While initially not well received by either the public or by critics, it was largely considered to be a “real peculiarity” to audiences far and wide. But over time this film would gain much prominence and recognition. Today, “The Warriors” is highly regarded as a classic piece of American cinema, igniting and inspiring a myriad of comic book sagas, remakes, video games, and so much more. Read on to discover more.
Hiring Real-Life Gang Members on Set
Would you believe that actual, real-life gang members were hired to play “Warriors” in this film? Well, it's true! Wanting to be as close to real life as possible, the filmmakers and producers of “The Warriors” ultimately decided to hire real gangs to appear in the film to make it feel all the more authentic.
And these real nonfictional gang members didn’t only appear as extras. Sure, some gang members were used as extras in the opening scene of the film, but a real-life gang leader was also hired onto the set of the movie, acting as the filmmaker’s right-hand man and “gang advisor” throughout the filming process.
Changing Walter Hill's Vision
Filmmaker Walter Hill's creative vision faced substantial opposition from the film's producers, highlighting a notable disagreement in the development process. Specifically, Hill's original concept for the Warriors entailed exclusively African American gangs. However, the movie's producers expressed apprehension and raised concerns about the potential consequences of depicting the gang in this manner.
Firstly, this could perpetuate negative stereotypes and inadvertently present the African American community in a menacing light. The producers ultimately decided against Hill's artistic choice, opting for a more diverse representation of the gang in the final film. This creative divergence highlights the complex considerations and deliberations that occur during the filmmaking process.
The Wild West vs. The Warriors
Though set in a dystopian future, “The Warriors” actually shares a surprising number of similarities with the Western genre of films. Of these many similarities present in the film, the theme concerning gangs fighting each other — one of the most prominent plot points in The Warriors — is a perfect example of classic Western tropes seen in Western movies.
However, unlike in Western films, this concept takes place on the streets of New York City, as opposed to in a Western saloon. The scene on the beach where the Warriors and their rival gang, the Rogues, take part in a stand-off on the shores of New York’s Coney Island holds an uncanny similarity between the stand-offs commonly seen in classic Western-style films.
The Absence of Modern-Day Film Violence
Unlike many of the violence-ruled films of modern-day Hollywood, "The Warriors" is certainly an outlier from the pack. Indeed, when comparing the level of violence present in the majority of today’s films — even those films intended to be acceptable for children to watch — to the amount of violence seen in "The Warriors", this film does not nearly have as much violence as is normal in today’s movie industry.
While this film is still rated R, and thus rendered largely inappropriate for minors to view, it is notable to point out that the reason for this rating was not given for the amount of violence present, but instead, most likely because of the high amount of inappropriate language and adult content present throughout much of the film.
The Intended Death of Vermin
One of the most memorable characters in the film was Vermin, played by Terrence ‘Terry’ Michos, but we almost had to say goodbye to him sooner than we'd have liked. While initially Vermin was meant to die at one point in the movie, Michos somehow managed to act his way out of his character’s intended, tragic fate. But how did Michos manage to save his character? By being funny, of course.
By choosing to take a more comical approach with the personality of his character — believing that, in doing so, his character would ultimately be more likely to be memorable among audience members. This also got him more screen time and in the end, Michos would ultimately transform his character into one of the main, most prominent people out of all characters seen throughout the film.
Mercy and Fox Sitting in a Tree?
Long-time lovers of the movie might be surprised, but while in the final version of the film, Swan winds up with Mercy, originally, these characters' relationship was entirely nonexistent. Although filmmakers originally wrote the script to include a passionate relationship between Fox and Mercy, they proved to have absolutely no chemistry with each other.
Not only was there no proper chemistry, but the actor that played Fox, Thomas G. Waites, would eventually be fired just eight weeks into the production of the film due to an ongoing conflict with the director Walter Hill. Consequently, Fox's character was written off early in the film.
Fox: A Two-Man Job
How exactly could the film possibly carry on after Thomas G. Waites (Fox), one of its main actors, was kicked off the set? By hiring a lookalike stunt double, of course. This strikingly similar body double can be seen in the scene involving the death of Fox. To ensure the audience would not be able to spot the difference between the two actors, filmmakers had to cover the character's face as much as possible.
It was so well done that if you were to closely pay attention when watching the film, you will actually be able to notice that, in the scenes leading up to Fox’s death, you are never able to get a clear, distinct look at the character’s face — and now we all know why.
