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> Hector De La Rosa
(Snake Plissken/Director: The Escape
Why did you want to return to the
Escape universe and play Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) once again and also direct this time
after having done the Escape From New Jersey series with director Chris
Why did I want to return to the escape universe and play
Snake Plissken again? That's a good question, Andreas. Snake Plissken to me is a
very personal character. When I first saw him on the big screen I was 13
years old and I'll never forget the moment when it just clicked. I went to see
a double feature with my friends in 1981. Tron and Escape From New York. I was
blown away by both films but when I heard those words, "I don't give a fuck
about your war, or your President." It was jaw dropping. Snake was the coolest
character I have ever seen in a movie. It was just automatic.
As far as me playing Snake in films. well, I got my first go at it with Chris Notarile in his web series Escape From New Jersey. I have never acted before and
having seen his first attempt on a Snake movie I thought, Well, I have a chance
here to maybe talk to Chris and convince him that it was worth his while for him
to make another film. He agreed and the rest is history. Of course we had
differing views on the character at the time and even now and that's perfectly
fine but that is my main reason for making the first Escape Agenda in 2012. I
wanted to try my best to capture the feel that John Carpenter
(Director/Co-Writer/Co-Composer) and Kurt Russell
infused into Escape From New York.
I'm taking nothing away from Chris here. I just feel that he went in a direction
that I didn't agree with but he was the director and it was a window of
opportunity that I couldn't pass up. After all he did get me some good exposure
with Escape From New Jersey and some of his other films and I built up a nice little fan base.
But I feel that having total control of what Snake says and does and where
everything he goes through takes place puts me in the driver's seat and where
Snake Plissken is concerned that's exactly where I want to be.
Just like Escape From New Jersey,
The Escape Agenda is a continuation of Escape From New York. Why
did you chose to do a direct follow-up once again and can you tell us what you
want to do with it story wise? What's your reason to bring back Snake
Plissken again and
what do you want to explore or do with him this time around?
As far as the story is concerned I wanted something more
realistic. Something that I believe Snake would've done in his situation. In the
escape universe Snake is the most dangerous man alive. I didn't want him walking
around going to McDonalds and having a burger and a coke a few days removed
from rescuing The President (Donald Pleasence) from the New York Maximum Security
Penitentiary. That just doesn't make any sense to me. The man has to recuperate
and that takes time. He got shot in the leg with a broad head arrow at close
range for crying out loud. That just doesn't go away over night. It takes a
while. Snake is a man, an ex-soldier with a lot of emotional baggage. He's
banged up, pissed off and at the end of his last nerve. He just wants to get
away from people period. So I started the film with him training in Canada. We
see Snake keeping in shape because he needs to be at the top of his game
physically. And we see him working out his internal issues like a real man would
because he has to be in top shape mentally as well to be Snake Plissken. This
scene was inspired by the opening moments of Firefox starring Clint Eastwood.
His character reminded me a lot of an older Snake, a bad ass pilot on a mission
to steal an experimental jet away from the Russians. Now that's sounds like
something Snake would do. Callahan was a character I dreamed up because all good
military personnel work in teams. Callahan who is a sniper by trade and a
mechanic for Black Light will come into play big time in Part 4 and beyond.
Can you tell us more about the clean slate idea in Part 1?
Snake needed to become a ghost so wiping out the data base off all criminals did
just that and he was able to disappear with the help of Bob Hauk (Lee Van Cleef). They respected
each other and Hauk owed Snake a favor for looking for his son inside NY Max.
Yes, I am a big fan of the movie tie-in novel as it stretches things out more and
is very well written. Escape From New York 1.5 is a super version of the novel
that I will be resuming work on. So to sum things up for Agenda 1, it needed to
make sense and walking around in public drinking soda pop doesn't make sense for
me when it comes to Snake Plissken.
Why did you decide to show Snake Plissken
without his eye patch in Part 2?
