Press > Exclusive Interviews > Hector De La Rosa (Snake Plissken/Director: The Escape Agenda)

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 .R. Notarile?

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 arc planned?

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.