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SYFY WIRE Escape from New York

Leigh Whannell explains why he's 'afraid' of his Escape from New York reboot

By Matthew Jackson
Snake Plissken Escape From New York

This week, writer/director Leigh Whannell's The Invisible Man remake hits theaters, riding a wave of critical acclaim and early buzz that have it poised to be a hit, and perhaps even a new horror classic. With the tale of an invisible villain and the horrified woman who must battle him in his rearview, Whannell's now turning his thoughts to yet another sci-fi franchise remake he's been attached to for some time, and he's willing to admit that he's at least a little intimidated. 

Whannell built his filmmaking reputation in the horror genre, first as a screenwriter who helped craft two of the most successful franchises of the 21st century: Saw and Insidious. In 2018 he began infusing a heavier dose of science fiction into his filmography with his second effort as a writer/director: Upgrade, an acclaimed low-budget film that merged a sci-fi high concept with body horror intrigue. The Invisible Man feels like a logical continuation of that blend, but around the same time his involvement in that film came to light, reports also attached Whannell to a remake of Escape from New York, John Carpenter's action classic about a former special ops soldier tasked with infiltrating the prison complex formerly known as Manhattan. 

Speaking to io9 about The Invisible Man and what's next for him, Whannell said he's revisiting Escape from New York in the near future, but not without some trepidation. 

“I’m a big fan of Escape From New York and I’m afraid of it in a way that I wasn’t with The Invisible Man,” Whannell said. “I feel like The Invisible Man has such a long and storied history with so many people attacking the character from different angles that it gives you permission to mess with it a bit. Not so Escape From New York. It is very much the product of one brain and how are you going to replace Kurt Russell? So I think I’m a little afraid of it and I want to approach it very carefully. If I was going to do something, I would have to know exactly how I was going to please the fans of the original.”

Whannell's not the only one who's afraid of an Escape from New York remake. Various filmmakers have been trying to develop one for years, including director Robert Rodriguez, writer Neil Cross, and Carpenter himself in an advisory capacity. Whannell hasn't spilled too many details about whatever his approach might be, though he did recently offer up the idea that original Escape star Kurt Russell's son, Wyatt, was the logical choice to be the next Snake Plissken. 

Whatever Whannell may or may not end up doing on the project, there's a reason why we've barely heard anything about his work on it for the last year. The Invisible Man happened quite fast, so fast in fact that Whannell himself barely realized he was being courted for the project at first. He just thought he was in a meeting about the then-new Upgrade

“One of the people in the meeting started probing me about the Invisible Man [and] what would I do with that character,” Whannell said. “And me in my naivete, I thought we were just shooting the breeze. I didn’t see the ambush. I was like, ‘Off the top of my head. I would probably tell the whole story from the point of view of the victim.’ And the next thing I knew, I had a job.”

The Invisible Man hits theaters Friday.