It seems like everyone’s tried to either remake or reboot John Carpenter’s eighties kitsch classic, “Escape from New York.” Now Joel Silver has gotten into the act, according to Deadline Hollywood, which reports that Silver’s Silver Pictures will partner with Studio Canal to build a new franchise around “Escape from New York.”
Most recently, Warner Bros. subsidiary New Line attempted the project with Breck Eisner (“The Crazies”) attached to direct. At that time, Gerard Butler, Jeremy Renner and Tom Hardy were all touted as possibilities to play antihero lead Snake Plissken, which became sort of a signature role for Kurt Russell. New Line let the option lapse without making the movie, and the orphan property again began looking for a doorstep to get left on.
“Escape from New York” came out in 1981, when John Carpenter was absolutely the bomb. Carpenter directed the movie from a screenplay he co-wrote with Nick Castle, who played psycho-killer Michael Myers in Carpenter’s breakout hit “Halloween.” Debra Hill, who co-produced “Halloween” and reportedly also played Michael Myers in some shots, co-produced with Carpenter. The premise, that in the near future the President of the United States has crash landed into New York City, which has become a walled-in, maximum security penitentiary, reportedly first occurred to Carpenter in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
Kurt Russell, who actually got his start as a child actor in the Elvis Presley movie, “It Happened at the World’s Fair,” had played Presley himself in the TV movie “Elvis,” which was directed by Carpenter. He made a huge impression as Snake Plissken, a former Special Forces soldier and now convict, who is somewhere between duped and blackmailed into being inserted into New York City to rescue the president.
“Escape from New York” was shot on a $6 million budget and grossed back over $25 million domestically. That was enough to warrant a sequel, which ironically didn’t happen until 1996. “Escape from L.A.” was widely considered a pale imitation of “Escape from New York,” and only grossed around $25 million against a $50 million budget. Nonetheless, Russell, reprising Snake Plissken, appeared to have not aged in the intervening 15 years. Still, performance like this would not seem to be the stuff of corporate franchise wet dreams.
Viewed in the cold light of day, “Escape from New York” is virtually quaint. It wasn’t shot in New York City and no, dear God, it doesn’t look it. Also the World Trade Center not only dominates the unconvincing, special effects used to create the Manhattan skyline, it’s actually a locale in the movie. The movie does retain a certain kitchsy charm though, and the supporting performances by Donald Pleasance, who’d played whacked-out shrink Sam Loomis in “Halloween” as the cynical, corrupt president, Lee Van Cleef as a tough police commissioner, Ernest Borgnine as a cabbie and Carpenter’s wife at the time, Adrienne Barbeau, are wonderful.
At this point there’s no word on a director or casting.