Kurt Russell’s role as Snake Plissken in John Carpenter’s Escape from New York is a major inspiration for Solid Snake from the Metal Gear Solid games. Series creator Hideo Kojima is an avowed fan of Carpenter’s filmography, and borrowed the name, eyepatch, and gruff demeanor of Russell’s special forces agent for his video game hero. Kojima openly addressed the homage in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, giving Snake the codename Iroquois Pliskin.
And at one point, Kojima reportedly wanted Kurt Russell to voice Snake in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and take over from English-language voice artist David Hayter. (Russell would have portrayed Naked Snake, not Solid Snake, for what it’s worth.)
Russell apparently declined, with Hayter reprising the role in subsequent games (until Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain). In a new GQ video interview with Russell about his iconic movie characters, the actor explains why he wouldn’t voice Snake.
“Look, I’m pretty lazy by nature,” Russell explains. “There have been many different times when people wanted [me] to do something. I don’t know, I’m a movie guy. You have to understand, that from my point of view, whether it’s Elvis, or Snake Plissken, or Jack Burton, or R.J. MacReady, that was that project. That was that thing. You get into that mindset. You create that. You want to make that world happen.
“I used to do interviews when [1979 biopic] Elvis was coming out and they would say, ‘C’mon, do a little Elvis for us.’ It doesn’t work that way, you don’t just slide in and out of Elvis. You go to work on it. You refine it, and then you do it and you get paid for that. I come from a different era. I wasn’t interested in ‘expanding’ financially off of something that we had created or that I had created in terms of a character.”
Beyond returning to a character out of context, Russell says he had another important reason for not reviving his character, in slightly different video game form, from Carpenter’s Snake Plissken films.
“I’d look at [a script] and say, ‘That’s not written by John,’” Russell says, sniffing at the air. “That doesn’t smell right. John’s not here to do this. I’m not gonna do that. Let’s go do something new, let’s do something fresh, let’s go create another iconic character, rather than saying ‘What can we bleed off this iconic character?’”
Russell did return to the role of Snake Plissken for Escape from New York sequel Escape from LA, so he’s certainly not above reprising roles. The guy did make two sequels to The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, after all, and has portrayed Santa Claus multiple times.
The rest of Russell’s interview with GQ is worth a watch. He very entertainingly breaks down his roles in John Carpenter’s The Thing, in a trio of Quentin Tarantino movies, and in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. He also does some fun trash talking in the box office battle between dueling Westerns Tombstone and Wyatt Earp.