With the news of a Coney Island reunion heating up the Internet over the last few months I was reminded of a question I came across on Facebook. The poster wanted to know what were some of our best-loved New York City themed movies. I immediately left a comment about one of my favorite films, The Warriors. Not only was it a NYC themed film, I also wrote how it was almost entirely filmed on location, proudly mentioning it started in my hometown of The Bronx.
Returning to the comment field later I was hit by the harshest of comments, not from a troll but from my brother-in-law! I almost knee-jerk unfriended him after reading what he wrote.
“You know that they didn’t film in the Bronx right?”
Wait, what!?!? OMG, that can’t be! This is a film that shot everything locally except one single scene on a soundstage (the bathroom fight) and was filmed over two grueling months on and under the streets of New York. He wanted me to believe that they didn’t shoot in my beloved Bronx!?! WTF!!
So I marched to the web…well I was already online so it wasn’t a long march. I found a reputable source of information about the movie and was shocked to read a single line, a line that seemed to be mocking me:
“The Warriors never set foot in the Bronx.”
The Website is called Scouting New York and its creator is Nick Carr, a movie location scout in New York. Over the course of a 3-part article he went into great photographic detail, all the while demolishing my long held belief that the movie location where The Warriors started their trek back to Brooklyn was the same one depicted in the opening scene’s subway map: Pelham Bay Park.
A side note, even though the film insinuates Pelham Bay Park, the script references Van Cortland Park, also in the Bronx.
Nick goes on to mix in still shots from the movie with photos he took of the actual location of the infamous North Bronx conclave. He shows us that the closest the film team got to the Bronx was Riverside Park, just north of 96th street in Manhattan. It was here that Cyrus loudly proclaims his most memorable line.
“Can you count suckers?!”
No, not that one the other one.
“Can you dig ittttt?!?!”
So now the Warriors after being falsely accused of gunning down Cyrus have to hoof it back to Coney from a fake Bronx park and later a fake Bronx cemetery (actually shot in Evergreen Cemetery in Brooklyn).
They are later chased down by the Turnbull AC gang before they can hop an El train to escape this fake Bronx. This is supposed to be somewhere near Gun Hill Rd as the story tells it but it was actually shot below the J line, again in Brooklyn.
The last stop in the fictional Bronx happens when a subway fire forces the Warriors off the train and back on the street where they meet The Orphans. This is a gang from Tremont Ave which is an actual avenue in the actual Bronx, but the location for this faux Bronx was 45th Road (just off of 23rd Street) in Long Island City, Queens!
The remainder of the movie was shot in numerous locations in and around active and closed down subway stations. The famous chase scene with the bat wielding, KISS fan boys in baseball uniforms was again back in Riverside Park and not Central Park as we were all led to believe. But at least they were in the correct borough now.
The Warriors continues to be a favorite despite not using my beloved Bronx for its back drop, but it did use parts of all the other important boroughs of New York.
Oh yeah, sorry Staten Island. No hard feelings.
The entire crew worked tirelessly, only at night for over 60 days to achieve the gritty and ominous tone of the story. It is one of the few movies that has filmed on actual running subway cars, a challenge for the crew as occasionally passengers became uncooperative ‘extras’ in the film.
They also had to contend with the danger of upsetting actual real New York CIty gangs as they ventured into their turfs to film with actors in full gang colors. Despite being obviously fictional, this still ruffled the feathers of the local toughs. Some of them were paid off to cooperate and one actual gang, The Mongrels, had to be paid protection money when a delegate from the gang showed up on set with a classic veiled threat regarding the crew’s expensive trucks and equipment. “We’d love to protect them for you,” was his offer. A gang mediator with the NYPD recommended they pay the $500 per day.
The final scenes were the only ones filmed in daylight, with the climactic scene occurring on the sands of the beach at Coney Island.
Director and screenwriter Walter Hill and Director of Photography Andrew Laszlo scouted out some fantastic areas to serve as a backdrop to a surreal and nightmarish New York story.
I have no idea how many times I have watched this movie end to end but I first saw the movie with my dear friend Richard Rodriguez who writes for the About Men Radio blog with me. You can read his take on what the movie means to him there.
I thought I knew all about the movie, and I did know a lot, but for the few gaps in my knowledge I relied on ScoutingNY.com by Nick Carr and also The Warriors Movie Site, an extensive labor of love detailing more about the movie, its cast, production and more to school me on more facts than I could list here. Its creator is Gareth Paul Jones. In his site he answers many questions, some that I didn’t even know I had, as well as detailing Where are they now for most of the cast. Its time well spent, check ‘em out.
And now in closing, “Warriors come out to play-ay!”
To purchase tickets to The Warriors reunion on September 13, 2015, click here.