The original poster featured the words "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." This upset and outraged many people; some tried to have the film banned.
In the script, Fox was originally the love interest of Mercy, but the two actors had no chemistry and the Mercy romance was transferred to Swan. Thomas G. Waites was fired eight weeks into principal photography, for being difficult and arguing with Walter Hill, so his character was removed from the movie when a cop threw him into the path of a train during a fight. To this day, Hill felt bad about the rough times he has with Waites. Waites is not in the final credits because he demanded that his name be removed.
Walter Hill originally wanted the Warriors to be an all-black gang. Producers disagreed. He also wanted an initial subtitle which read "Sometime in the future" but Paramount thought it sounded too much like Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
Vermin was scripted to be killed by the Lizzies but Terry Michos who played Vermin made his character more comical to make it more memorable and get more on-screen appearances in the movie, which worked and the death scene was taken out.
Director of Photography Andrew Laszlo campaigned successfully to have a scene early in the film where there is a sudden rainstorm, because this allowed him to "wet down" the streets for the rest of the movie and produce lighting effects that wouldn't have been possible on dry surfaces (it also worked well with the film's limited budget).
Here are the gangs that were listed in the script (some made it into the movie; others didn't): - The Alleycats, - The Amsterdam All-Stars, - The Baseball Furies aka The Furies, - The Black Hands, - The Blackjacks, - The Big Trains, - The Boppers, - The Boyle Avenue Runners, - The Charlemagnes, - The Colt 45's, - The Dealers, - The Delaney Rovers, - The Destroyers, - The Dingos, - The E Street Blazers / The E Street Shufflers , - The Easy Aces, - The Electric Eliminators, - The Eighth Street Bombers / The Eighth Avenue Apaches, - The Fastballs, - The Fifth Street Bombers, - The Filmores, - The Firetasters, - The Five Points, - The Gerrards, - The Gladiators, - The Go Hards, - The Gun Hill Dancers, - The Gramercy Riffs aka The Riffs, - The High Hats, - The High Rollers, - The Homeboys, - The Hoplites, - The Howitzers, - The Huks, - The Hurricanes, - The Imps, - The Jesters, - The Jones Street Boys, - The Judas Bunch, - The Jupiters, - The Knockdowns, - The Knuckles, - The Lizzies, - The Locos, - The Magicians, - The Meatpackers, - The Mongols, - The Moonrunners, - The Napoleons, - The Nickel Steaks, - The Nightriders, - The Ninth Avenue Razors, - The Orphans, - The Panzers, - The Phillies, - The Plainsmen, - The Punks, - The Queen's Bridge Mutilators, - The Real Boys, - The Red Hook Shooters, - The Roadmasters, - The Rogues, - The Romans, - The Runaways, - The Saracens, - The Saratogas, - The Savage Huns, - The Shanghai Sultans, - The Southern Cross, - The Speedwagons, - The Sports, - The Stevedores, - The Stilletos, - The Stonebreakers, - The Terriers, - The Turks, - The Turnbull AC's, - The Van Cortlandt Rangers, - The Warriors (aka The Coney Island Warriors), - The Whispers, - The Xenophones, - The Xylophones, - The Yo-Yo's, - The Youngbloods, - The Zodiacs, - The Zulus.
According to the filmmakers on the Ultimate Edition DVD, the film was going to be a big hit after the movie was #1 at the box office charts despite negative reviews from critics (it earned $3.5 million in its opening weekend). However, word of mouth and a couple of incidents killed the film's momentum. According to Walter Hill, what had happened was gangs were attracted to the film and they had saw their rival gangs and caused violent incidents. Paramount Pictures panicked and decided to pull the movie out of theaters. Lawrence Gordon said the movie still kept going while the studio pulled the movie out of marketing. Despite this, the movie went on to be not only a cult hit but also a timeless classic; it even made a profit since it earned $22.4 million in initial box office receipts against a budget of only $6-7 million.
