TV STORE ONLINE: How did each of you get cast in THE WARRIORS (1979)? Did you go into an audition or was your role offered to you?
(L) Terry Michos (C) David Harris
(R) James Remar
MICHAEL BECK (SWAN): I was living in New York City at the time and my agent submitted me. They submitted me to the casting agency Feurer-Ritzer. I went in to see them and I couldn't get past that meeting. They couldn't see me as a New York street kid because I had trained in England and my casting agents had put me up for several plays at the time that were these very classical English plays. So I never got to audition for Walter Hill. Walter Hill had screened a film that I had done in Israel called MADMAN  with Sigourney Weaver. He was screening it because he was working on ALIEN  at the time. I played the lead in MADMAN and he saw me in that film and called me in to audition for THE WARRIORS.
|Deborah Van Valkenburgh as "Mercy"
TERRY MICHOS (VERMIN): I was sent over to read for Walter Hill. They gave me some pages of the script. I remember Frank Marshall saying to me, "Well, we're looking for some certain types of people..." I think that what he was saying was that he didn't think that I had the right look. I hadn't even read yet. So I pushed and asked them to look through some of my other head shots that I had brought and there were some more edgier shots in there. Walter Hill said, "OK, go ahead and read then..." I didn't get the part. I was very disappointed. I can remember now going to get a glass of wine with my girlfriend at the time and having tears in my eyes. I really wanted to be a part of THE WARRIORS but then so did everyone else. Then a week later my agent called me and said, "They want to see you again for THE WARRIORS..." So I went back in and read again and afterward Walter Hill said, "Well...I don't know what role I want you to play..." My heart jumped!
(L) James Remar as "Ajax" (C) Brian Tyler as "Snow"
(R) David Harris as "Cochise"
DAVID PATRICK KELLY (LUTHER): I went in to see them at The Paramount Building on Columbus Circle in New York City. I went to see them a couple different times. I have no conformation on this, but I think that they may have been considering me for one of The Warriors. I had long hair at the time because I was in this play called Working where I played a character named "Charlie Blossom". It was written by Studs Terkel. Walter came and saw me in the play. In the play my character was a homicidal Ex-Hippie who wants to shoot everyone down. It was a break-through for me an actor. I had to dig deep and channel a lot of painful memories to play that character and it was like an out of body experience for me. I think that because I played that homicidal character in that play is the reason why I got cast to play Luther instead of one of The Warriors.
Actors Michael Beck & Deborah Van Valkenburgh
with Director of The Warriors Walter Hill
TERRY MICHOS (VERMIN): I found out that the reason why I got called back to audition for a second time was that Tony Danza, who had gotten a part, had dropped out because he had taken a part on the television series Taxi [1978-83]. So he left and they had to recast the role. It was a break for me because I got another chance to read. I think that Tony was cast in the role of "Cowboy" originally and I'm not sure how Tom McKitterick was cast in that role eventually but it worked out for me.
TV STORE ONLINE: One of the most memorable scenes in THE WARRIORS comes right near the beginning of the film when The Warriors go uptown for the big gang meeting. What are your memories of shooting those scenes with all of the other gangs?
DAVID HARRIS (COCHISE): It was done over several nights and it was kind of intense because there were guys there that were actually gangs members. There were a few fights that broke out but for the most part it was a pretty controlled environment and most of the extras did well. It was a fun and crazy couple of days shooting that though.
The showdown at Coney Island
"The Riffs" will take care of Luther
DEBORAH VAN VALKENBURGH (MERCY): There are some film directors that have a rehearsal process but that's not Walter's flavor. He expects you to know your lines and to just jump in and know who you want to be as the character. With me, he would give these growly little notes quietly and he wasn't verbose. He was playful with me. He opened up in me a kind of Panadora's box of surprises in me. I think that helped get the job done for me. I don't know how he was with the guys though...
DAVID HARRIS (COCHISE): He was low-key. He gave us actors a lot of room to move. He didn't give us a lot of line readings or direction, and this was everyone's first movie with the exception of Michael Beck and James Remar. Walter's the kind of guy that trusts his actors. He really believes in his actors too. Thats what made it work.
