Director Breck Eisner succeeded in making a great little horror film with this past spring's George A. Romero reimagining of The Crazies, which comes to DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, June 29th. Next up for Eisner is a remake of John Carpenter's seminal action classic Escape from New York, a project that seems to be in quite capable hands. One of the key elements in making a new version of this 1981 film work is casting the perfect Snake Plissken, which was played to perfection the first time around by living icon and Hollywood legend Kurt Russell. We caught up with Eisner earlier in the day, and he stated that Timothy Olyphant is one of the very few people in the running who could play Snake. Especially as far as the performance being a collaborative effort between the actor and the director. Which Breck thinks is the key to making a truly great Escape from New York for a new generation. He also told us why he decided to remake the film, and what we can expect from it and a possible The Crazies sequel. Here is that conversation:
I know you are remaking Escape From New York next, as well as Blood of the Innocent. So who is Timothy Olyphant going to play? Jack the Ripper? Dracula? Or Snake Plissken?
Breck Eisner: (Laughs) All three if you ask me. I love working with Timothy Olyphant, and I will be working with him again. He is an amazing actor. A talented guy. And he's incredibly funny. He needs to do a great comedy, because he is a funny guy. But I will work with him again. I can promise you that.
Can you talk at all about this idea? That he might very well be our next Snake Plissken?
Breck Eisner: Creatively, he would be great for it. We have not yet discussed internally within the studio who will play Snake Plissken. There are many factors that go into those discussions. First and foremost, obviously, is the creative one. We can't make the movie unless we get the perfect Snake Plissken, and that's a tall order. There are very few guys that could do it. He would definitely be one of the guys who could. There is no question about that.
Well, I hope you do hire him. He's one of the reasons why I enjoyed The Crazies so much.
Breck Eisner: Well, thank you. He is a great actor and a pleasure to be around.
You've said in the past that you would have never attempted to redo a George A. Romero film if it were one of his more well-made, more cherish projects. And that Zack Snyder had a lot of balls to tackle Dawn of the Dead. But now, you are going after Escape From New York, which is one of both John Carpenter and Kurt Russell's seminal works. Do you hold George A. Romero in higher esteem than John Carpenter? Do you think Carpenter is a lesser director? Or do you truly believe that this material is in need of a face-lift?
Breck Eisner: I don't consider John Carpenter or George A. Romero to be better than one or the other. They are both different types of filmmakers. And I am a big fan of both of theirs. Its not my favorite, but one of my all-time favorite horror movies is The Thing. I hold them both in high esteem. They both made movies that are great, and some that are not so great. I wouldn't say that I am a big fan of John Carpenter's Escape from L.A.. Kurt Russell surfing? That just gets me every time. But certainly, there is a risk involved with remaking Escape from New York. I read the script, and it is really good. We are doing a polish on it. But I really like the script. I went back and rewatched it. I'd seen it as a kid countless times. When I was a kid, I loved that movie. The reality of Escape from New York today is that the social meaning of it is not true any more. The movie is a comment on urban decay. The suburban flight. All of that was coming out of the late 70s and early 80s. When the movie came out. That doesn't exist today. The thought for me is, "Is there any relevance today to make Escape from New York?" When we were developing it, when I was looking at it, and I was analyzing it, I realized that the world is a completely different place. New York has a completely different character now than it did back then. The idea of turning it into a prison is a completely different level of social commentary. I liked the idea of discovering this movie through a completely different set of eyes in a different decade. That gave me the confidence that there is a reason to make this movie. That, and there was a similar thing that I found with The Crazies. George A. Romero had made this incredibly low budget movie. Escape from New York wasn't a low budget movie for the time, but John Carpenter was working from this much bigger canvas. A lot of things, like the president's plane crashing into the building? It was quite telling that they had a simulation on an Atari video screen. There are a lot of places in that movie where its obvious that Carpenter wanted to do bigger and better, and cooler things. He couldn't, because he couldn't afford that. We can do that now. The other thing, I think, that is missing from the original Escape from New York is the identity and the recognizability of New York. The New York sets were all shot in St. Louis after a big fire rendered a bunch of warehouses uninhabitable. Aside from a few establishing, lower-end matte shots, that New York is not often there. It's just these random, obscure warehouses. My idea, which I am really excited about, is making sure every location is clearly identifiable as the real New York City. A repurposed New York City.
Southland Tales touches on some of these themes. Have you looked at that movie as far as what Richard Kelly did right, and what he did wrong?
Breck Eisner: No, I haven't actually watched that film since I started working on Escape from New York. That's a good idea. I will.
There's some great ideas in that movie. There are also some not so great ideas. It's a very strange tale.
Breck Eisner: That often happens when your ambition is bigger than your budget.
The idea of a sequel to the Crazies has been tossed around quite a bit, but you've never said that its something you'd truly enjoy doing. And you have quite a bit on your plate. Do you think that if a sequel does happen, it will be made by someone else? And do you have a seed of an idea about what the story will be, and who you would like to see do it?
Breck Eisner: I would love to pass this off to someone else. To see their interpretation of the movie. The way George A. Romero did with me, I would love to hand it off to the next guy. And see what he or she does. That would be kind of exciting. There have been no internal discussions about franchising this movie. The design of the film? The open ending of it has nothing to do with setting up a franchise. It's what felt right to me in ending this particular movie. I didn't want to tie it up in a big bow, I didn't want everyone to be okay. This movie is a cautionary tale. The ending is ambiguous. That is on purpose. The fact that I love 70s horror had a lot to do with it. 70s horror hardly ever ended happy. Those films ended kind of bleak. I couldn't help but be influenced by that.