In the subway where Mercy is running with Fox's double, she fell and broke her wrist because the actor didn't let go of her hand. This is why she later appears in a jacket as it is covering up the cast. The filmmakers had Mercy disappear from the film for a while, meeting up with the Warriors at the subway platform and saying that she stole the jacket she was wearing before arriving there.
According to executive producer Frank Marshall, they originally hired a real gang member for the role as Cyrus, but could not find him on the day and never heard from him again. According to Michael Beck, however, Roger Hill was always supposed to play Cyrus, so the real story remains a mystery.
The movie uses a plot device common to some of the movies written and/or directed by Walter Hill where the leader of a group is eliminated in the first act, whereby the leadership and security of the team is thrown into disarray by the loss of its head. Such Hill pictures using this story element include Aliens (1986), this film and Southern Comfort (1981).
Loosely based on Xenophon's "Anabasis", the account of an army of Greek mercenaries who, after aligning themselves with Cyrus the Younger in the battle of Cunaxa (401 BC) in his attempt to seize the Persian throne, found themselves isolated behind Persian enemy lines.
The Homicides were a real Coney Island gang, and they didn't approve of fictional gangs wearing colours on their turf. The wardrobe department made sure nobody walked off location wearing The Warriors colours. The actors were safe during the cemetery scene in Brooklyn because of a fence surrounding it.
The Baseball Furies were created due to Walter Hill's love of baseball and the Glam Rock band KISS. The leader's face-paint clearly influenced Marilyn Manson, since he looks like Marilyn Manson in a baseball uniform.
In the original script for the movie, Cleon is killed by the Grammercy Riffs, Cochise is killed by the Baseball Furies, Ajax is caught by the police, Vermin is killed by the Lizzies, and Swan gets kidnapped by the Dingos. This leaves only four Warriors in the battle with the Punks. Swan does, however, reappear at Coney Island to fight the final battle after the Riffs learn the truth about who shot Cyrus.
Michael Beck accidentally broke three of a stuntman's ribs while filming the scuffle with the Furies. Beck himself was unaware of this until he was confronted by the same stuntman at a 'Warriors' reunion event 37 years later.
In order to get the movie out before rival "gang" film The Wanderers (1979), post-production on this picture utilized three editing teams in three editing suite cutting rooms which worked around the clock to finish the film. As such, this film debuted in February 1979 with The Wanderers (1979) launching in July later that year.
The night scenes of The Warriors talking about Cyrus and the big meeting at The Bronx were part of re-shoots after the original opening of the film was cut out. The original opening of the film (which can be viewed on the Ulimate Edition DVD) was set in Coney Island during the daytime which Cleon's girlfriend says goodbye to Cleon and also features the rest of the gang being told by Cleon why they were chosen to go to the big meeting. The main reason why this opening was cut was because the editors told Walter Hill that the scene completely fell through because it set in the daytime (95% of the film is set in nighttime) and they felt it wouldn't work since it would cut to nighttime and it was a distraction. Walter agreed and decided to go back and re-shot the conversations that The Warriors have before their train arrives.
Newcomers were cast to create the feel of "real people caught in dangerous situations". The cast felt like they were a gang before filming started. James Remar even spent time in Coney Island so he could observe real individuals to base his portrayal of Ajax on.
Michael Beck was discovered by Walter Hill when Hill was watching the movie Madman (1978), which Beck co-starred in with a then less-famous Sigourney Weaver. Hill saw that film because he wanted to see Weaver's performance, as she was being considered for the upcoming film Alien (1979), but was so impressed by Beck's work that he had him come in for an audition which led to his being cast in THE WARRIORS.
Paul Greco's character, the Orphan leader, isn't given a name in the film, and other media frequently refer to the character simply as "Orphan" or "Orphan Leader." However, his character's actual name, Sully, was revealed in the Warriors video game.