MICHAEL BECK (SWAN): Walter isn't the kind of director that gives his actors emotional direction. He would give you direction in regards to staging because he knew what he wanted THE WARRIORS to look like. He knew where he wanted you to be positioned in that landscape. He didn't say much though and I always figured that if Walter didn't say much to you that he must have liked what you were doing.
"We fought all night to get back to this?"
Swan and Mercy hit Coney Island
MICHAEL BECK (SWAN): I think all of us thought that we were making some sort of naturalistic or realistic street gang movie...laughing After I was cast and read the script, I picked up a copy of Sol Yurick's book and read it. At the time I was living on the Upper West Side around 79th street and there was a local gang that used to hang around the neighborhood and I would just sit and observe them. I've never really been one that does a lot of research for a role. Acting is pretending really. You read the script and you do it.
DAVID PATRICK KELLY (LUTHER): The chant itself that I did at the end of THE WARRIORS came from a neighbor of mine who may or may not have been a gangster. He was a scary guy. When I would see him in my apartment building I would say to him, "How are you doing?" He wouldn't even say anything to me but "Daaaaavvveee? Daaaavvveee? Daaaavvvveee?" It was the creepiest thing I ever heard. Those were the kinds of things that I chose to put into Luther. I just put in things that creeped me out. Actors are like anthropologists in that they have to observe life and their surroundings and use it in the characters that they play.
TERRY MICHOS (VERMIN): I've never been a method actor. I know that there are actors that take that approach but for me I just responded to the action and worked off of the other actors. I didn't really go in-depth as some of the other actors did like Tom Waites for example. He was really into method acting.
|Behind The Scenes on the boardwalk at Coney Island
DEBORAH VAN VALKENBURGH (MERCY): I read a bunch of different books. It wasn't for research as much as it was me trying to get lost in the atmosphere that I was going to be living in for the couple months that we were going to be shooting for. I read Sol Yurick's book and it was very dark and disturbing. The first thing that happens to Mercy is that the guys pull a train on her and they rape her and leave her for dead.
DAVID HARRIS (COCHISE): My agent had told me before I went in to meet with Walter that the character was named Cochise. I imagined him as if he was the great great great grandson of the famous Cochise of the American West. I knew before I even met Walter that I wanted to play him in that way.
I wasn't trying to play her as if she belonged to any certain
type of ethnicity.... Deborah Van Valkenburgh on Mercy
TV STORE ONLINE: Michael....If it came down to a fist fight between Swan and James Remar's character "Ajax" who would win?
TV STORE ONLINE: Deborah, were you ever concerened with the sexuality of the character itself? Your outfit is extremely revealing in the film...
DEBORAH VAN VALKENBURGH (MERCY): Laughing....I really wasn't concerned with it. I think that if I had any worry at the time it would've been that I wouldn't look voluptuous. That might have been my only concern. I didn't want them to put me in that outfit and then be disappointed. After some fittings Walter approved the outfit and he was happy. That was important to me. He's such a great guy to work for.
TV STORE ONLINE: What about some of the scenes that didn't make the movie? There's Walter Hill's Director's Cut DVD then also a television version of the film that airs occasionally that contains some daylight scenes at Coney Island with The Warriors...
One scene that didn't make Walter Hill's Director's Cut:
Original opening of TV Version of The Warriors
MICHAEL BECK (SWAN): A lot of things didn't make the final cut. The actor Thomas Waites was asked to leave the film. He was cast originally as "Fox". That changed the whole story arc. Waites character was originally supposed to end up with Mercy. Swan was originally supposed to be captured by a gang called "The Dingos" and he was to get tortured but ended up escaping and meeting back up with The Warriors later on. Once Waites left the picture, Deborah and I were informed that our characters would be the love interests of the film.
TERRY MICHOS (VERMIN): There was one scene that I remember where all of The Warriors were working out on gymnastic bars before they left from Coney Island.
