Warriors, Come Out To Play! Things You Might Not Have Known About The Classic 1979 Film
The Warriors is a 1979 crime film based on Sol Yurick’s novel of the same name, which was inspired by the Ancient Greek novel Anabasis. After being framed for killing a major gang leader, a New York City gang must fight and travel their way 30 miles behind enemy lines from the Bronx to their home turf in Coney Island. Initially, the film wasn’t well received by either the public or critics although it has grown into a classic today, sparking comic book series, remakes, video games, and more.
There Are Real Gang Members In The Film
At the beginning of the movie, there is an assembly of the various New York gangs in the Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park. There, Cyrus, the leader of New York’s most powerful gang, makes a speech about putting aside their differences and uniting as one. This way, the gangs would have more influence over policies and control over the city.
However, he is shot and killed during the process. To make this gathering of so many “gangsters” possible, the filmmakers asked real gangs to step in as extras which gave the scene an all-too-real feeling.
The Film Took A Jab At Disco
In one scene, a group of kids clearly on their way to or departing from a disco end up in the same train car as Swan, Mercy, and a few other Warriors. They fall silent after taking notice of their wounds and the overall condition that they’re in. They proceed to get off on the next stop, acting as though they hadn’t just witnessed what they saw.
This makes audiences resent the disco kids who were more disgusted than concerned. This can be seen as a jab at disco as director Walter Hill was angered that Paramount Pictures wanted the movie to be like Saturday Night Fever.
Walter Hill Had Some Personal Ideas For The Movie That Were Shut Down
Initially, director Walter Hill had plans for the Warriors gang to be all African Americans. However, his suggestion was denied by the producers who figured that having the gang all black would paint the African American community in a negative and violent light.
Another idea that Hill had was for a subtitle at the beginning of the film to read “Sometime in the future” so that the movie would seem like it takes place in a dystopian future. While this would have been a nice addition, he was once again shut down with Paramount claiming that it sounded too much like Star Wars IV – A New Hope.
The Film Has A Lot Of The Same Similarities As A Western
While the concept of gangs or “posses” fighting one another is a classic Western trope, it’s essentially the biggest plot point of The Warriors. However, instead of taking place outside of a saloon, it’s on the streets of New York.
The scene on the beach has the strongest connection to the Western genre out of the whole film. It is then that the Warriors and their rival gang the Rogues have a stand-off on the shores of Coney Island, which is filmed in a very high-intensity Western style.
It’s Not Nearly As Violent As Some Modern Films
Compared to the level of violence in today’s films, even those that are meant for children, The Warriors really isn’t all that violent. Although the film is rated R, this is most likely due to its language and adult content rather than the actual violence shown.
Besides the killing of Cyrus at the beginning of the film, most of the other violence presented is non-lethal hand-to-hand combat between the gangs. In total, only three people die. They are Cyrus, who is shot, Cleon, who is beaten down, and Fox, who is hit by a moving train. This is a pretty low violence level compared to today’s standards.
Vermin Was Supposed To Die But Managed To Act His Way Out Of It
Initially, Vermin, who was played by Terry Michos, was supposed to be killed by the all-female gang the Lizzies. However, Michos wanted to take a more comical approach to his character so that he would be more memorable and therefore get more screen time.
In the end, his strategy paid off and the scene where he is murdered was written out of the script. His character avoiding death brought down the death toll even lower than what it was originally supposed to be.
Fox Was Supposed To Be With Mercy, Not Swan
In the original script, Fox was supposed to be the one smitten for Mercy, yet the two actors had no chemistry, so the role of Mercy’s lover went to Swan. This worked out because Thomas G. Waites, who played Fox, was fired just eight weeks into principal photography for butting heads with Walter Hill.
So they removed his character from the film by having him thrown into an oncoming train by a police officer during a brawl. His name is not found on the credits because he demanded that it be removed.
Fox Was Played By Two Different Actors
After Thomas G. Waites, who played Fox, was fired for his disruptive behavior on set and his unwillingness to cooperate, the filmmakers had to find a new Fox. All they needed was someone they could pass off as the character until they could kill him off.
So, they found a body double for his character who covered his face as much as possible. If you look closely, in the scenes leading up to Fox’s death, you never get a clear look at his face, and now you know why.
