When screenwriter David Shaber passed away in 1999 he left behind a body of work that almost 40 years after its creation is still inciting serious discussion. His screenplays were directed by the likes of Walter Hill, Jonathan Demme and John Milius. Shaber's daughter Sam Shaber talks about his screenplay for the 1979 cult classic The Warriors.
TV STORE ONLINE: How did you dad David Shaber come to write the screenplay for THE WARRIORS (1979)? Had he read the book?
SHABER: Yeah, he definitely read the book. There was an original screenplay written by someone else at Paramount for it that was called A.T.A.C. The studio hated it and that's when they hired my dad to write the screenplay. He never read that first screenplay though he decided just to do an adaptation of Sol Yurick's book.
TV STORE ONLINE: So was your dad the one who came up with the name "The Warriors" because in Yurick's book they aren't called The Warriors they're called the "The Coney Island Dominators..."
SHABER: Right. But the book was called The Warriors. The phrase was supposed to be in reference to all of the gangs in the book. In the book, there's a line that reads, "They are the warriors of the night..." I'm not sure at what point the name of the gang was changed from The Dominators to The Warriors though. That's unclear now because in my dad's first draft of the script he was still calling them The Dominators. In my dad's first draft...He had a scene that opened up the film and it featured a gang initiation. It was a scene where this kid had to spray paint the gang name The Dominators on the top of the train as it was taking off slowly. He was standing on top of a building next to the train. The train starts to speed up and the kid starts moving with it as he's trying to finish tagging it. He has to finish painting the "S" before the train leaves and as he's about to finish it, he has to jump off of a roof. Then in the script, the train goes around the bend and that's when the credits start in the film as we know them today.
TV STORE ONLINE: Do you know how long it took your dad to write the script for THE WARRIORS?
SHABER: I think it took three or four months to complete his first draft. I know he did two drafts and polish on it. The screenplay credit in the film reads "Screenplay By Walter Hill and David Shaber" but they never worked together on it. My dad came from Yale Drama School and he was a Eugene O'Neill fanatic. He loved character development. He wrote the screenplays for NIGHTHAWKS  and he did a rewrite on THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER  too. Walter Hill changed some of my dad's script. I'm sure there was a lot of character development that Walter Hill cut from my dad's script, but what Walter Hill added to my dad's script made it the film that we all love today. He brought the visuals to the movie and that is what has made the film iconic today. Walter I know, brought the whole "Baseball Furies" characters to the script. My dad's script was very serious and Walter made it much campier. That's what is great about the film. My dad was really happy when the film became successful too.
TV STORE ONLINE: What's one of the big lines that your dad came up with for the script that wasn't in Sol Yurick's book?
SHABER: He came up with Cyrus's line..."Can You Dig it?"
TV STORE ONLINE: Do you know if your dad had a favorite scene in THE WARRIORS?
SHABER: Well, there is that scene at the end of the film. The final scene where The Warriors get off the train at dawn and Swan says, "Is this what we fought all night to get back to?" I think that would have been one of his favorites because my dad's idea for the arc of the story wasn't just for The Warriors to make it back to Coney Island but for them to get out of that world that they lived in. In his first draft, there was a longer scene where they all talk about exactly where they are all going in life. I can understand why that was changed because it's really an adventure movie and I think if that idea for the arc would've been left in, it might have made it a different movie. The structure of the screenplay as it is in the final movie was my dads. All of the pieces of the story that feature that wonderful tension in the movie today are my dad's contributions and I think he was very proud of it.
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