Snake Plissken

Name: S.D. Plissken
Known Alias: "Snake"
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Blue
Military Rank: Lieutenant [revoked]
Distinguishing Marks: Scar, Left Cheek; Scar, Right Thigh; Cobra Tattoo, Stomach

Former War Hero of World War III who turned Criminal. Lieutenant in Special Forces Unit: Black Light. Two Purple Hearts in Leningrad and Siberia. Youngest man to be decorated by the President.


Robbed the Federal Reserve Depository in 1997. Life sentence in New York Maximum Security Penitentiary.

Note: Due to the rescue of the President of the United States from the New York Maximum Security Penitentiary, a full pardon for every criminal action committed in the United States was granted.


John Carpenter on Snake Plissken

"He's a hero of World War III, decorated for bravery. He was somewhat like a Green Beret, a very experienced, expert soldier. But he has soured on the world and the government, becoming his own man - a thief. He's called upon to do a job because he's good. He doesn't care for anybody, unless he respects him. His respect is very personal and emotional. He judges people very harshly."
- John Carpenter, Film Fear: Three Directors Darkly, Prevue 43, Vol 2, Issue 3, Nov-Dec, 1980

"Snake is a cool character, and it's difficult to not really love him no matter what he does. His moral code is incorruptible. He only cares about the next 60 seconds. He doesn't care about killing you, he doesn't care about saving you. He just wants to move on. He doesn't care about a cause because it all bores him. He's been there and seen that. The first thing he says when he arrives and is confronted with his mission is, 'What do you want? I know you want something; you wouldn't bring me here if you didn't.' In a way, he's a world-weary character, but he's also extremely funny because he's so irreverent. He doesn't give a shit. That's my own alter ego, to which I will be forever true if I can."
- John Carpenter, To Live And Die In Escape From L.A., Fangoria, Issue 155, Aug, 1996

"The character is a combination of my hatred of authority and a guy I knew in high school who went to Vietnam and came back completely changed. He became Snake. He had this inner strength, like now he knows what life is about."
- John Carpenter, In 'Escape,' Carpenter Sets His Rebellious Nature Free, USA Today, Aug 12, 1996

"He doesn't believe in anything, doesn't care about anything, doesn't want to hurt you or make love to you. All he cares about is the next 60 seconds. If you step on him? Don't do it. But if you leave him alone, you'll be all right."
- John Carpenter, In 'Escape,' Carpenter Sets His Rebellious Nature Free, USA Today, Aug 12, 1996

"What makes a hero is a singleness of purpose... It's a very, very firm focus. That's what's always defined a hero in literature and in movies, and Snake has that. He's focusing on one thing: he's going to save his butt. He's a very bad, innocent man. Nothing can change him. He's incorruptible."
- John Carpenter,
The Last Bad Boy, Sci-Fi Entertainment, Vol 3, Issue 2, Aug, 1996

"Snake is a classic character. He's perfect in many ways. You don't need to mess with him on paper, and you don't mess with him in person! You don't know who he is or where he's come from. But you know he's the baddest guy in the baddest world, and he can take care of himself."
- John Carpenter, 
Escape Artist, Starburst 217, Vol 19, Issue 1, Sep, 1996

Kurt Russell on Snake Plissken

"Snake Plissken is a survivor. He's not overly intelligent, like James Bond. He's not suave, just very self-assured - single-minded about getting from point A to point B in a straight line, even if he has to kill to do it. I had to adopt an animalistic way of thinking to play Snake. There is a very cynical attitude about him - he's very cold and capable. He's a very one-dimensional person, with faint innuendoes of emotion."
- Kurt Russell,
Escape From New York, Prevue 45, Vol 2, Issue 5, May, 1981

"He's a man living out of his time. He would like to have lived when there was sort of a code of honor, when there were values he could have understood. But now, knowing that the values of the rest of the world are not at all his, he just says 'forget it.' Plissken is a warrior, and I think when you take a warrior out of a warrior situation, you have a shell until you put him back into one. Even though I don't think Plissken likes the fact that he's a born-warrior, he knows he's saddled with it and fully accepts it."
- Kurt Russell,
Kurt Russell: Lean, Mean In A New Thriller, Chicago Tribune, Jul 26, 1981

"Snake is an individual who is everyone's fantasy of a figure who no longer exists by that time [1997] - a person who says and does absolutely what he wants. He's an interesting character, and over the course of the film you'll come to find he's more than a one-dimensional, one-man destruction machine. My feeling is that he's just a guy who's getting through each day - he's a survivor. I don't know if there's been a character much like Snake before. I think the audience will pull for him because he's trying to accomplish something. I don't think he'll work his way into anybody's heart, though, as perhaps John Wayne did in The Searchers. He's a fairly cold person, but to me he's very sensitive. He's living in a colder society, and it's an imagined society as well. The fantasy of what the situation could be like in New York City in 1997 changes his whole outlook. Snake is the kind of hero we haven't seen yet - he's an ex-World War III war hero. If you take a guy who's a hero of a war that hasn't been fought yet and put him in a situation we've never seen before, he certainly has to be different... he's basically a loner who doesn't have a real relationship with any other character in the picture. He uses the other people because they have information he needs in order to find the President. Other than that he's not interested in anybody else."
- Kurt Russell,
The Stars Of 'Escape From New York,' Kurt Russell & Adrienne Barbeau: Survivors Of The Future, Starlog, Issue 49, Aug, 1981

