Kurt Russell practiced playing basketball between scenes as he wanted to make all of his shots legitimately in the basketball scene later on. He made all of those shots purely on his own talent, even the full-court one.
This film was caught in development hell for over ten years. A script for the film was first commissioned in 1985, but John Carpenter thought it was "too light, too campy". It remained dormant until Carpenter and Kurt Russell got together with frequent collaborator Debra Hill. It was Russell's persistence that got the film made. Snake Plissken was his favorite character, a character he loved, and wanted to play again.
Bruce Campbell has a cameo in the film as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills. Campbell and Kurt Russell share the same stunt double, named John Casino. He had been doubling for both of them for several years before this film, and still does it for them to this day. Both were also in Sky High (2005), but they had no scenes together.
The film is known for having rather poorly produced CGI. This was due to the fact that the employees at the visual effects house, Buena Vista Visual Effects had never dealt with computer graphics before, and didn't really know how to achieve them properly.
The movie was a notorious failure on release, making around 25 million dollars (just half its budget) at the U.S. box-office. Many reviews criticized the film for being too violent, or for being too similar to the original film.
John Carpenter and Kurt Russell had talked about making another Snake Plissken movie in 1986, and it was a difficult decision for them to make about making a sequel, and talked about it for years, and when the Los Angeles earthquake struck on January 17, 1994, they decided to do "Escape From L.A." which would be about earthquakes, floods, mudslides, drive-by shootings, and they wanted the darkness of Los Angeles to be in it.
This is the only sequel John Carpenter ever directed. Although he co-wrote Halloween II (1981) with frequent collaborator Debra Hill, he turned down the chance to direct it, citing it as just being "more of the same." Oddly enough, when this movie was originally released, it was criticized for being too similar to it's predecessor, Escape from New York (1981).
On opening weekend, August 10, 1996, there was a region wide power outage when the western electric grid experienced a blackout affecting seven western states. Such a wide spread power outage would be similar to the capabilities of the "Sword of Damocles" electromagnetic pulse. Many theaters lost power during the movie, some soon after Snake Plisskin activates the world EMP code or some experienced city wide power outages when they exited the movie.
John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars (2001) was originally intended to be a third Snake Plissken film entitled "Escape From Mars," but when Escape From L.A. (1996) did not do well at the box office, the screenplay was rewritten and the character of Desolation Williams took Plissken's place as the lead.
John Carpenter later reflected: "Escape from L.A. is better than the first movie. Ten times better. It's got more to it. It's more mature. It's got a lot more to it. I think some people didn't like it because they felt it was a remake, not a sequel... I suppose it's the old question of whether you like Rio Bravo (1959) or El Dorado (1967) better? They're essentially the same movie. They both had their strengths and weaknesses. I don't know-you never know why a movie's going to make it or not. People didn't want to see Escape that time, but they really didn't want to see The Thing (1982)... You just wait. You've got to give me a little while. People will say, you know, what was wrong with me?"
There are several references to Snake Plissken and the city of Cleveland. This is an in-joke reference to a friend of John Carpenter's who knew a guy from Cleveland named Snake Plissken; this is supposedly where Carpenter got the name for the character, when he was writing Escape from New York (1981)
A scene from the film was played in open court during a murder trial in 2001. Actor/stuntman Wayne Montanio, who briefly appeared in the film, was on trial for the 1997 murder of his younger brother. An eyewitness, placing Wayne at the scene of the crime, identified him via the playback of the scene.
The building Plissken crashes into is the "black tower" at Universal. It's where movie executives work. John Carpenter recalled, "I've had my own fights over there, and have always wanted to take something through it."
Donald Pleasence didn't reprise his role as the President from Escape from New York (1981) due to his declining health at the time. He later died in 1995 while filming was taking place and was replaced with Cliff Robertson.
The scene where Snake and Eddie are on the Queen Mary walking toward their meeting with Hershe was filmed aboard the actual Queen Mary in Long Beach, in one of the ship's gutted and abandoned boiler rooms. The meeting itself was not filmed on board; the room may have been meant to resemble the ship's Second Class swimming pool, located on E Deck aft, which was destroyed in the 1968-71 conversion.
During the climactic battle scene, as Steve Buscemi's (RT89) character is hanging off the helicopter, several stores are visible in the matte shot behind him. One of the prominent buildings is clearly marked "Miniatures", a reference to the filmmaking technique.
During the final escape, when Cuervo Jones fires the rocket at the helicopter, just after it's hit, you can see it narrowly avoid crashing into the Matterhorn at Disneyland which resembles the Paramount Pictures logo.
On the internet website Imagine Casting, a member of the website had made up the plot of the abandoned third film "Escape from Earth": The film would take place after Snake Plissken shut down all of the electricity on Earth, and the plot would follow Snake, as he sets out to rescue a NASA scientist from a violent gang, and stop the gang and the President of the United States from discovering the whereabouts of the NASA scientist's creation, an electromagnetic proof space vehicle and use the space vehicle to get off to Earth and go to a colony on Mars. The sequel was never made, due to the negative reception of this film, and its failure at the box-office.
The Plutoxin 7 being revealed as flu, is a nod to John Carpenter and Kurt Russell's earlier film Big Trouble in Little China (1986), in which Kurt Russell was sick with flu, during production on the film.
The film could've had three possible endings: In the first, the Plutoxin 7 virus was no hoax, and the virus kills Snake. A second ending would have seen the President have the real remote control UNIT, and Snake have a map to the Star Eddie's remote control unit all along. The President would then shut down Cuba and Mexico. The third ending would eliminate Snake's usage of the hologram, after switching the real remote control unit with Eddie's. Snake would ultimately be shot and killed as a result.