Fox has recruited Leigh Whannell to rewrite its Escape From New York remake. The original 1981 film was directed by John Carpenter (who also cowrote the script) and took place in a version of 1997 where - following a 400% increase in crime in the U.S. - Manhattan Island has been transformed into a maximum security prison surrounded by a 50-foot wall on all sides. Kurt Russell starred in the movie as Snake Plissken, an ex-soldier turned prisoner who gets a chance to reverse his fortunes when he's recruited to rescue the President of the United States, after Air Force One is hijacked and crash-lands in New York City.
Carpenter's film went on to become a cult success and even got a sequel fifteen years later, with 1996's Escape From L.A. However, the followup (which got a mixed to negative critical reception) bombed at the box office and a third film never materialized. An Escape From New York remake has been in the works for over a decade now, but the project mostly spun its wheels until Fox landed the rights in 2015. The studio subsequently hired Luther creator Neil Cross to write the script and, two years later, attached Robert Rodriguez as director.
It appears the project is starting over again, with THR reporting that Fox has hired Whannell to write a fresh script draft. Rodriguez is no longer onboard to direct the Escape From New York remake either, and THR says the door is open for Whannell to call the shots himself, if he's interested. In the meantime, he's only writing the screenplay.
Whannell's had a pretty busy week, to put it mildly. Just a few days ago, he committed to writing and directing an Invisible Man reboot for Universal, with Blumhouse head Jason Blum producing. Whannell made his name as a writer known for his horror movie collaborations with director James Wan, including the original Saw and all four of Blumhouse's Insidious films (the third of which Whannell also directed). The writer-director further played nerdy ghost-hunter Specs in the Insidious franchise and made a short, but memorable cameo in Wan's DC blockbuster Aquaman (where he played the cargo plane pilot who's confounded when Arthur Curry and Mera suddenly leap out of his aircraft mid-flight).
More than anything, Whannell has demonstrated a mastery for lean and mean genre fare, including Blumhouse's critically acclaimed (but little-seen) sci-fi action-horror-thriller Upgrade, which he also directed. The filmmaker's pulpy storytelling sensibilities certainly lend themselves to the Snake Plissken character and his world, which makes his involvement with the Escape From New York remake all the more exciting. THR further reports that Whannell's goal is to prevent the project from becoming a bloated tentpole and instead deliver something closer to Carpenter's original low-budgeted film. No doubt, his penny-pinching bosses are happy to hear it.
We'll bring you more details on the Escape From New York remake as they become available.