Producer Lawrence Gordon had discovered the book which this film is based on, without a cover, at a book store. After reading the description of the plot, he became very interested and bought the rights out of his own pocket. Gordon hired David Shaber to write it and approach Walter Hill to direct it after working with him on Hard Times (1975) and The Driver (1978). Hill was very interested in the project but he felt that no studio would let them make the movie so the pair decided to make a western called "Last Gun" instead. However, financing fell though and Gordon was able to get The Warriors funded by Paramount Pictures. To this day, "Last Gun" has not been made.
According to an interview with a Hell's Angel Member on the Howard Stern Show, the Warrior's vest logo was taken from a picture of a bike built in a California prison by an incarcerated Hell's Angel, which appeared in a motorcycle magazine. It has apparently caused several fights; Hell's Angels will violently defend ownership of any of their logos.
Irwin Keyes was also considered for the role of Ajax, but wasn't cast because Walter Hill thought he was too old for the part. However, Keyes still appears in the movie as the cop who arrests Ajax in the park.
Walter Hill says of this film on his 2005 DVD introduction: "At the very beginning, I said [that] to do this properly and to do the vision of the novel, it really only makes sense if you do it all black and Hispanic. And the studio was not very keen on that idea. I later came to realize that the studio forced me into the comic book idea, because it was the only way I could make it all make sense to myself".
The Warriors aimed to create "tribal feeling of going into battle together, of loyalty, of support and shared goals" and to have "the audiences' sympathy as they fight off all the other gangs in the city".
After several violent incidents that occurred at various showings of the film, the producers decided to change the poster as a way of cutting down on the violence. The original poster featured the logo as well as a picture of several tough looking gang members. The second poster just featured the logo against a white background.
The Baseball Furies are a reference to Second Base, an uptown gang from the 1970. Second Base wore Lettermen jackets with "Second Base" across the backs, not the baseball uniforms and painted faces of the Baseball Furies. The connection is quite obvious when New York Boppers are informed that The Warriors are "on Second Base".
The television version started with a day shoot at Coney Island with Cleon and his girlfriend (played by Pamela Poitier). The producers cut this scene stating that the only day scene should be at the end of the film after a night of horror.
The Twisted Sister hit song, "Come Out And Play", starts off with the sound of clanking bottles, and singer Dee Snider chanting; Twisted Sister.... come out and playay! This is a homage to one of the better known scenes in The Warriors.
This is a "collective hero" movie, in which the protagonist actually consists of nine people acting (more or less) as one. Walter Hill uses this gimmick frequently; other movies he has made that work this way are Southern Comfort (1981) and The Long Riders (1980).
The film's added-on opening prologue for the DVD Director's Cut edition of the movie states: "Battle of Cunaxa 401 BC. Over two millenniums ago, an army of Greek Soldiers found themselves isolated in the middle of The Persian Empire. One thousand miles from safety. One thousand miles from the sea. One thousand miles with enemies on all sides. Theirs was a story of a desperate forced march. Theirs was a story of courage. This too is a story of courage".
The conclave scene in Van Cortland Park was filmed using actual NYC gang members as a gesture of goodwill from the producers to allow them to be a part of the production taking place on their "territory". The NYPD expressed reservations about this arrangement fearing the close proximity of so many actual (and competing) gang members could lead to violence. The insisted on placing undercover officers throughout the crowd to handle any disturbances. So the scene features real gang members as well as real (and unknown) cops.
The iconic "Warriors, come out to play" scene was completely improvised by David Patrick Kelly after he felt the scripted scene wasn't working. Walter Hill told him to just "come up with something". Kelly gathered up some empty beer bottles he found under the boardwalk and created the intimidating dialogue. Kelly later revealed that he based it on a neighbour who used to intimidate him.
When Cochise, Rembrandt and Vermin are fleeing the cops at the train station, they run past a bearded man with a blue sweater and flat cap and who comforts his girlfriend. The man is director Walter Hill in a cameo.