Sol Yurick Wasn’t Very Happy With The Film’s Outcome
After reading Yurick’s novel, Walter Hill knew that he wanted to make a movie out of it. However, he knew that he wanted to make it somewhat different from the novel. He said, “I felt very strongly that it certainly was not a very realistic book, and I wanted to make it even less […] I wanted to take it into a fantasy element, but at the same time add some contemporary flash.”
Well, Hill succeeded in his vision although Yurick wasn’t as thrilled. His novel was much darker than the film turned out to be and he felt his work had been misrepresented.
Sol Yurick’s Book Is Based On An Ancient Greek Story
While the film was based on Sol Yurick’s novel, Yurick’s work was inspired by the Ancient Greek story Anabasis by Xenophon of Athens. Anabasis is a seven-tome book from 370 BC, with Anabasis meaning The March of the Ten Thousand or The March of the Country.
It tells the story of 10,000 mercenaries (The Ten Thousand) hired by Cyrus the Younger to seize the throne of Persia. After Cyrus is killed, The Ten Thousand were left with no direction, no supplies, and were 1,000 miles behind enemy lines. They then had to march and fight their way out of enemy territory and towards the sea. Ring a bell?
They Hired Real Gangs For More Than Just Extras
Filming in extremely dangerous areas of New York City where real gangs existed presented a problem. On a few occasions, the actors found themselves being taunted by gang members to the point that people on set didn’t feel safe. So they hired a real-life gang leader to come on as the filmmaker’s “gang advisor.”
He helped teach them which gangs belonged to which neighborhoods, areas to stay away from, which ones to look out for, and the ones were relatively friendly. They even hired the gang called The Mongrels to guard their film trucks, for $500 a day.
The Most Famous Line In The Film Was Improvised
The line when Luther, played by David Patrick Kelley, says “Warriors, come out to play!” while clinking bottles together was totally improvised. Kelley knew that he wanted to say something eerie while at the same time taunting, and that was the end product.
He says that he based that line on what an old neighbor used to chant at him when he was a kid. It provided an extremely tense moment and little did Kelley know that this would become one of the most iconic scenes in the film.
They Raced To Beat The Film The Wanderers
While filming for The Warriors was happening, there was another “rival” gang film in the works called The Wanderers. Both production teams knew that the first one to release their film would have the better chance at being successful, so it was a race to the finish.
In order to ensure that The Warriors beat The Wanderers, in post-production they had three editing teams in three different rooms working around the clock until the film was finished. This turned out to work, as The Warriors debuted in February 1979 and The Wanderers in July of that same year.
Deborah Van Valkenburgh Had To Hide An Injury
In the film, Deborah Van Valkenburgh plays the tough-as-nails Mercy, the attractive girl that Swan becomes attracted to. She then follows the Warriors on their perilous journey home where she proves that she can hold her own just like any of the boys.
You may notice that when she first appears in the movie she’s dressed in minimal clothing yet later is later wearing a long-sleeved jacket. This wasn’t a continuity issue. Director Walter Hill explained that Valkenburgh had broken her wrist during filming, so they had to come up with a way to hide it.
Walter Hill Discovered Michael Beck On Accident
Michael Beck, who plays Swan, was discovered by Walter Hill on complete accident. While still casting for The Warriors, Hill watched the film Madman which Beck co-starred in with Sigourney Weaver.
Hill was watching the movie because he wanted to watch Weaver’s performance as she was being considered for Ridley Scott’s Alien. Yet, instead, he was blown away by Beck’s work in the film and invited him in for an audition as soon as possible. It didn’t take long until Beck was officially cast in The Warriors.
The Baseball Furies Are A Reference To A Real Gang
The Baseball Furies were threatening enough with their painted faces, baseball uniforms, and wielding bats, and they’re also based on a real gang. The name was a reference to an uptown gang from the 1970s known as Second Base.
Instead of the painted faces and baseball uniforms, they wore Letterman jackets that said “Second Base” on the back. There’s even an Easter egg in the movie referring to the real gang, when the New York Boppers are told that The Warriors are “on Second Base.” Much like the Baseball Furies, you probably wouldn’t want to run into Second Base either.
The Film Led To Violence
Both before and after the movie was first released, there were several instances of violence between both gangs and non-gangs. In the hopes to decrease the violence and aggression, producers halted their advertising campaign and then changed the more in-your-face poster to just the film’s logo with a white background.
However, the violence still escalated, with two people killed in two different showings. This led Paramount Pictures to give theaters the option to not play the film, claiming that they wouldn’t press charges if a theater didn’t want to take the risk of showing the film.
