experience.)
Just as important is the simple truth that, unlike Statham, Hardy isn’t unshakably associated with a certain type of role, and only that type of role. I have no idea what Tom Hardy’s Snake Plissken would look like, but I also have no doubt whatsoever that his take on the character would be far superior to Jason Statham’s.
Let Jason Statham keep playing Jason Statham; it’s what he does best. But if we have to pick one of these gents to bring us a new incarnation of Snake, it has to be Hardy. Otherwise you might as well just cast Chuck Norris or Jean-Claude Van Damme.