(Jingoistically Speaking) Top 5 American Actors who can play Snake Plissken

Top 5 American Actors who can play Snake Plissken
By Bret Dorman

Call me "Snake."

Call me “Snake.”

According to /Film, it is rumored that Jason Statham and Tom Hardy are in the running for those being considered for the role of Snake Plissken in the reboot of Escape From New York which may or may not come out ever. Now, normally I don’t get weirdly nationalistic about these sort of things, but I agree with Kurt Russell when he says the actor who does take over the role should be American. In fact, I thought this back when Gerard Butler was in the running and it’s oddly comforting to know Russell himself feels the same way.

So now I like to play that dangerous game called Fantasy Casting. For most Fanboys and Internet Commenters, this means that if the producers of the movie don’t bow to my every simplistic whim, I will hate them forever and wish bad things to happen to them because why can’t they see this is what’s best for everyone?!?!?! The fact of the matter is it’s not just about who looks the part or *might* be the best, but there are things like schedules, contracts, personalities, and creative differences to consider. The person you want them to cast that they don’t will always be better in your mind because it exists exactly the way you want it to.



So this is just for fun. I set up some parameters. The actors I picked had to be strictly American. No Canadian cheats. This means overall I had to exclude Ray Stevenson, Liam Hemsworth, Ryan Gosling, Karl Urban, and Nathan Fillion (yes, some choices are better than others). Before reading Russell’s thoughts I also set the parameter that the actor should be under 40. Russell himself was 30 when filming Escape From NY AND it was basically his first feature length starring role. Wow. So this means I excluded actors like Thomas Jane, Jerremy Renner, and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The simple fact of the matter is once you sit down with these parameters, the list of semi-to-well established actors becomes smaller and smaller. You start to realize how perfect Russell is in the role once you realize there is NO ONE else who can do it like him. The man is buff enough to be an action hero, sarcastic enough to fit right in with the weird Manhattan Island prison, and just doesn’t give a fuck about anything.

So when making this list, I thought of two things.

1) The actor has to not just act like he doesn’t give a fuck, but actually mean it.

2) My litmus test was the line “Get a new President.”

And without further delay…

5) Sean William Scott

Too goofy? Perhaps. But good stubble!

Too goofy? Perhaps. But good stubble!

I’ve probably just lost half of you.

Stifler? As Snake? You’ve got to be kidding! Well, to be fair, I did put him at #5. Do I think he could or should actually pull off the role? No. But it’s fun to think about it.

Actually, I wanted to have a funny-man (I hesitate to use the word “comedian” since I’m not sure he really has a “comedic” background) because I know sometimes funny-men can turn out good dramatic roles. Jamie Foxx in Collateral. Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love. And Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine. See, I don’t think of Snake as an action hero. He’s more of a badass anti-hero. He doesn’t get involved in action scenes where he saves the day. He is roped into action scenes against his will and toughs his way out. In order to get laughs you have to know timing. And with the right help, maybe Scott could convert that comedic timing into the silent badass type.

Action Resume/Fucks Given: Despite his plethora of Stifler characters, Scott has The Rundown (starring The Rock in one of his BEST action movies), Southland Tales, Cop Out (meh), and Goon under his belt. He’s always got that goofy grin though, which is what makes him a distant #5. But after some family issues, Scott decided he wouldn’t fight the Stifler persona anymore and would actually embrace it and embody it even more (see: Role Models).

4) Aaron Paul

So intense!

So intense!

I wanted to pick someone from TV since Russell himself had mostly TV experience before moving to Escape for his big screen action star debut. So naturally I looked to the current TV shows I watch, which is very few. Needless to say Breaking Bad is not only a great show, but a potential gold mine for our new Snake?!

It’s hard to imagine Aaron Paul as someone who isn’t a whiney drug dealer whose big “catch phrase” is the word “Bitch”, but given the right direction I think he could pull it off well enough.

Paul needs a big screen hit if he wants to really break into the movie biz. He’s had some bit parts here and there and his TV work is pretty full and diverse. I haven’t seen Smashed but I know the Escape ‘franchise’ name would help him out a lot.

Action Resume/Fucks Given: He plays “Rick” in Mission: Impossible III (I’ve seen the movie over 2 dozen times and didn’t know he was in it till checking IMDB) and he’s been in some action-y type shows. He’s coming off one of the most critically acclaimed shows of television ever so I’m pretty sure he’s feeling pretty good right now, which means he could throw a little “Snake” attitude around.

3) Josh Hartnett

The Film Noir Snake.

The Film Noir Snake.

Ah yes. The pretty boy actor. If I didn’t lose you with Sean William Scott, then I will probably lose you with Hartnett. Yes, he’s a good looking dude, but I think there is a fundamental difference between Hartnett and some of the others, like Chris Evans, Chris Pine, or Bradley Cooper. Hartnett is more cynical in his sarcasm, whereas the others are too… “naturally charming.”