TERRY MICHOS (VERMIN): The original opening of THE WARRIORS took place in the daylight and Sidney Portier's daughter Pam Portier was one of The Warrior's girlfriends and there was a scene or two with all of us standing around talking about whether or not The Warriors should go up to the meeting.
TV STORE ONLINE: It's been reported that when the film first came out it caused such a stir in New York City that fights were breaking out in the theaters...Is all of that true?
Character Actor Paul Greco (R) plays the leader of
the NYC gang "The Orphans"
|Can You Dig It! Behind The Scenes on The Warriors
MICHAEL BECK (SWAN): Even at the time we made THE WARRIORS...It was comic book violence. It wasn't naturalistic violence in any way. You could almost see the "Kaboom" and the "Pow" in the little bubbles appear over our heads in the film. At the time that this happened it was shocking, but now in retrospect the whole thing doesn't wash with me. There is no way THE WARRIORS caused anyone to be moved to violence against anyone. It was a movie about gangs and I'm sure gangs went to see the film and they ran into others gangs and things happened.
TV STORE ONLINE: Speaking of the gangs in The WARRIORS....There was the gang "The Orphans"....Deborah...More than any of the other actors in THE WARRIORS you worked the most with actor Paul Greco who played the leader of the gang The Orphans. What was he like to work with?
TV STORE ONLINE: Michael & Deborah...The two of you have a great chemistry in THE WARRIORS, and the relationship between your characters is something that is a favorite for many fans of the film...Could the two of you talk about that chemistry and the relationship of Swan and Mercy? It really seems to come to fruition in that great scene with the two of you down in the subway walking alone together...
DEBORAH VAN VALKENBURGH (MERCY): As I said earlier...She wanted to connect with him, and that scene was her lame attempt at trying to connect with him sexually because that was the only way she knew how to connect with any guy. Both Swan and Mercy are protecting themselves from something and I don't think that they even knew what they were trying to protect themselves from in that scene.
MICHAEL BECK (SWAN): That scene was written that way. To be honest, I think Swan was more interested in finding the guys and going home than he was in getting laid down in the subway.
TV STORE ONLINE: David...Could you talk about shooting that great scene where you character Luther and his goons go into the candy store? That intensity is incredible...
DAVID PATRICK KELLY (LUTHER): You know...At that time I was someone who had to learn how to express that type of stuff. I had a very peaceful and wonderful childhood, and I'm not saying that there weren't rough times as a kid or fights or whatever here or there, but as a child growing up I was a peaceful person. I think that going through the '70s as a struggling actor and seeing the competition out there, going to countless auditions and going through various relationships and stuff like that...That scene was really an extension of what I had learned while I was doing that play that Walter Hill saw me in called Working. That scene in the candy store in THE WARRIORS is directly related to that. It was the way I learned how to express myself and express that frustration.
DAVID PATRICK KELLY (LUTHER): Walter told me to come up with something. He said, "I don't know, why don't you sing them something..." Walter gives me total credit for the scene but I think he actually suggested some of the words himself. That's the way I remember it. Then I found the bottles and we did two takes of it. We rehearsed it, and then we went again and his direction was, "Bring the bottles up slow.." I was really surprised that they didn't cut the scene from the film because it's just so wacky. Before I had found the bottles I had picked up a dead pigeon...laughing Walter said, "That's not going to work."
DEBORAH VAN VALKENBURGH (MERCY): In my fantasy they do. I think they go on some big adventure together. He wanted to get out of there and so did she. I think that she opened herself up to him and I think that the two of them go off and explore a bigger world together. I don't how long it's going to last, maybe they stay together for the rest of their lives but I don't know.
MICHAEL BECK (SWAN): And they have six or eight children...laughing I think they do stay together. I'm not sure where they go. Maybe they move to upstate Vermont...laughing
The behind the scenes photographs in this article are courtesy of WarriorsMovie.Co.Uk. Please visit their site HERE.
Labels: david patrick kelly interview, deborah van valkenburgh interview, michael beck interview, the warriors (1979), the warriors behind the scenes, walter hill baseball furies costume, warriors cast interviews