As far as the eye patch thing goes. Here's a funny little
story. This goes way back a few years where I dressed up as Snake at a
convention. I believe it was Chiller here in New Jersey. I had a white blood
shot disgusting contact on under the patch. And some kid walked up to me and
said that he wanted to see my eye. Well, I obliged with an internal grin (Here's
my chance) and lifted up the patch with a scowl on my face. The kid took one
look and took off like a shot. I always get tickled thinking about that.
So the scene with Snake taking off his patch was sort of a goof way before we
started filming Agenda 2. Me and my girlfriend Gayle were just messing around
with the camera and had an idea about Snake without the patch. I told her the
story and we filmed it. The rest of the movie was sort of built around that
scene. In all seriousness, if you think about it I think Snake would take of the
patch off while he's in the shower don't you?
Well, to me that scene became a very powerful statement.
Snake is alone. Nobody around but his reflection in the mirror, his thoughts, his
pain and his memories. The scene is in fact a reflection to where he has been
and everything that got him to that very moment in time. You ever hear that
expression, "sometimes you have to play out a bad hand"? Well, Snake was dealt
some bad cards, man and that's what he's doing in this scene. He's dealing with
it. I don't feel that removing the patch diminished him at all. I mean, what did
you expect to find underneath it? A flame thrower? Yes, it humanizes him but it
also shows why he is who he is. Why he's so tough and dangerous and cool under
pressure. He is a master at suppressing and controlling his anger and he can
kill you as quick as a cobra. Think of it as you the viewer being a fly on the
wall watching a personal moment. We think it works really well.
Why did you want to make Part 3 about the Steri-Chamber
chapter from the Movie Tie-In Novel?
The original movie didn't have it so I saw it as an opportunity to expand on
Snake's ordeal in Liberty Island. Like I said, the book has a lot of wonderful
stuff in it. The chapter is very intense and puts Snake in a situation where he
has to use his brain to get out of. We meet Duggan who is the craziest of all
the cops on that island and he has the opportunity to stick it to Snake while he
is practically defenseless in hand cuffs. The perfect bully scenario. Snake has
to be very careful with an unstable man holding a gun. He still gives him sass
in the Snake way but he knows he has to be careful. There is tension building up
as the irresistible force meets the immovable object so to speak. That is the
breeding ground for good story telling. The Steri-Chamber had never been done
before on film and I wanted the first crack at it. I think it was a very
successful scene and a lot of fun to do.
What kind of challenges were there to recreate Liberty
Island scenes in Part 3?
For one, this is the most people we had on set in any of our films at one time.
With a small crew getting everyone ready and in costume on time was the biggest
challenge. Then we had the unforeseen mishaps like the boom mic malfunctioning
and having terrible audio. We were granted a re-shoot so we dodged a major
bullet but we learned very valuable lessons that will only improve our
filmmaking going forward. As far as re-creating Liberty Island that was no
problem. When the location manager sent me photos of the interiors the only
thing I could say is wood was achieved. Once I knew where we were filming the
shot freedom wasn't restricted. We had the whole place to ourselves so it was
Disney World! The rest is history.
How many episodes will there be and do you have a story
Good question. I would like to say two or three more. In a perfect world I would
get it done right away but its not a perfect world. The entire script is
written has been for a few years. Finding the time and the actors and resources
was the issue going into the Agenda series. After the cast saw Part 3 I have
people signing on for Part 4 so you may not have to wait three years, Andreas.
I don't want to give away too much about the story but I promise that will be
well thought out, intelligent and exciting. All original stuff in case you're
wondering. Think of Part 3 as a dream sequence in between 2 and 4. When
Snake wakes up there will be hell to pay. I like to take my time with the
subject matter in the script because Snake is a very complex character indeed.
