Remember The Warriors: The Making of a Cult Classic

It’s been 36 years since The Warriors made the rounds in theaters. Some of the cast members are heading to a reunion this Sunday at the Warriors Festival in Coney Island. In addition to reminiscing about old times together, they’ll probably talk about how fantastical the film seems now, because New York City now is nothing like it was in the ‘70s. When they filmed The Warriors on the city streets at night, those streets were anything but safe.  

In the late Seventies, Paramount was notorious for being one of the toughest Hollywood studios to work for; they wanted their films made fast and cheap. To be a Warrior would mean running all night, every night, through the sweltering summer streets of Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx. It would mean showing up for work at six in the evening and not wrapping until the crew could see the sun rise over the East River. It would mean hopping subway turnstiles and enduring the taunts of the local street gangs. The line separating art and life would become blurred, the making of the film an adventure in and of itself.

"I was really going to put them through it out there," [director Walter] Hill remembers. "You never quite knew what you were going to run into."

The producers ended up paying various street gangs for enough peace to complete the movie. There were times when the young actors actually had to fight the locals, but some of them were pretty streetwise, having grown up in the same type of culture. And there were plenty of other challenges in bringing The Warriors to the big screen. The Village Voice talked to several actors and crew members about the experience, in an oral history of The Warriors. -via Metafilter

See also: A Documentary About The Real Life Gangs That Inspired The Warriors.

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I was an extra in the Riverside Park assassination scene; as a matter of fact, as an actor new to NY, it was my first paid “acting” job. I didn’t get one of those cool weird gang uniforms, as I got hired last minute and was told to come wearing jeans and a t-shirt; I would be part of the gang contingent known as “The Irregulars.” Ha! I remember that listening to that actor (I don’t know his name) do the “Can you DIG IT?” speech was amusing to me. To my ears he sounded like a Shakespearean actor—not some guy from the street.
I believe my pay for the evening was to be about thirty bucks, though I never made it all the way through to the end of the shoot. I split about halfway through our food break where everyone was given a “box lunch” (at 3 in the morning!)-- because I was TERRIFIED. Virtually all the other young people around me—to my eyes, at least—looked like the real thing: gang members and not actors. I actually saw a few scuffles when the camera stopped rolling, including a few knives flashing around. As I tried to leave via an exit point, I was blocked by a crew member who told me I couldn’t leave. For a second, I felt trapped. Then he said: “You won’t get paid!” I told him the hell with it and ran past him.
As I rode the subway back to my $35/week hotel room in Times Square, I felt cheated. My first acting job, and I didn’t even get to finish it!
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