John Carpenter’s Escape from New York (1981) is the movie that made Kurt Russell a bad-ass. Going into this film, Russell was best known for a run of Disney films, such as The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The World’s Strongest Man and more. All of that changed in 1979 when Russell teamed up with Carpenter to do 1979’s Elvis, a TV biopic that earned rave reviews and a theatrical run overseas. Carpenter, who was looking for launch an all-new action hero named Snake Plissken in his film Escape from New York, was eager to reteam with Russell for what would be a career changing role for the young actor.
Alas, the studio was far from convinced that Russell, who they viewed as lightweight, would be right to play Carpenter’s one-eyed anti-hero, with them preferring choices such as Charles Bronson, or Tommy Lee Jones, but Carpenter would not be swayed. The result was a cult classic that paved the way for one of the screen’s best actor-director collaborations, with Russell/Carpenter famously re-teaming on The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, and 1996’s Escape from New York sequel, Escape from L.A. In this instalment of WTF Happened to this Movie, we dig into the roots of Snake Plissken and what Carpenter had to go through in order to get his preferred leading man cast in the role that would make him a star.
This episode of WTF Happened to this Movie is written and narrated by Dave Davis, edited by Juan Jimenez, and produced by Ben Cantler. Berge Garabedian is the executive producer. Watch previous episodes below and let us know what you think of Escape from New York in the comments!