You just can't throw him out there just because he's Snake and expect the movie
to be good. I have respect for what Kurt Russell did in the first fil, and I
try to portray him like New York Snake with my own personal touch as well. I'm
trying not to copy him directly. It's more like me drawing from the persona of
the man with no name and placing him in a futuristic world that has gone to
hell. Surprisingly enough it comes out like Snake should be.
As far as Snake's Special Forces prowess there will be a lot of it in the next
two parts. And you will all see that Callahan is one tough and dangerous lady in
her own right. There will be a lot of interesting characters to round out the
story as well and it will be shot mostly at night to give it that dark feel of
a (John) Carpenter film. If the master of horror or even Kurt Russell himself ever saw
my film I would be floored. Especially if they liked it and knew that it was
done with respect.
What are the advantages and disadvantages on
working on a zero budget on a project like this?
Hey, I'm not going to pretend like I've been doing this for years because I
haven't. But I do know what I want and how to go about getting it. The trick is
good dependable people. I consider myself to be a pretty good up and coming
director. I know what I want when I'm on the set and my very dependable crew
helps me to realize my ideas on film. I like to make it as fun as possible for
everyone even though there are times when it can get very stressful. You just
have to keep moving forward and feel blessed that the wonderful people that you
have on the set are there to help you make a movie. And you have to realize that
without them you would have an empty set and no movie. You must thank everyone
over and over and then thank them again because it's all about them.
A great director of photography is just as important as the director. Yes, I can
film some scenes but I can't film the whole movie especially if I'm acting in
it. So I need someone who knows what I'm thinking and can capture that and
translate it into the frames I want. Gayle Bykowicz is that person for me. She
gets in the trenches and rolls up her sleeves and got great footage for Agenda
2. She also knows what looks good if something needs to be changed. I like when
my crew can talk to me about changes and ideas that can help make a project look
better all around. Yeah, we had some technical issues due to lack of better
equipment but we are all still learning here and we are a team. But we learn
really quick so look for those changes.
A great producer lassos and secures everything and his name is Anthony
Gutierrez. Now here is a man who knows a lot of people and who has been around
this business and wears many hats. He knows how to wrangle talent and locations
and is a wonderful person as well. People see this quality and want to work for
him. When we shot Agenda 2 at the biker bar they opened their doors for us and
treated us like family. We all had a great time and now they want to come back
in Part 3! It takes wonderful people which do favors for you in return for
making them look great in a movie. That's awesome. That's how you grow in this
business because it's all about the people that are in front of the camera when
it starts rolling.
The disadvantages of working on a film with a zero budget are waiting for
locations. Without money you have to wait until the producer finds a location
with people that are willing to help out. It took a few weeks to get the Gods
Only Demons club house but it was well worth the wait and we gained a lot of
good people in the process. Another thing is props and costumes. Sometimes
actors don't want to provide a certain look and you can't accommodate them all
the time. Props are something that you really have to watch too because
sometimes things break or get stolen. But if you get stuff on the cheap it's
fun just building another one.
How has the experience been so far
shooting this series?
The experience of filming this series has been
a wonderful growth process that I see only getting better. The people I have met
and worked with have been awesome and we made lot friends along the way. If you
all have the same goal in mind getting things done gets easier because you
can't do it alone.
How was the
experience of making Agenda 3? One word. Marvelous. To re-create Kurt Russell's
iconic walk into the processing area was a total and complete honor for me. The
final footage shows how much love and respect I have for Kurt Russell and John
Carpenter. I got goosebumps filming that scene and when I watch it it feels
like history repeating itself. All I can say is tears of joy and a feeling of
pride. With better sound equipment for the re-shoot I can finally get the low
raspy voice that was hard to do because the mic couldn't pick it up. It was
surreal for me when the guy across from me gave a performance I was so proud of.
I couldn't break character and say, "Perfect!" The inner director was doing back
flips of joy while holding Snake's badassery on the outside. As a director when
you see your characters coming to life its magic. I think that word sums up the
experience for me. It was magic.
Thank you for your time, Hector.