The Disheartening Disapproval of Sol Yurick
As soon as Walter Hill finished reading Sol Yurick’s novel, his intentions, and aspirations were clear: he was destined to make this book into a big-screen film. However, while Hill knew he wanted to make the novel into a blockbuster hit, he made it clear from the start that his movie adaptation of Yurick’s novel, while following the basic plot of the text, would stray slightly from the original story.
Because the portrayal on the big screen was not nearly as dark as the original novel, the author deemed the film an enormous misrepresentation. Another major difference between Yurick’s story and the movie can be found in the different names of the gangs, as not one of them was used in the film.
The Greek Epic Behind the Novel
Though all true Warriors fans know of the film’s novel roots, little are aware that the book written by Sol Yurick is actually an adaptation of one Ancient Greek tale: Anabasis. It is within this particular story that some ten thousand mercenaries, were hired by a man by the name of Cyrus the Younger, with the hopes that they could help him seize the throne of Persia.
However, following the unexpected murder of Cyrus, the mercenaries were left hopeless. With no direction nor supplies, not to mention 1,000 miles behind their enemy’s lines, this group of men was left with no other choice but to march towards the enemy, in order to fight their way through and out of enemy territory. Sound familiar? We thought so too.
When filmmakers began shooting "The Warriors", they soon ran into a major problem: the areas of New York City in which they desired to shoot the film’s scenes in were actually very dangerous. On a few occasions, whilst shooting the movie the actors present on set would often find themselves taunted by real-life gang members.
To combat this major problem, the makers of the movie decided to turn to real-life, gang leaders to help control the risk of surrounding gangs by hiring them as gang advisors. The film’s creators even hired a real-life gang by the name of 'The Mongrels' to ensure the safety of those on the film’s set. The gang members would ardently guard the movie’s film trucks for a fee of $500 a day!
“Warriors, Come Out to Pla-yay!”
Combined, these very five words are widely known and regarded as the most famous line in all of "The Warriors" films. A line famously spoken by Luther (played by David Patrick Kelley) whilst clinking together glass bottles in his hand, this statement is one known by almost every fan of this iconic movie. But did you know that this line was actually improvised?
As the story goes, in this particular scene, Kelley knew he wanted his character to say something not only in an eerie manner but also taunting. As such, Kelley allegedly drew the inspiration for this legendary line from an experience in his childhood that involved one of his neighbors, who often terrifyingly chanted these very words at him as a child.
“The Warriors” vs. “The Wanderers”
During the filming of "The Warriors", there was actually another rival gang film in the works at the same time. Known by the very similar name of "The Wanderers", it was this very film that had the filmmakers under constant stress, working diligently and arduously around the clock, to ensure their film would be released before their competitors'.
The editors of "The Warriors" worked around the clock. Thankfully, the tireless work of the film’s post-production crew ultimately paid off. In February of 1979, "The Warriors" would make its first debut in theaters, beating out the release of their rival movie, "The Wanderers" (released in July of that same year) by five months.
Hiding the Leading Lady’s Injuries
While all fans know and love the ‘tough-as-nails’ character Mercy, few people know that Deborah Van Valkenburgh, the actress that portrayed her, was actually involved with what is largely considered the film’s ultimate heist. Widely known as Swan's love interest, she goes on to follow the gang throughout their long, perilous journey home.
It is during this dangerous voyage that she is ultimately able to prove herself and her worth to the rest of the gang. But Valkenburgh unluckily and unexpectedly broke her wrist while on set and the makers of the film had to come up with a way to cover up this injury, and fast. If you watch the film you'll notice they did so by covering her arm with her baggy clothing.
Michael Beck’s Accidental, Unlikely Discovery
Though today Michael Beck is widely known and praised for his portrayal of Swan in the film, believe it or not, Beck was actually discovered by Walter Hill on a complete, accidental whim. According to accounts, during the filmmaker’s search for the perfect actor to play Swan, Hill stumbled upon Beck not during a casting call, but instead while watching the film "Madman".
As a result, Hill hastily invited him in for an audition for "The Warriors". Not long after, Beck was officially cast as Swan — a role that would later define and solidify his prominent career as a major Hollywood actor. From here, Beck would go on to secure a number of other big-time movie and television roles.
The Baseball Furies: A Real-Life Gang Reference
With their intimidating painted faces, baseball uniforms, and terrifying baseball bat weapons, the threatening presence of the 'Baseball Furies' in the film is one not soon forgotten. The appearance of this nightmarish group was based on a prominent gang that occupied uptown New York in the 1970s, known as 'Second Base.'
However, the 'Second Base' gang instead wore matching Letterman jackets, with the gang’s name etched onto the back. Paying homage to this real-life gang, when watching the film you may notice one particularly obvious Easter egg present in one scene in the movie, during which time the New York Boppers gang is informed that The Warriors are "on Second Base."