I would liken Hartnett playing Snake to Ledger playing Joker when comparing them to Russell/Nicholson. Ledger didn’t do exactly what Nicholson did, instead making it his own. Yes, a Hartnett-Snake would be different, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This goes back to the fanboy fanaticism though. It all depends on the tone they are going for. Remember I don’t envision Escape From NY as an action movie per se, its just filled with enough badass tone/vibe to be considered a straight up actioner.

And even though Russell is pretty jacked in Escape, his character is always in the underdog situation. An actor like Hardy or Statham or even some of the ones I mentioned up top are TOO convincing and you’d never really believe they could be taken down, while Hartnett seems like he’d be constantly fighting that uphill battle.

Action Resume/Fucks Given: Black Hawk Down, 30 Days of Night, Pearl Harbor, and The Faculty. Plus Bunraku, while being a mess, was awesomely badass. And then there’s always his small but menacing contribution to Sin City. And let’s not forget his character Slevin in Lucky Number Slevin, who is described as having ataraxia – the inability to worry. It seems from his dwindling number of movies per year to more obscure selections/minor parts that Hartnett really doesn’t care that his 15 minutes in Hollywood are up, which makes him ripe for Snake.

2) Ben Foster

Let's get this man an eye patch.

Let’s get this man an eye patch.

Hopefully you stuck with me this far, because Ben Foster can do anything. In fact, I’m very legit disappointed he’s not in the running for Snake for realsies, ALMOST in the fanboy fanatical way. Because Ben Foster can do anything (I know I already said that but it’s true).

Not only does Foster bring his A-Game to everything he does, he’s not afraid to try out new things. One character he does is not like another and same with his movie selection. He really seems to throw himself into every role, so there’s no doubt he’d be willing to put on a bit of muscle and probably even get a real cobra tattooed onto his abdomen.

I know Statham and Hardy have more star power, but Foster has both the mainstream appeal and indie-cred to actually pull off the near impossible task of redefining one of cinema’s most badass badasses without letting his own name get in the way.

Action Resume/Fucks Given: The Punisher (2004), 30 Days of Night, 3:10 to Yuma (where he easily outdid Oscar Winner Russell Crowe and Future Oscar Winner Christian Bale), Pandorum, and X-Men: The Last Stand. Not to mention he has a brutal fight scene in The Mechanic plus many moments like this. Also, his entire role in Contraband was done in looks, something that is perfect for playing Snake.

1) Joaquin Phoenix

Zero Fucks Were Given.

Zero Fucks Were Given.

Fantasy Casting.

I think Foster is the most logical choice given the parameters set up (or even regardless of them) but this is my dream list. Phoenix is the oldest of this group, barely coming in under the 40 mark. But once you start to think of all the actors who could play Snake you start to realize nobody, and I mean NOBODY, embodies the “I don’t give a fuck” attitude more than Phoenix himself.

Again, imagine Pheonix saying “Get a new President.” You’d believe him. 100%. And he’d say it with such vile and hate. It already seems like hollywood is pulling Phoenix into directions he doesn’t want to go, making him do things against his will. And that’s what the Snake character is. He’s a guy who wants to have enough money to be left alone, but is forced to do extraordinary things that he does so with a sigh.

The more you think about Phoenix the more he’ll grow on you as an interesting choice for Snake Plissken, textbook anti-hero.

Action Resume/Fucks Given: Gladiator, Ladder 49, We Own The Night, and to lesser degrees Signs and The Village. Plus, you know, that little thing called I’m Still Here, the pseudo-documentary where (hoax or not) Phoenix nearly ruined his own career as an actor in pursuit of a hip hop album.

Damn this is a great picture.

Damn this is a great picture.

Again, all of these are just for fun (except Foster, he’s the real deal). The more you think about Escape From New York the more you realize how much of a gem it is. Between John Carpenter’s fantastical imagination and eery execution and Kurt Russell spitting out his lines like venom, you know whoever is going to remake this is in for one hell of a headache. Not to mention Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasance, Isaac Hayes, and Lee Van Cleef all being equally irreplaceable. And let’s not forget Frank Doubleday’s Minutia Monday Worthy Performance.

And now, just for ultra fun (aka just for my brother)… here’s The REAL only obvious and logical choice for the actor who can take over Snake Plissken. Because let’s face it, he should be cast as every role all the time no matter what:

Snake, Brain, The Duke, and Commissioner Hauk all rolled into one...

Snake, Brain, The Duke, and Commissioner Hauk all rolled into one…

3 responses to “(Jingoistically Speaking) Top 5 American Actors who can play Snake Plissken

  1. Jensen Ackles perfect for this role then since he’s a young American. Granted he’s 35 I believe that should be the limit instead of just 30.

  2. Pingback: (Episode 122 of) Cinema Smackdown | Cinema Punch!·

  3. Pingback: (A Very Giallo Episode of) Cinema Smackdown | Cinema Punch!·

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