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J O H N C A R P E N T E R P R E S E N T S
A F I L M B Y P A U L V E R H O E V E N
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK
WRITTEN BY JOHN CARPENTER, NICK CASTLE and ED NEUMEIER
ORIGINAL MUSIC BY JOHN CARPENTER and DAFT PUNK
Starring... Chris Evans as "SNAKE PLISSKEN"
Samuel L. Jackson as "THE DUKE OF NEW YORK"
Sigourney Weaver as "BARB HAUK"
Sharlto Copley as "BRAIN"
Christina Hendricks as "MAGGIE"
Sean Harris as "ROMERO"
Dean Norris as "REHME"
with Danny Glover as "CABBIE"
and Bill Pullman as "THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES"
Special Appearances by Robert Maillet as Slag, Jenny Slate as the Girl in the Chock full o'Nuts and Wham!'s Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go as Cabbie's song.
Warning: Long-ass write-up! (Click to show)
Still riding high off the success of Mad Max: Fury Road, Warner Bros. approaches cult filmmaker and legend John Carpenter with the idea of pulling him out of his semi-retirement and making a genre blockbuster in the vein of his classic 80s outpout. The director is interested but turns them down, citing that "his time of directing films had passed" and that his desire now was to focus on music. The company insists with the offer, assuring him full creative control and a $90 million budget. Realizing he has the opportunity to think big and make a personal movie (something that he hadn't been able to do in a long time) Carpenter changes his mind and accepts; he still prefers to step out of the director chair but oversees the whole project. Looking for inspiration he starts doing some digging and finds an unproduced sci-fi/action script set in a dystopian future he had written alongside Nick Castle back in the day, named Escape from New York. After re-reading it and falling in love with it again he pitches the concept to Warner Bros. who agree to produce it immediately, especially since its retrofuturistic themes fit perfectly with the recent 80s-throwback trend in film.
The project begins to shape up but Carpenter still needs a director to complement his vision, stating that the only proper way to make it is "with a true auteur in the helm". He meets up personally with another genre film icon, Paul Verhoeven, and convinces him to return to Hollywood to develop the film with him, with the Dutch filmmaker assuming directing duties as well as bringing his old collaborator Ed Neumeier to revise the script alongside Carpenter himself. Although the screenplay's setting is changed from 1997 to 2037 both Verhoeven and Neumeier decide against of contemporising it for a modern audience, prefering to update the script's grim tone by injecting satire and off-the-wall humor in the style of the Dutchman's own RoboCop and Starship Troopers and pumping the action in a more manic and visceral way, taking major inspiration from the Mad Max saga. British artist Brendan McCarthy works on the concept art and design, citing The Warriors, 2000 AD comic books and 70s exploitation films as further stylistic influences. Carpenter looks forward to compose the film's score but prefers to do it with a collaborator, arguing that Verhoeven's direction needs something louder and more epic in scale than his classic minimalist music. Thinking big and seizing the opportunity to collaborate with artists he admires, he gets in touch with french electronic duo Daft Punk, who declare themselves fans of the filmmaker and accept to work with him without doubt. Jonathan Sela (director of photography), Jon Harris (editor), Ondrej Nekvasil (production design) and VFX company Iloura round up the crew.
Chris Evans nabs the main role of Snake Plissken, an eye-patched mercenary inspired by Leone's Man with No Name character. Looking to distance himself from his Captain America role, Evans jumps at the chance to play an anti-hero. Genre movie legend Sigourney Weaver is picked personally by Carpenter to play Manhattan's warden Hauk. The character (originally written as a man) is changed by the filmmakers just to have her in the film. Evans' MCU co-star Samuel L. Jackson is cast as The Duke of New York, a Blaxploitation-type crime boss, with Carpenter simply stating that "Sam Jackson kicks ass". Bill Pullman signs to play the weaselly President as a riff on his Independence Day character while Danny Glover is chosen to play the unnamed taxie driver who acts as Snake's travel guide. Rounding up the cast are District 9 star Sharlto Copley and Drive's Christina Hendricks, playing Snake's former associate Brain and his squeeze Maggie respectively whereas Sean Harris and Verhoeven regular Dean Norris are featured in minor roles. Wrestler-turned-actor Robert Maillet and Evans' couple Jenny Slate appear in cameo form.
Escape from New York opens to rave reviews (including a lengthy standing ovation at Cannes) with critics praising it as a triumphant return to Hollywood for both Paul Verhoeven and John Carpenter and highlighting the energetic direction, visual aesthetic, action sequences and synth-heavy soundtrack. The audience that enjoyed Mad Max: Fury Road years earlier flocks to see it, eager for another exhilarating R-rated action extravaganza, resulting on a box office success that opens the possibilities for a sequel. Despite the roaring response it gets notably ignored in the big categories at the awards season, although Carpenter and Daft Punk win the Academy Award for Best Original Score and Verhoeven lands a deserving first Oscar nomination for Best Director.
Jon Bernthal as Snake Plissken
Terry Crews as The Duke
Stephen King as Cabbie
Robert Downey Jr. as Brain
Jeff Bridges as Hauk
Katy Perry as Maggie
Aidan Gillen as The President
Michael Shannon as Romero
Charlize Theron as Chock Full o' Nuts Girl