Michael Beck's next leading man role was the 1980 fantasy musical film, Xanadu, in which he co-starred with Olivia Newton John. The film remains a forgettable failure in every respect as well as a radical shift from the virile, tough guy personae Beck deftly demonstrated in The Warriors. Although Beck never openly expressed regret for accepting Xanadu, he is quoted saying "The Warriors opened a lot of doors for me in film which Xanadu then closed." He did go on to work a respectable film and TV career however he would never again be cast as a leading actor, playing only supporting characters.
In the original script, there was a gang called The Dingoes and in it were Kevin Bacon and John Snyder who plays the gas station man. They were supposed to be a homosexual gang with Doberman Pinchers and blonde wigs who captured Swan temporarily, but this was cut from the script.
The film originally sported the subtitle "Sometime in the Future". This was removed for the original theatrical release version but was re-instated, displayed within the comic book title cards, for Walter Hill's 2005 Director's Cut DVD edition.
Filming of the encounter/chase/and fight sequences with the Baseball Furies involved two sets of actors playing most of the Furies. A NYC running group known as the New York Roadrunners was brought in for one night of filming, using the same costumes and makeup, to capture most of the extended running shots in the chase scenes. However, the actual fight, and a great deal more running, was done by stuntmen. The fight involved 2 weeks of rehearsal and one week of shooting, and used actual baseball bats. Stuntman Steven Chambers suffered several broken ribs as the last Furie to go down in the fight when he was hit in the side by Swan's bat. Although he was hospitalized the shot remains in the film.
The entire film was shot on the streets in New York City with some interior scenes done at Astoria Studios. They would shoot from sundown to sunrise. The film quickly fell behind schedule and went over budget. While they shot in the Bronx, bricks were tossed at the crew. Actor Joel Weiss remembers that filming of his scene at Avenue A was cancelled because there was a double homicide nearby. For the big meeting at the beginning of the film, Walter Hill wanted real gang members in the scene with off duty police officers also in the crowd so that there would be no trouble.
Debut American film of American actress Mercedes Ruehl who plays a policewoman. The movie was though actually the second feature film for Ruehl whose one previous picture had been the Brazilian movie Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (1976).
At some point during the film's promotion or after the initial ruckus when released, it was ordered that several bits of voice over in the trailer be censored. This is done by placing a piece of tape over the optical soundtrack. In the trailer, the narrator states "...between them and safety stand 20,000 cops and 100,000 sworn enemies." The fact that gangs out numbered the police by five times apparently was considered a security issue and the words "ten thousand" and "twenty thousand" were bleeped out with tape. (This probably coincides with Paramount promoting the film after violence at screenings, such as the new poster campaign).
Ajax was originally conceived as a tall, muscular, physically imposing figure. Character actor Irwin Keyes was strongly considered for the role however Walter Hill, deciding Keyes was too old for the role, opted to go with the smaller yet wiry James Remar. Keyes was given a consolation role in the film as Hill cast him as the NYC cop who hits Ajax with his club after Ajax is caught in the park sting operation. So Keyes got to arrest the character he was originally considered to play.
The end credits song "In The City" was specifically written and recorded for the movie by Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh. The Eagles liked the song so much that they ended up recording a new but very similar version of the song on their next album "The Long Run."
According to the movie's source script, the full name of "The Warriors" gang was actually "The Coney Island Warriors". The main gang in this film, it was not the name of the main gang in Sol Yurick's source novel where the main gang was called "The Dominators" aka "The Coney Island Dominators". The element the two gangs had in common was the they were both from Coney Island.
Konrad Sheehan plays the roller skating leader of the Punks. Walter Hill auditioned him for the role in early 1978 and asked Sheehan if could roller skate to which her replied that he could. Sheehan had never roller skated and spent the summer of 1978 teaching himself to skate which included a 25 mile journey on skates between White Plains and Mt. Vernon in NY.