The Film’s Consequences
Though filmmakers surely did not initially intend it, the making and release of their movie ultimately led to an immediate spike in real-life violence. In hopes of decreasing this increase in violence and aggression on the streets, the producers of "The Warriors" instead chose to promote the upcoming release of their film with a more minimal poster, containing nothing more than the logo of the film, placed on a white background.
Despite the deliberate efforts carried out by producers to put a halt to gang-related violence, much to their dismay, the violence surrounding the release of the film continued to escalate. Not long after re-releasing the film’s promotional posters, there were separate attacks that occurred in two different showings of "The Warriors."
The Original Warriors Gang
Since its release, the Warriors gang has infamously gone down as one of the most well-known gangs in movie history, and for years after its release, it was considered the most exciting film in America. In reality, though the name wasn’t even the original name given to the main gang of this story.
Even before "The Warriors" movie script was created, in the original story written and published in the novel written by Sol Yurick, the name given to the main gang did not even include any mention of the word ‘Warriors’! Instead, Yurick referred to the infamous game as 'The Dominators.'
Irwin Keyes's Ironic Twist of Fate
The character of Ajax was originally written to have a highly muscular, particularly foreboding character presence, and actor Irwin Keyes was among the top considerations for the role. However, because director Walter Hill believed Keyes was far too old to play this character, the role was instead given to actor James Remar, a significantly smaller, skinnier actor when compared to Keyes.
Despite Keyes's ultimate rejection for the role of Ajax, filmmakers still kept Keyes on set, giving him the consolation role. He was the New York City police officer known for hitting Ajax with his baton during the scene in the film involving the sting operation in the park. Then, in an ironic twist of events, Keyes ends up arresting the very character he initially was meant to play!
The Comic Book Effect
While watching "The Warriors," did you happen to notice certain scenes that appeared distinct from the rest? If so, your keen observation skills are impressive! One aspect of the film that often goes unnoticed is the creative utilization of a progressive post-production editing technique that gave it a certain comic-book effect.
This technique involves seamlessly combining animation with live-action photography to produce a final product that incorporates both elements, adding a unique visual dimension to the movie. In the specific scenes of the film where this unique technique is carried out, the film is broken up by drawn images. From here, these pictures are seamlessly joined together to effectively transition into actual photos of the actors in real life.
Real-Life Props: The Wonder Wheel
You may be a die-hard Warriors Fan, but are you aware of one real-life prop utilized by filmmakers during the movie’s filming and production? What prop may that be, you might ask? Why, it’s the Wonder Wheel, of course! Yup, you better believe it: the wonder wheel seen in the movie is real.
The makers of the film ultimately chose to showcase real-life props present in the backdrop of the city, the most widely known of these being the illustrious Coney Island Wonder Wheel. Since appearing in the very first scene of the film, The Wonder Wheel still stands tall, a major attraction at Coney Island’s “Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park” still to this day.
The Chronicles of the New York Subway System
Throughout the filming of this film, many of the scenes present on the big screen actually took place in the real-life trams of the New York City subway system. This included both elevated as well underground trams in New York City, all transportation vessels used during scenes of the film were run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
And, as you may have picked up on when watching the movie, these trains ran solely on tokens. However, as witnessed through the illicit acts of the gang members in the film, a number of people — including two characters in the film, as well as individuals in real life — avoided paying for this particular mode of urban transportation.
A Gang of… Mimes?
Of all the odd, oftentimes bewildering moments throughout the film, perhaps the most confusing of these is the presence of a particularly mystifying mime gang. Known as “The Hi-Hats,” this gang is one of twenty others to appear in the film. The appearance of this gang can be described as utterly perplexing, largely disconcerting.
If you're wondering why the filmmakers decided to include such an odd gang in this very serious and oftentimes violent film, just know that you're not alone. We're also wondering what the creators wanted to accomplish in the inclusion of this mysterious gang of mimes and are still left scratching our heads.
The Longstanding Film Cred of Walter Hill
Staying true to the tough-guy style of movies, Hill’s unique, cinematic approach began early on in his longstanding career. He first earned his reputation for his work in the film, "48 Hours", starring Hollywood Stars Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte. Other famous films by Hill include "The Long Riders" and "The Driver" — a film that Ryan Gosling would later use as inspiration for his role in the award-winning film "Drive".
Over the years, Hill’s unique directing methods have earned him a number of awards, including the 2004 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. However, of all the films directed by Hill, "The Warriors" is by far one of his most remarkable pieces of work, deserving of all the credit and praise it has received — and we can certainly understand why!
