Interesting Facts About ‘The Warriors’

The Warriors (1979)

The Warriors was a movie made in 1979 about a New York City Street gang that was caught in enemy territory and accused of a crime they did not commit. It has come down to be a cult classic of gang films. This past week, one of the actors in the film, Roger Hill, who played gang leader, Cyrus, passed away at the age of 65 years old. His death prompted this article of some interesting facts you might not have known about the cult fan favorite, ‘The Warriors’.

CAN YOU DIG IT?

The movie ‘The Warriors’ is based off of a 1965 book with the same title by Sol Yurick. He wrote the book as a rebuttal to the film ‘West Side Story’ that showed NYC street gangs as all-white or Hispanic youths who danced and sang. At the time, Yurick worked for the New York City Welfare Department and saw many gang activities in his daily life. He would go onto write seven more novels before his death in 2013, but none would achieve the fame of ‘The Warriors’.

 

BASED ON TRUE EVENTS

The story of ‘The Warriors’ is not a wholly fictional tale. However, it didn’t originally involve street gangs, either.  The actual events occurred in 401BC and were recorded in the Greek historian, Xenophon’s “Anabasis” (translated as “The Ascent”). In this book, Xenophon describes the Battle of Cunaxa in Babylon. Here, the Persian leader, Cyrus the Younger, hired Greek mercenaries to help him take the throne of Persia. However, Cyrus (just like in the movie) was killed and the Greeks found themselves a 1000 miles behind enemy lines. Led by the Spartan general, Clearchus, they fight their way across the known world back to their homeland.

 

THE REAL DEAL

The movie, ‘The Warriors’, is supposed to start in the Bronx, go through Brooklyn, and end on Coney Island where the “Coney Island Warriors” were headquartered. Along the way, they encounter other street gangs that want to stop them. For the most part, in the film, these street gangs are based on actual gangs. For instance, the Baseball Furies in the film are based on an actual 1970s street gang, known as the Second Basers. Credit is given to them as the radio announcer mentions that “the Warriors have made it past second base.”  The real Second Basers didn’t wear makeup or baseball uniforms. They were a 1970s gang from uptown Manhattan who would wear letterman jackets with their gang name on the back. The director changed the look of them because he liked the rock band KISS.  Another gang, known as the Mongrels, were in charge of “protecting” the movie production after a rival gang trashed the set after they were not invited to be in the movie. Close up scenes with rival gangs were mainly stunt actors, though, since actual gang members were deemed to be too violent.

 

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN

Several famous actors either were intended to be in the movie or tried out for various roles. For instance, in place of Lynn Thigpen as the radio DJ in the film, Orson Wells was originally considered for the part. The lead actor of Swan (Michael Beck) was first offered to Tony Danza who turned down the part to play in a new TV show, called Taxi. I love this movie, but I think it was the wiser career choice.

 

 

WARRIORS, COME OUT TO PLAY…

Yes, you did. Many actors got their starts in movies like ‘The Warriors‘. If you look closely, you will see such names as: James Remar (Dexter Morgan’s dad on Showtime’s Dexter) playing the Warrior, Ajax. You can also see Mercedes Ruhl (from Big, The Fisher King, and Last Action Hero) playing the policewoman in the park. A closer look will find a very young Deborah Winger riding the subway. One of the face-painted, bat-wielding Baseball Furies was none other than martial arts great, Steve James (Enter the Dragon), and if you remember a knife being thrown during the TV version of The Warriors, you might recognize the hand – it is comedian/magician Penn Gillette!

 

Special Bonus

Here’s the whole movie!