The 13th Floor

Escape From Development Hell: The Lost Adventures of Snake Plissken

Despite Snake Plissken’s status as one of the most iconic anti-heroes in genre cinema, he hasn’t had that many outings. Since arriving in 1981’s ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK he’s fronted two movies and some comic spin-offs, but little else. It says a lot about Kurt Russell’s performance and the world John Carpenter crafted around him that Snake remains so popular, inspiring everything from Neil Marshall’s DOOMSDAY to THE PURGE series and the METAL GEAR SOLID video games.

Carpenter’s sequel allergy is well-known but he and Russell love the Snake character and have brainstormed numerous projects over the years. Sadly most of them stalled for various reasons, and gathered here are some of the most intriguing ideas that failed to escape development hell.

ESCAPE FROM L.A: The 1987 Draft

After mulling it over for years Carpenter set the wheels in motion for ESCAPE FROM L.A. in 1987 when he inked a deal with producer Dino de Laurentiis. He enlisted Coleman Luck — a showrunner for THE EQUALIZER — to pen it.

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

Luck’s script featured Los Angeles being destroyed by two disasters simultaneously; first by an airborne virus that caused mass brain damage and then by a massive earthquake splitting it from the mainland. The government declared it a lost cause and it transformed into a huge insane asylum. The story picks up in 1995 — two years before EFNY — with Hauk recruiting Snake for a mission; if he survives 48 hours in L.A. he’ll be granted any request.

He runs into various colorful characters along the way — including old teammates who are supposed to be dead — while his adventure is monitored by a mystery man in a limo filled with rats. Snake later learns the mission was a test to prove he’s the ultimate soldier, and the limo man is an arms dealer intent on cloning Snake and selling his duplicates. The finale features Snake getting the crap beaten out of him by a clean shaven, two-eyed clone during a Disneyland demonstration. Realizing he’s going to lose he dives into a vat filled with his genes, but as he dissolves his memories transfer to his clone. He then grabs a weapon and wipes out everyone at the clone demonstration, and Hauk abandons the crazed clone on the island, with cryptic text suggesting EFNY’s Snake was a clone too.

It’s an intriguing script, but Coleman was literally out of luck; the week his draft was turned in DEG went bankrupt. Carpenter later called Luck’s draft “too campy” and the director, Russell and producer Debra Hill would co-pen the screenplay for the eventual film.

ESCAPE FROM L.A.: The 1993 Briggs Spec

Screenwriter Peter Briggs is best known for his unproduced 1991 ALIEN VS PREDATOR script, which he wrote on spec and sold for a healthy sum. After a few years working on different movies he decided to write another spec, and felt another Snake adventure would be fun. Briggs’ version took place in a world that was thrown into choas following the end of EFNY, with South American cartels invading and seizing various American cities.

Snake is now a bounty hunter who’s hired to go into L.A. and rescue a kidnapped Senator. Snake also learns his pal Fresno Bob is somehow alive and working for the cartels, so he heads in to confront him. Briggs was inspired by the cyberpunk wave happening during this period too, so he inserted robotic exo-suits to spice things up.

The script ended with a large-scale battle where Snake has to confront the villainous Bob – who is wearing an exo-suit – with only a knife and his reflexes. It ended on another dark note, where Snake kills Bob and saves the Senator, only for the traumatized politician to commit suicide anyway. Alas, Briggs was also a victim of bad timing; Carpenter had already closed a deal to write EFLA himself by the time Briggs tried to sent him a copy.

ESCAPE FROM EARTH

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

Shortly before the release of EFLA Carpenter teased his concept for another adventure, dubbed ESCAPE FROM EARTH. No plot details have ever been revealed, but it would have followed on from the dark ending of the previous film. There are also reports GHOSTS OF MARS began life as ESCAPE FROM MARS, with the original story featuring Snake in place of Ice Cube’s Desolation Williams. They wear the same outfit and have similar worldviews so it would be easy character trade.

ESCAPE: The Series

In 2000 details emerged about a potential TV series based around Snake, with Carpenter, Hill and Russell exec producing. The series would have featured Snake being forced by the President to travel the world and help save what’s left of humanity following a number of man-made disasters.

Snake is also gunning after Bob Hauk and apparently, the show would have climaxed with Plissken keeping his promise to kill him. The pilot script was deemed too bleak for television and after 9/11 the idea was abandoned.

SNAKE PLISSKEN’S ESCAPE

In 2003 a transmedia project called the Snake Plissken Chronicles was announced, kicking off with a comic of the same name. Chronicles were intended to flesh out Snake’s world further, with video game SNAKE PLISSKEN’S ESCAPE filling in backstories like how he lost his eye and The Battle of Leningrad. The storyline was approved by Carpenter, who planned to compose the music while Russell provided voiceover and motion capture.

Gameplay footage featured Snake dual wielding guns, employing fancy gadgets, sneaking around bases and performing execution moves. ESCAPE was deep in development when it was canned and although no official reason has been given, it was probably out of respect for Debra Hill, who passed away in 2005.

SNAKE

Image Credit: Production I.G.

The Chronicles Project also involved an anime movie dubbed SNAKE, with animation by Production I.G., whose credits include NEON GENESIS and GHOST IN THE SHELL. Again Russell was due to provide Snake’s voice, while Carpenter handled the soundtrack.

Sadly no footage has been revealed — though a 30-second teaser was produced — and little is known about the plot. Lots of artwork has been released however, revealing Snake being briefed in the Oval Office and storyboards suggest it was set in New Las Vegas. Like the game SNAKE was quietly cancelled after Hill’s passing.

ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK: The Failed Reboots

Fans will know a EFNY remake has been brewing for years with endless directors and actors linked. New Line signed Gerard Butler as Snake in 2007, with Ken Nolan penning an R-rated script filled with action, including a gunfight on Air Force One and an expanded gladiator battle. Carpenter was attached as exec producer also, with his only conditions being that Snake keep the eyepatch and be “badass.” Directors like Len Wiseman and Jonathan Mostow came and went before Butler finally bowed out.

Breck Eisner was briefly attached and wanted Timothy Olyphant for Snake, but his vision of a New York being rebuilt following a bomb attack went nowhere. When New Line’s option expired Joel Silver took over and envisioned a trilogy. Part one would be a Snake origin story, part two would feature New York before it collapsed and part three would have Snake infiltrating NY prison. Dan Stevens and Jon Bernthal were shortlisted but again it came to nothing.

Fox now have the rights and Robert Rodriguez is set to direct. Screenwriter Neil Cross wrote a version in 2015 that featured New York as a gleaming metropolis guarded by drones, and Hauk transforming into a female CIA agent. It’s unknown if Cross’ script will be used, but since ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK inspired Rodriguez to become a director in the first place, it should be in safe hands.

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