The Mystery of the Gang Radio
During the movie, all the gangs in the movie heard the exact same broadcast, at the exact same time. These radio messages were broadcasted by one mysterious, unnamed female DJ, voiced by actress Lynne Thigpen. We never get to see Thigpen’s face on-screen, which is likely a homage to actor Samuel L. Jackson’s character in the film, “Do the Right Thing.”
Released in 1989, "Do the Right Thing" portrays local radio DJ Mister Señor Love Daddy, who appears in this movie’s scenes in a nearly identical manner. However, in the case of Thigpen, this DJ turned out to be a sort of villain and was the one largely to blame for the instigation of violence between the gangs in the film.
Drawing Inspiration from KISS
Ever since the release of "The Warriors", The Furies grew in popularity and were widely considered prominent icons within the world of pop culture. This popularity may be due largely in part to the fact that, though a lot of the gangs in the film maintained their own distinct style, the Furies had a unique source of inspiration for their look.
What inspiration is this, you may ask? None other than the world-renowned rock group, KISS! To combine his passion for baseball with his love for American rock stars, Warriors director Walter Hill ultimately found a happy balance for the look of the Furies by integrating the eccentric, recognizable makeup of KISS with a classic baseball fashion.
The Film’s Iconic Soundtrack
The best movie soundtracks do more than complement the scenes you see on screen and that's exactly what Walter Hill wanted when he sought out the help of American singer, songwriter, producer, and composer Barry De Vorzon to provide "The Warriors" with their soundtrack. Ultimately the film needed a soundtrack that would maintain the movie’s suspense.
The resulting movie score transported viewers right to the thick of New York's gang scene. The soundtrack became widely regarded as an innovative, and perfectly acclimated accomplishment. It's now universally recognized as the first-ever rock ’n’ roll soundtrack to utilize the mysterious instrument that would later be known to the world as the synthesizer.
The Film Jabs at Disco
The filmmakers made it very clear how they felt about disco culture. Immediately upon noticing the gang members’ wounds, and their overall state and condition in general, the disco-goers hastily get off the train as soon as they could jumping off the train at the next stop, acting as if they did not see what they actually just saw on the train.
This scene was added because “The Warriors” director Walter Hill became infuriated when Paramount Pictures told him they wanted his film to be like "Saturday Night Fever". Walter Hill wanted to make an entirely different film, so it makes sense that the filmmaker would include a scene like this, that portrayed disco-goers as scaredy cats.
Providing Cinematic Background Context
Though "The Warriors" was widely received and praised by critics and theatergoers, there was not much information available concerning what happened with the characters after the movie. However, in 2005, all this would change. It was this very year that Rockstar Games would come out with an expansion that would provide people with a highly necessary background surrounding the events after the movie.
This led to the release of a four-part comic book series, published by Dynamite Comics, and created by acclaimed writer Erik Henriksen. Titled "The Warriors: Jailbreak", this series would first become available to the public in 2009. In this Warriors-based comic book saga, the story begins not too long after the gang returned to Coney Island in New York City.
Robert De Niro was Supposed to Play Who!?
There are virtually no well-known actors appearing in the movie, with the majority of the cast comprised of actors making their first-ever debut in the world of feature films. But many fans would be surprised to know that initially, there were actually a number of big-name actors set to appear in this film.
Of the many well-known actors initially attached to the movie, one of the most prominent of these was none other than award-winning actor Robert De Niro. While this actor was originally considered for the role of Cowboy in this cult classic, the director Walter Hill insisted solely on unknown actors for all roles in this, and the part eventually was given to actor Tom McKitterick.
Tony Scott’s Remake Attempt
Since its release in theaters more than four decades ago, there has only been one attempt at reinstalling the modern-day version of the "Warriors". It all happened back in 2009 when word got out that famed director Tony Scott — most known for movies like "Top Gun", "True Romance", and "Deja Vu" — was getting ready to create a remake of the once much-adored movie.
However, unlike the original version, Scott intended to create a remake that would take place, not in New York, but instead on the West coast of Los Angeles — an area where gang culture is especially abundant. Scott claimed that ”L.A. is now the city of the future.” Sadly, Scott would pass away before the film was able to start production.
Sol Yurick’s Original Reasoning
Unlike the stories of internationally renowned films like that of "West Side Story" — a movie that famously romanticizes the life of street gangs — according to reports, Yurick wanted no part of this cliché when he wrote his book. With this idea in mind, Yurick wrote the story of "Warriors" as a way to counteract the overly romanticized tale.
