For movie geeks of a certain age — and let’s be honest, a certain gender — Kurt Russell’s eyepatch-wearing badass Snake Plissken in Escape From New York is, was, and ever shall be the epitome of cool.
So when Variety reported last week that a remake of the 1981 John Carpenter classic was in the works with Scottish actor (and newly minted 300 star) Gerard Butler as the new Snake, a collective grumbling could be heard. Well, it turns out the diehard fans aren’t the only ones grumbling: Russell isn’t exactly thrilled about the idea either.
During an interview with Entertainment Weekly about his upcoming role in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse (which opens April 6), Russell sounded off on Hollywood’s shameless addiction to remakes, why they seem to be picking on his old movies in particular, and why Snake Plissken absolutely has to be played by an American actor.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Over the past couple of months, Variety has reported that Hollywood is remaking The Thing and now Escape From New York. What’s your take on that?
KURT RUSSELL: [Laughs] They’re remaking everything I’ve ever done.
Some people are really attached to those movies.
Yeah, I think that’s what happens to people as they get older, they get territorial and proprietary about these things. However, I will say that when I was told who was going to play Snake Plissken, my initial reaction was ”Oh, man!” [Russell winces]. I do think that character was quintessentially one thing. And that is, American.
What other films of yours have been remade?
They remade a couple of Disney films that I made — Kirk Cameron did The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. They made Backdraft into two television series, Rescue Me and Third Watch, both of which I never saw. They did Stargate.
But messing with Snake Plissken is a whole different level of heresy…
People come up to me and say, ”You played Snake Plissken.” I didn’t play Snake Plissken, I created him! Goldie [Hawn] and I were talking the other day about this, and I said, ”Man, this is weird, isn’t it?” And she said, ”When they were going to do a remake of Private Benjamin, I thought, ‘I didn’t play Private Benjamin, I created that role!”’ I did Wyatt Earp — there’s only been 50 of those. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll put my Wyatt Earp up against anybody’s. I’ll put my MacCready [his character in The Thing] up against anybody’s.
What if they asked you to do a cameo in the new Escape from New York, or play the Ernest Borgnine role?
F— that! I am Snake Plissken! It’s like Sean Connery always watching someone else do their version of Bond. I think one of the things, for instance, about Escape From New York that appealed to me was that it wasn’t a special effects extravaganza. It’s a quiet, dark world and it revolved around watching the behavior of this one guy. He’s a fascinating character. In fact, he’s the most complex character I’ve ever played.