The Warriors Wasn’t The Main Gang In The Novel
In the original script, the full name of The Warriors was intended to be the Coney Island Warriors, but it was later shortened for simplicity and effect. In Sol Yurick’s novel, the name for the main gang wasn’t The Warriors, but instead, The Dominators.
Although many things about the gang were changed in the movie from the book, the main trait that the two groups had in common was that they were both from Coney Island. This was necessary or else the movie would have strayed a little too far from its source material.
Actor Irwin Keyes Arrests The Character He Was Going To Play
Originally, the character Ajax was written to be a muscular and rather threatening character. Actor Irwin Keyes was one of the top considerations for the role, but Walter Hill claimed that Keyes was too old to play the character. Instead, the job went to James Remar, a much smaller and skinnier actor.
However, Keyes wasn’t completely tossed aside. He was given a consolation role as the NYC police officer who hits Ajax with his baton during the sting operation in the park. Ironically, Keyes ended up arrested the character he was supposed to play.
The Role Of Cyrus Was Supposed To Go To A Real Gang Leader
The role of Cyrus, the leader who is fatally shot in the beginning, was originally going to be played by a real NYC gang leader who auditioned for and got the part. While he seemed incredibly excited to play the part, days before filming he disappeared an was never seen or heard from again.
While nobody knows exactly what happened to him, some believe he was murdered for his participation in the film, although this is considered unlikely. The part was then filled by an unknown NYC theater actor named Roger Hill.
Comic Book Style Effect
Something that many probably glossed over or never even knew is how the filmmakers used a cool trick to incorporate animation into the live-action photography. If you noticed that some scenes might have looked a little different, then good eye there.
Parts of the movie are broken up by drawn images. Then they have a seamless transition into pictures of the human actors. Since this came out in the late 1970’s that’s quite a nice feature to utilize.
The Wonder Wheel Is Real
Since the film is shot almost completely in the dark out in New York, it was almost an impossible feat to pull off. Especially since they shot it in the summer when the nights didn’t last too long.
The cast and crew had the privilege of roaming the city with a lot of freedom. The city was dealing with a fiscal crisis at the time so that made it a little more challenging as well. The Warriors showcases real props, however.
A Great Lesson On The Subway System
There were so many scenes that took place in the real New York City subways in this movie. They were run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and that includes both elevated and underground trains.
As you may have witnessed, the trains did run on tokens way back then. Many of the characters avoided paying by jumping the turnstiles. That’s the kind of thing you do when you’re running for your life and when you’re a rebel.
Gang Of … Mimes?
In what was one of the more head scratching revelations of the film, why on Earth were there a gang of mimes? What were they going to do, pull out fake knives and act out stabbing someone? That wouldn’t get them very far.
This movie uses a lot of humor when creating their fictional street gangs during this dystopian, futuristic version of The Big Apple. The mimes happen to be one of the more curious additions.
Walter Hill Keeps Up His Rep
Walter Hill has a long list of films with the same vibe as The Warriors. That’s the tough-guy, hard-boiled style. He earned this rep early on with the film 48 Hours which stars Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte.
Some of his other famous films include The Long Riders, and The Driver, which Ryan Gosling’s Drive took inspiration from. Still, The Warriors is still one of his more exceptional pieces of work to date and deserves all the credit.
Thank The DJ
All of the gangs in the movie had their radio stations tuned into the same station. That means they were all hearing the same broadcast at the same time. The messages came from an unnamed female DJ played by Lynne Thigpen.
We never got to see her full face and this could have inspired Samuel L. Jackson’s character from Do the Right Thing who has his scenes done in a similar manner. In any event, the DJ is the one that instigated the violence.
Love For Kiss
The Furies have essentially become pop-culture icons since the release of The Warriors. A lot of the gangs had their own distinct costumes and appeals, but the Furies had a special type of inspiration. Do you know what that is?
Director Walter Hill wanted the face paint and that specific attire. He wanted to fuse together his love for baseball and the make-up of his favorite rock stars, KISS. That’s quite the combination that ended up working just fine.
Walter Hill personally asked Barry De Vorzon to provide a soundtrack that would keep the movie’s momentum high. His response was an innovative and perfectly acclimated accomplishment that brought in this dark and twisted world.
Something that makes this soundtrack standout so much is that it’s universally recognized as the first rock n roll soundtrack to utilize the instrument many would come to know as the synthesizer. That’s big stuff when you bring in something first that people end up loving.
