Kurt Russell will make a rare on-stage appearance on May 3, at Entertainment Weekly’s new CapeTown Film Festival in Los Angeles, where he will discuss the legacy of Snake Plissken and Escape from New York, the sci-fi cult classic that made headlines this month with news of a possible remake.
The Q&A at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood will be followed by the screening of Escape from New York, the first of four genre feature films that teamed Russell with director John Carpenter. The tandem dug into frozen horrors with The Thing (1982); put the pedal down on daft, high-adrenaline adventure in Big Trouble in Little China (1986); and surfed west with the Snake character in Escape from L.A. (1996). The appearance by Russell will catch the attention of genre fans who know the star is seldom if ever seen at retrospective events.
For former child actor Russell – who was signed to a contract by the late Walt Disney himself in 1960 – taking on the role of the cynical, sly and sneering Plissken was an escape route from industry expectations. With his world-weary stare, Plissken became a celluloid heir to lone-wolf tough guys such as Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name and Lee Marvin’s Walker in Point Blank.
The 1981 movie cost a lean $6 million to make, but it delivered a lot of hard-boiled bang for the buck. (One grim advantage: East St. Louis, burned out by a series of 1970s fires, provided a scorched-rubble location shoot that stood in for New York lurching into anarchy.) The movie also stars Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Adrienne Barbeau, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes and Harry Dean Stanton. The plot: After a plane crash, the President of the United States is trapped inside New York, which is now a smoldering, open-air penitentiary that’s been severed from the rest of the United States. Only a madman would try to rescue him – or the inmate named Plissken, a former commando who is offered a pardon if he saves the chief executive and a death sentence if he doesn’t deliver on time.
There’s fresh talk of big-screen remake of Escape from New York and plenty of casting speculation, but any new version of the 1981 cult classic faces a challenge as daunting as the movie’s mission: For sci-fi fans, the anti-hero named Snake Plissken is synonymous with Russell and any newcomer will have to prove they’re more than a temporary patch job.
Escape from New York will be one of the six days of programming and will be accompanied by a special free big-screen preview presentation of the season three premiere of Falling Skies, the TNT sci-fi series that stars Noah Wyle and Moon Bloodgood and traces the post-invasion struggles of humanity to fight against the invaders — and to fight against extinction. The Friday night program of Escape from New York and Falling Skies begins at 7 p.m.
Tickets for the CapeTown Film Festival go on sale April 8. Tickets for screenings (unless otherwise noted) cost $11 each. Entertainment Weekly subscribers and members of the American Cinematheque are eligible for a discount price (the cost goes down to $7 per ticket) during a special April 6 walk-up pre-sale at the Egyptian box office.
The previously announced programming for the festival: The Return of the Jedi will be screened four times on May 4, with special surprise guests, fan activities, giveaways and contests.