Despite Yurick’s best efforts, many critics, like the illustrious American film critic Gene Siskel, still shot down the movie version of "The Warriors" for containing the very same themes and clichés that Yurick intended to thwart. As with many films, this version was just a more stylistic and thrilling take on the book, much to Yurick's dismay.
A Quite Literal Bat to the Head
Above all, the important lesson in movie making is that anything can go wrong, as was the case when filming this one particular scene. This scene involved Swan (Michael Beck) throwing his bat at the cop, but somehow Beck misses the cop and accidentally swings his bat at Mercy's (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) face.
Consequently, Deborah was rushed to the hospital at three in the morning, since they were filming in the middle of the night. Thankfully, Deborah managed to walk away from this unexpected incident with nothing more than stitches. To this day, she still has a scar from the event — a sort of memento of the film, if you will.
Keep It Down, Will Ya!?
Much to the dissatisfaction of those residing in the neighborhoods where the filming was taking place, the obnoxiously loud scenes were only made worse by the fact that most of the filming took place at night. Especially with a film as intense as "The Warriors", one can only imagine just how noisy the neighborhoods surrounding the set could get.
As expected, neighbors grew so fed up from the ceaseless noise on set — in particular, the relentless commotion that occurred during the early hours of the morning — that in order to make a point, they went as far as to defiantly urinate on unlucky crew members from their apartments up above.
The Very Real-Life Threats on Set
For the actors and crew members on set during filming, the real-life dangers surrounding them were not only very real but also imminent. According to reports from members of this film crew, they often received a myriad of terrifying threats from the gang members who were not hired for the film.
We can’t even imagine how scared they must have been! Additionally, thousands of dollars in movie equipment would also feel the wrath of surrounding gangs, when one particular gang, felt it necessary to go on a rampage, running throughout the set during one lunch break, breaking and vandalizing equipment and props.
The Film’s Originally Controversial Movie Poster
The studio’s promotional campaign for this film was blamed for much of the violence that followed the release of the film, in large part due to the poster’s dramatic line that read: “These are the armies of the night... They could run New York City. Tonight they’re all out to get the Warriors.”
While the words on this initial poster stated the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, containing no trace of lies or dishonesty whatsoever, we do admit that this phrasing might have been just slightly too abrasive for some people. We guess some people just can’t handle the truth.
Receiving the Presidential Stamp of Approval
It’s a widely known fact: presidents are extremely busy individuals. In the case of "The Warriors", it was leading man Michael Beck that had the honor of receiving a presidential call. Yup, believe it or not, Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, actually made time to give this actor a call.
According to reports, after watching "The Warriors" Reagan rang Beck, in order to state his presidential approval, informing the lucky actor just how much he enjoyed the film, which is perhaps, one of the greatest honors someone can receive. In our opinion, nothing says ‘success’ more than a presidential stamp of approval.
The Downfall of Adoring Fans
What could possibly go wrong when allowing onlookers to watch the filming of a film? As witnessed during the filming of "The Warriors", many things could go wrong. Unbeknownst to the adoring fans, as well as the filmmakers that allowed the gathering of such crowds, such massive amounts of people brought the noise level to unprecedented levels.
As a result of this commotion, specifically thanks to the crows and the noise they obliviously carried with them, the makers of the film were left with no other option but to occasionally change the filming location of the movie. These massive crowds and their mindless chatter did, however, prove detrimental to the filming of "The Warriors".
The Consequences of Light
Oftentimes, light is necessary to get the perfect shot while filming a movie, but the production of "The Warriors" proves that this is not always the case. In the case of making this movie, it was actually the presence of light that proved to be a real issue while filming. The cameramen actually faced a number of issues involving the lighting on set.
Of the many risky scenarios that could occur whilst rolling in the dark, one major issue often involves unexpected light sources. What’s the point of attempting to shoot scenes in the dark if, while filming the scene, street lights unexpectedly turn on out of nowhere?
Absolutely No Colors!
The gangs represented in the movie — and more specifically, gang culture — can be seen in their decisions involving a gang called the Homicides, who were not only portrayed in the film but also existed in real life. The gang was quick to make a request: do not, under any circumstances, dress the film’s fictional gang members in gang colors when filming on their turf.
To ensure the wishes of this gang were respected, the wardrobe crew on set was carefully instructed to make sure no one involved in the movie accidentally wandered offset while donning gang colors. Much to the relief of those on the movie’s set, the barrier surrounding the film set would ultimately keep cast and crew members safe while on location.