Rockstar Games came out with an expansion in 2005 that provided much-needed background concerning the events that led up to the movie. Many praised it, but there wasn’t much information provided for what happened after the film finished.
That’s probably why Dynamite Comics released a four-part comic book series by Erik Henriksen that helped fill that void. It’s called The Warriors: Jailbreak. It came out in 2009 and the story picks up not too far after the gang returned to Coney.
De Niro Was Set To Play…
There are almost virtually no big stars in this film. It’s also made up of many people making their debut in the world of feature films. However, many would be surprised to learn that many big names were once attached to this movie.
One of this big stars was Robert De Niro. He was going to playing the role of “Cowboy.” There are conflicting stories as to why this never came to fruition, but one that sticks is that he passed on the role.
Tony Scott Almost Did A Remake
There hasn’t been as much excitement placed around The Warriors in a long time. The last time was when word got out that Tony Scott was going to do a remake of the popular film. You know, the director behind Top Gun, True Romance and Deja Vu.
He planned on moving the film from New York to the west coast of Los Angeles where gang culture is very prominent. Unfortunately, the film would never come to fruition as Scott passed away.
Yurick Tried To Combat A Portrayal
Have you ever seen West Side Story? Well, that film romanticizes street gangs a lot but Sol Yurick wasn’t trying to have it with The Warriors. With that in mind, he said he wrote it to counteract the romanticized portrayal of street gangs in the West Side Story.
Still, that didn’t stop many of the critics such as Gene Siskel from going in on the film for that same reason. It seems like he couldn’t win.
A Bat To The Head
This is why it pays to have stunt doubles and people who know what they’re doing with props while filming. In one scene, Michael Beck swung the bat at Deborah’s face, which was the scene where he throws it at the cop.
She had to be rushed to the hospital at three in the morning because they were filming at night which made things more difficult. Deborah needed stitches and still has a scar on the spot.
Keep It Down!
Have you ever had those noisy neighbors that annoy you to death? You can bang on their walls, but they don’t care, the noise keeps coming. No matter what you do, they just don’t know how to be quiet.
Well, the same can be applied to crew members who are filming near your home. Especially with a film like The Warriors, you can imagine how noisy it got. That’s why the crew got urinated on from a tower block because of the commotion they caused at night.
Well, this isn’t good news. When you’re dealing with real gangs, its best be extremely careful. Members of the crew reportedly received death threats from other gangs who didn’t make the cast. That’s got to be scary.
Also, thousands of dollars of equipment got ruined when one gang decided to run through the set during a lunch break. We wonder if insurance covered that or not and how the crew members dealt with the death threats on their lives.
The Original Poster Said…
Words on the original poster read, “These are the armies of the night. They are 100,000 strong. They outnumber the cops five to one. They could run New York City.” You can imagine what implications that led to.
Many became upset at this and tried to have the movie banned. We guess some people don’t like knowing the truth. Because those words were nothing but the truth. They might have been a little abrasive but, there was no lie.
A Presidential Call
As you may know, presidents are very busy people. They might be in another country trying to pass deals or in the states trying to get laws across. That means if one stops what they’re doing to give you a call, then it must be really important to them.
Ronald Reagan gave Michael Beck a call to tell him how much he liked the movie. This came after he saw the film at Camp David.
We talked about the noise level of the crew members earlier, but noise can come from others as well. While filming, there were crowds that would come to watch the legendary movie in action.
Thanks to these crowds and the noise level they brought, filming location had to change on occasion. The crowds brought too much chatter along with them! Who can blame them? They were in the middle of seeing one of the most memorable movies to ever come out.
Too Bright During Filming
Filming in the dark means nothing if lights come on out of nowhere. What’s the point of dark scenes if street lights that were supposed to be off continue to come on? Well, that’s what happened when the crew lighting caused the light-sensitive street lights to flicker on during filming.
This caused the film to go and cover over the light sensors of the street lights during filming. Had they not, the scenes below the subway would have been lit differently.
The Homicides Didn’t Approve
Like we said earlier, its best that you don’t cross real gangs or make them upset when you’re trying to incorporate them into your art. Since The Homicides were a real gang of Coney Island, they had a request.
They didn’t want fictional gangs wearing colors on their turf. That prompted the wardrobe crew to make sure nobody wandered off location wearing The Warriors colors. The fence that surrounded the gang during the cemetery scene kept them safe.