Night and the City: Walter Hill on The Warriors and The Driver

Sucker for the underbelly of urban life

I ask Hill if he identifies with this passage. “Yes, I plead guilty,” he answers. “The Warriors is about as nonrealistic as a movie could possibly be. It’s amazing, though—this vaguely futuristic, science-fiction movie—why was it so audience-friendly? I don’t exactly have the answer. I wish I did.

“Jorge Luis Borges started with the premise that nothing was original,” Hill continues, “and went one step further, saying there are only two stories: The Odyssey and the Crucifixion. Everything finally falls into one or the other, and it’s pretty hard, once you start seeing that premise, to dispute it. But he also contends that it’s not the sense of discovery for the audience, but the rediscovery—that they become your partners in the telling of the story they all know.”

That familiarity made theaters a staging ground for rival gangs when The Warriors hit New York screens, a development Hill hadn’t anticipated, though he understood the story’s potential for unrest. Before Warriors, “anything that had to do with gangs was perceived to be a negative, cancerous kind of growth on society,” he says. “The Warriors presented the idea that a gang was a defensive organization that gave people a sense of identity and a sense of protection. The idea that a street gang served a positive purpose for those members, and they weren’t simply a pack of wolves, disturbed a lot of people.”

Disturbing to admirers of the film is the specter of a remake, which was at one time attached to director Tony Scott, who planned to move the action to contemporary L.A. Its future remains unclear. “I have no idea what the studio plans are,” Hill says. “They don’t call me. The producer tells me they’ve spent five times as much in developing a sequel as we did to make the movie. I made my version. Somebody else wants to take a shot at it, good luck.”

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