"Despite the fact that he's a really a cold character, I think audiences like him. I think most people would love to be Snake Plissken if only for a day. They'd like to walk down the street and know that just being who they are, people aren't going to hassle them. They wouldn't go out looking for trouble, but they'd be self-assured enough to know that if trouble came their way, they could handle it. People get off on Snake's 'so what' attitude. He isn't a hero but he's not a villain, either. Something happened to Snake when he was fighting World War III in Siberia. Whatever it was must have been ugly, so ugly that it turned him into a near automaton. At the end of the movie, it's very painful for him to crack the tiniest of smiles at a little joke he plays. I think people will pick up on his sense of honor. Sure, he's mean but, getting back to his 'human compassion' line to Hauk, I think that's really the bottom line with Snake. He asks for but realizes that there isn't any human compassion. Ultra-punk."
- Kurt Russell, Escape From New York, Future Life, Issue 30, Nov, 1981

"I've been fortunate to be able to play a gamut of characters in different situations. Snake Plissken is the one who has been my favorite. I find him endlessly fascinating. He is a visceral character, one that you feel, not one you figure out. I feel he got to a point very early on his life where he realizes that it's about just making it another 60 seconds. Nobody has ever been as socially - Unredeemable as Snake Plissken."
- Kurt Russell, Escape From L.A. Press Kit, Production Notes, 1996

"My character in Escape From New York... somehow hit a nerve with audiences," Russell says. "I think people identify with his attitude, and his need for total freedom." Russell is the first to admit that some things haven't changed in 15 years, particularly the character of Snake Plissken. "That's the key to the movie. The rest of the world has changed, but Snake has not. His agenda is not going to change. He's incorruptible. He has no agenda. He doesn't want anything from anybody." That even explains why Snake seldom speaks - and when he does, it's in a hoarse whisper. "Snake doesn't talk to people," Russell says. "Snake speaks to hear himself."
- Kurt Russell,
Kurt Russell On Change, Video And His Role As 'Snake', USA Today, Aug 07, 1996

"On the surface, [Snake] looks completely one-dimensional, but I felt he was the most complex character I've ever played... It's impossible to tell what he's thinking or why. In the dark recesses of my mind, there's a part of me that would like to be like him, with no responsibility, no ties to anyone or anything - a dark, angry SOB."
- Kurt Russell, Urban Renewal, Cinescape, Vol 2, Issue 11, Aug, 1996

"I began to understand how he was an alter-ego of mine and I now feel very confidently that John and I make him up. We share him. I have fun playing that character because I have somebody to share him with. That's John. It's like going on vacation with your girlfriend or your wife. It's so much more fun because you have somebody to share it with. When we're on the set, sharing Snake's reaction to things with John is really like being on vacation."
- Kurt Russell, The Escape Artist: Kurt Russell Walks Tall In Hollywood, Venice, Aug, 1996

"I think his behavior represents a lot of the things a lot of us would like to be able to comfortably do. But in order to be like that, you have to be someone who's like him. In order to be that politically incorrect, that incorruptible, and that true to yourself, that fair, you have to have zero agenda and you have to not care about anybody or anything. That's what we lack. We care about each other. We care about things. God, I make movies because I care about trying to make a piece of entertainment. Snake could give a rat's ass about any of that. But that's admirable. Because of that, there's no way to corrupt him. I think that comes through. Also, I think that you sense there's a pathos there. He doesn't entirely like the way he is. He wishes that life didn't present itself to him the way it does. It's almost like opening a box and discovering something nobody else sees. He wishes he'd never opened the box, but it's been opened and he can never change that."
- Kurt Russell, The Escape Artist: Kurt Russell Walks Tall In Hollywood, Venice, Aug, 1996

"I knew very early on that Snake was a really unique character. One of the studio people at the time, he said, 'You're talking about a character here who has no socially redeeming values. We don't start off with his wife being raped, his family being killed or his daughter being dragged underneath horses. We've got to explain why he is the way he is.' "So John put in a scene where I rob a bank with a guy with a limb and the government officers guarding the bank shoot him just as I'm going back to save him. We put it together and said, 'We don't need this scene, we don't need to explain anything about this guy.' The first time you see the character, I think you get the point. You don't get a guy who was born evil. You get a guy who became disillusioned, angry and disappointed to the point where he is now evil. He's bad news. Snake's a sociopath. He's beyond redemption. He couldn't care less. He'll shoot the president. He'll shoot a skinhead on the street. He'll shoot Che Guevara. He'll shoot Abe Lincoln. Doesn't make a difference to him. He's down the road."
- Kurt Russell, The Great Escape, Melody Maker, Sep 28, 1996

Debra Hill on Snake Plissken

"I think Snake Plissken represents the other side of America. The unpatriotic patriotic side of America. The kind of character that we all wanna be, but are afraid to be. He's a guy who doesn't want to be told what to do. He's a guy who doesn't want us to legislate laws that take away personal freedoms. And that's why I think he's so cool. He's an anti-hero and I think that what makes America love him so much."
- Debra Hill, Return To Escape From New York featurette, 2003

Contributors/Special Thanks:
Gregory Alpert, Whitney Scott Bain, Alexander B├╝ttner, Jeanne Cavelos, Christopher Chouinard, Karin Costa, David Fakrikian, Gina DeDomenico Flanagan, Fred Fouchet, Tom Higginson, Louise Jaffe, Steve Loter, William Luduena, Mark Neilson, Lars "Sweden" Olsson, Abe Perlstein, Roger Romage, Curtis Ryan, John Sencio, Bill Snebold, Fireball Tim, Nigel Watson, Andreas Wremert, The Official John Carpenter & Tori Amos Discography and Collectibles

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