Why Kurt Russell Turned Down Metal Gear Solid After Escape From New York

There are few characters in pop culture cooler than Snake Plissken from John Carpenter's sci-fi classic "Escape From New York." Played by the also impossibly cool Kurt Russell, Plissken is a former U.S. Army Special Forces lieutenant who served in World War III before being wounded and becoming a criminal. In "Escape From New York," he's offered the chance at a pardon by the feds if he can carry out a dangerous rescue mission in Manhattan, which has been turned into a massive prison. Russell would reprise the role in 1996 in order to reteam with frequent collaborator Carpenter on "Escape from L.A.," which sees Snake playing basketball for his life and surfing the L.A. river. Then, around 2004, he had the chance to voice another character named Snake who looks an awful lot like Plissken, but he turned it down.

In a video interview with GQ, Russell explained his reasoning behind turning down the role of Naked Snake, A.K.A. Big Boss, in the game "Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater" ("MGS3"). While it would have been a lot of fun for fans of both Russell and Hideo Kojima's "Metal Gear" video game series, the actor's reasons are actually pretty, well, solid.

Turning down Metal Gear Solid

When asked about turning down "MGS3," Russell explained that he was "pretty lazy by nature" and that it took him a certain amount of work to embody a character and he had to have the right reasons:

"I used to do interviews when 'Elvis' was coming out and they would say, 'Come on, do a little Elvis for us!' You know, it's like, 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. [...] And then I look at it and it's like, that's not written by John [Carpenter]. That doesn't smell right. John's not here to do this with, why would I — I'm not gonna do that. Let's go do something new, let's go do something fresh, let's go create another iconic character rather than saying, 'What can we bleed off of this iconic character,' you know?"

He then pointed out that he wasn't calling his characters "iconic," but that he felt that they were referred to that way, and he would be right. His desire to continue to do new things and not retread old ground is honestly inspiring in our franchise-driven culture, and his loyalty to Carpenter is even better.

Honestly, it's all for the best

Look, "Escape From New York" rules. It's a rip-roaring dystopian adventure with one seriously ambivalent anti-hero, a true Carpenter classic. "Escape from L.A." is ... a movie. To try and revive Snake, albeit in a sort of homage, would have been strange. Not only that, but it's honestly better that the voice actors who ended up portraying Russell's role in the game got the job because it makes more sense. After all, Naked Snake was voiced by Akio Otsuka in the Japanese version and David Hayter in the American version, and each voiced the character of Solid Snake in the first two "Metal Gear Solid" games. Since (spoiler alert!) Solid Snake is a clone of Naked Snake, who goes on to become Big Boss, having the same voice actors just seems right.

This way, talented voice actors Otsuka and Hayter got to keep working within the franchise and help further expand Kojima's universe, while Russell was free to pursue other projects that interested him. It's a win-win for everyone, unlike that whole basketball scene in "Escape from L.A." Seriously, whose idea was that?!