The Warriors: 10+ Things You May Not Know About the Cult Classic Movie
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. The film has grown into a classic today, sparking comic book series, remakes, video games, and more.
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. The disco kids get off the next train, disgusted, after taking notice of the Warriors’ wounds.
This can be seen as a jab at disco since director Walter Hill was angered that Paramount Pictures wanted the movie to be like Saturday Night Fever.
The Warriors Wasn’t The Main Gang In The Novel
In Sol Yurick’s novel, the name for the main gang wasn’t The Warriors, but instead, The Dominators.
However, in both the book and the movie, The Warriors were from Coney Island.
Using Real Gang Members As Extras
At the beginning of the movie, there is an assembly of the various New York gangs in the Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park.
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.
Walter Hill’s Ideas Were Shut Down
Initially, director Walter Hill had plans for the Warriors gang to be all African Americans, but the producers felt that having the gang all black would paint the African American community in a negative light.
Hill also wanted 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. He was once again shut down by Paramount.
The Film Has Similarities To A Western
The concept of gangs or “posses” fighting one another is a classic Western trope. Instead of taking place outside of a saloon, Warriors takes place on the streets of New York.
The scene on the beach is also filmed in a very high-intensity Western style.
It’s Not Nearly As Violent As Some Modern Films
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.
In total, only three people die in the film.
Vermin Was Supposed To Die
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 so that his character would be more memorable. Because of this, Vermin survived.
Deborah Van Valkenburg’s Hidden Injury
In the film, Deborah Van Valkenburgh plays the tough-as-nails Mercy. You may notice that when she first appears in the movie, she’s dressed in minimal clothing, yet later, she’s wearing a long-sleeved jacket.
Director Walter Hill explained that Valkenburgh had broken her wrist during filming, and they had to hide it.
They Hired Real Gangs For More Than Just Extras
On a few occasions, while shooting in dangerous areas of New York City, the actors found themselves being taunted by gang members. The team 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, which areas to stay away from, which ones to look out for, and the relatively friendly ones.
Fox Was Played By Two Different Actors
After Thomas G. Waites was fired for his disruptive behavior on set, 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.
They found a body double for his character, who covered his face as much as possible.
Fox Was Supposed To Be With Mercy, Not Swan
In the original script, Fox was supposed to be the one smitten with Mercy, yet the two actors had no chemistry.
As well, Waites, who played Fox, was fired just eight weeks into principal photography for butting heads with Walter Hill. His name is not found on the credits because he demanded that it be removed.
They Raced To Beat The Film The Wanderers
While filming The Warriors, there was another “rival” gang film in the works called The Wanderers. The production teams raced to be the first ones to release their film and have more success at the box office.
The Warriors 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 first.
This Famous Line 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 says that he based that line on what an old neighbor used to chant at him when he was a kid.
Sol Yurick Wasn’t Very Happy With The Film’s Outcome
After reading Yurick’s novel, Walter Hill knew that he wanted to make the film 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.”
Yurick’s novel was much darker than the film turned out to be, and he felt his work had been misrepresented.
The Baseball Furies Are A Reference To A Real Gang
The Baseball Furies were based on a real 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.
The Film Led To Violence
Both before and after the movie was first released, there were several instances of violence that occurred. In the hopes of decreasing the violence and aggression, producers halted their advertising campaign and changed the poster.
However, the violence still escalated, with two people killed in shootings. Paramount Pictures gave 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.
Walter Hill Discovered Michael Beck On Accident
Michael Beck, who plays Swan, was discovered when Walter Hill watched Madman, in which Beck co-starred with Sigourney Weaver.
Hill was blown away by Beck’s work in the film and it didn’t take long until Beck was officially cast in The Warriors.
Tony Scott Almost Did A Remake
At one point, 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.
Unfortunately, the film would never come to fruition as Scott passed away.
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. Walter Hill claimed that Irwin Keyes was too old to play the character, and the job went to James Remar instead.
However, Keyes was given a consolation role as the NYC police officer who hits Ajax with his baton during the sting operation in the park.
The Role Of Cyrus Was Supposed To Go To A Real Gang Leader
The role of Cyrus was originally going to be played by a real NYC gang leader who auditioned for and got the part.
Days before shooting, he disappeared and was never seen or heard from again. The part was then filled by an unknown NYC theater actor named Roger Hill.
Love For Kiss
The Furies have essentially become pop-culture icons since the release of The Warriors.
Walter Hill wanted to fuse together his love for baseball and the make-up of his favorite rock stars, KISS, and this inspired the Furies’ look.
A Great Lesson On The Subway System
So many scenes took place in the real New York City subways in this movie. They were run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The trains did run on tokens way back then. Many of the characters avoided paying by jumping the turnstiles.
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.
Walter Hill personally asked Barry De Vorzon to provide a soundtrack. His responded with an innovative and perfectly acclimated accomplishment that brought in this dark and twisted world.
Something that makes this soundtrack stand out so much is that it’s universally recognized as the first rock and roll soundtrack to the synthesizer.
De Niro Was Set To Play…
There are almost no big stars in this film. However, many would be surprised to learn that many big names were once attached to the film.
Robert De Niro was going to play 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.
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.
She had to be rushed to the hospital at three in the morning. Deborah needed stitches and still has a scar on the spot.
Keep It Down!
With a film like The Warriors, you can imagine how noisy it got when filming.
That’s why the crew got urinated on from a tower block because of the commotion they caused at night.
The Homicides Didn’t Approve
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, which meant that the wardrobe crew had to make sure nobody wandered off location wearing The Warriors colors.
Too Bright During Filming
Filming in the dark means nothing if lights come on out of nowhere. 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.
Members of the crew reportedly received death threats from other gangs who didn’t make the cast.
Also, thousands of dollars of equipment got ruined when one gang decided to run through the set during a lunch break.
A Presidential Call
As you may know, presidents are very busy people.
Still, Ronald Reagan made time to give Michael Beck a call to tell him how much he liked the movie. This came after he saw the film at Camp David.
The Mysterious DJ
All of the gangs in the movie had their radio stations tuned into the same station, and they were hearing messages 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.
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.”
Many became upset at this and tried to have the movie banned.
While filming, there were crowds of people that would come to watch the action.
Thanks to these crowds and the noise level they brought, filming location had to change on occasion.