The dialogue from the scene in which The Warriors are discussing their strategy to get back to Coney Island and question the status of the truce after Cyrus's murder is featured as the lead-in to the 1992 song "Wrong Side of the Tracks" by the Brooklyn-based hardcore metal band Biohazard.
Walter Hill was drawn to the "extreme narrative simplicity and stripped down quality of the script". The script, as written, was a realistic take on street gangs but the director was a huge fan of comic books and wanted to divide the film into chapters and then have each chapter "come to life starting with a splash panel".
Throughout production the cast were regularly subjected to taunts, harassment, and threats from real gang members who were observing the filming. In addition to a sizable contingent of on set security members the producers also paid a real life gang, The Mongrels, $500/day to guard the production's equipment trucks. Shouting, noise-making, and other interruptions from nearby watchers was common during filming requiring scenes to have to be re-shot after security removed the offenders.
A real NYC gang leader was auditioned for and offered the role of Cyrus which he eagerly accepted. Only days before his scenes were to be filmed in the park he could not be reached for his rehearsals and was never seen or heard from again. It remains unclear what became of him although popular urban lore suggests he had been murdered by another gang for his participation in the film. A last minute casting call resulted in then unknown local actor Roger Hill as the selection to replace him.
Cyrus was originally cast using a real NYC gang leader. While he expressed enthusiasm for the role he mysteriously vanished right before shooting began and was not heard from again. Walter Hill scrambled to replace him and cast local NYC theater actor Roger Hill to fill the role.
Surprisingly this adult R rated, gritty, and violent gang themed film (along with The Wanderers (1979)) has a connection to the PBS children's program 3-2-1 Contact (1980). Ginny Ortiz (who played The Candy Store Girl) and Leon W. Grant (who Played Boo Boo over at The Wanderers (1979)) both had minor roles in both movies would go on to be the original hosts of 3-2-1 Contact (1980). Plus, the late Marcelino Sánchez who was featured both in the "Bloodhound Gang" segments on 3-2-1 Contact (1980) and as "Rembrandt" one of The Warriors.
The subway bathroom scene with the Punks is only fight of the film where one or more Warriors are represented by stuntmen. A brief pause of the moment when Vermin is thrown into the mirrors above the sinks will clearly reveal a blonde haired stuntman performing the action.
Subway equipment throughout the entire movie consisted of IND/BMT R-27 and R-30 units, even though the IRT is implied in many instances. Apparently, no attention was paid to train markings, which varied considerably and were often unrelated to the actual routes traveled on. Other subway cars seen briefly are R-12, R-42 and R-46 units.
When Swan (Michael Beck) and Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) are in the subway with the rest of the members, there are 4 people coming from a prom. Many people say that Debra Winger was one of them. That is false information. Contrary to popular belief one of the young "Prom Couples" females is NOT played by a young Debra Winger. In fact the two female prom cast members are Gwynn Press and Jodi Price.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
For the last shot in the film, where the vindicated Warriors and Mercy walk away along the Coney Island shoreline as the sun rises, Michael Beck and Deborah Van Valkenburgh were not told when to stop walking. Van Valkenburgh became irritated because they noticed they had reached a point where they were out of the cameras' ranges. But when they went back, they found out that the cast and crew had done this so they could bring out a huge bouquet of roses which they then presented to a surprised Van Valkenburgh.
The scene in which Cyrus is killed during the mass gang meeting was loosely based on a real event (December 1971) In which a member of "The Ghetto Brothers" (Black Benji) was shot and killed during a meeting in which he was trying to negotiate peace between several Bronx and Brooklyn gangs. He was known for his vastly different approach to gang violence, preferring to negotiate peace instead of declaring war on rival gangs. His murder did not incite retaliation, but only furthered peace talks between the offenders and other gangs. The peace talks unified rival gang members to the point that peaceful block parties were held to dissolve turf boundaries. The block parties were also a pivotal moment in the evolution of hip hop.