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What The Cast Of The Warriors Looks Like Today

One dark night on the hazy, neon-soaked streets of late '70s New York City, a group of street toughs would learn just how far it was to Coney Island from Central Park. The Warriors is a cult classic, draped in style and a very specific brand of machismo. It tells the story of a ragtag group of gang members with a whole city turned against them after they're framed for the murder of a powerful, charismatic gang leader named Cyrus. 

Cyrus had aspirations of uniting the dozens and dozens of disparate gangs into one group that would run the city. As he so simply put it, "You're standing right now with nine delegates from 100 gangs. And there's over 100 more. That's 20,000 hard-core members. Forty thousand, counting affiliates, and 20,000 more, not organized but ready to fight. Sixty thousand soldiers. Now, there ain't but 20,000 police in the whole town. Can you dig it?"

While The Warriors is a pop culture touchstone for a lot of die-hard cult film fans, its success only propelled a handful of people associated with it into the limelight. Others still managed to find their way in the entertainment industry and left their mark in their own unique ways. Regardless, all who donned the colors of the Warriors, the Gramercy Riffs, the Orphans, or any of the myriad of themed gangs were connected to something special and remain connected to this day, as fans still commemorate the fateful night The Warriors escaped to the safety of Coney Island.

The not-so-ugly duckling

The Warchief of the Warriors is the unassuming Swan, played by Michael Beck. In the film, Swan is cool and collected, dealing with the various challenges that pop up throughout the night in a straightforward, level-headed manner. While some of the younger, more impulsive members of the Warriors make up the fiery heart of the group, Swan acts as the head, which constantly puts him at odds with Ajax. Swan leads the gang through their hellish escape to Coney Island, only to have a heartbreaking moment of realization. He surveys Coney Island in all of its destitute urban glory and sighs, "This is what we fought all night to get back to?"

Beck's charm and perfect look for the late 70's and early 80's led to him being cast in the roller disco musical extravaganza Xanadu opposite Olivia Newton-John. Xanadu didn't exactly take the world by storm, and the hard pivot from street tough to glammed-out heartthrob left Beck's career in an odd place. Beck never again landed a leading role, but continued as a working actor throughout the '80s and '90s, appearing on shows like Murder She Wrote, Walker Texas Ranger, and JAG. Beck was one of the many original cast members who returned for the 2005 Playstation 2 game The Warriors.

The strength of Ajax

One of the breakout stars of The Warriors (and one of the few cast members to still have an active career in Hollywood) is James Remar, who played Ajax in what was only his second film. Ajax is characterized as a firebrand among firebrands in the movie, constantly trying to one-up others and doing whatever he can to prove his toughness and worth to the gang. This machismo gets him into constant trouble, culminating in a sexual assault against an undercover cop on a park bench, which sees him cuffed and dragged into custody when his brothers need him most.

Remar went on to a successful career as a character actor, oftentimes finding himself playing characters with darker sides to them. Now, Remar is probably best known for his recurring role as the dirtbag billionaire boyfriend of Samantha on Sex and the City. He has continued to work in supporting roles on TV, as the mercurial and mysterious father of a serial killer on Dexter and most recently on Black Lightning as a tailor for superheroes. In 2019, Remar will appear in Quentin Tarantino's long-awaited Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

The voice of the streets

There's a lot of unforgettable imagery in The Warriors, but nothing quite so memorable as the beautiful face of the DJ contrasted against a shocking red background. Lynne Thigpen's smoky, wondrous voice filled in the various gangs (almost lovingly referred to as "boppers" by the DJ) with pun-filled hints and perfectly-timed needle drops. The Warriors is more notable for its style and tone than anything, and the foundation of that starts with Thigpen's oracle-like DJ and her command of the airwaves.

After the DJ's On-Air sign went dim, Thigpen's career kept her on both the big and small screens as well as the stage. In one of her most recognizable roles, she went from feeding info to "boppers" to tasking gumshoes with hunting down a notorious criminal in Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? as the Chief. Thigpen's time on the stage nabbed her a Tony nomination for her appearance in "Tintypes" in 1981. She was also nominated for multiple Emmys and Daytime Emmys for her work in Carmen Sandiego and Bear in the Big Blue House. She also appeared on the daytime soap opera All My Children. Thigpen passed away in 2003 at the age of 54 from a cerebral hemorrhage.

From gas attendant to anime voices

While actor John Snyder only makes a relatively brief appearance in The Warriors as a New York City gas station attendant, he's gone on to have an incredibly interesting and unique career in Hollywood after almost playing a completely different role in the movie altogether. According to his co-star Joel Weiss, Snyder was almost in one of the gangs cut from the film, the Dingoes.

After The Warriors and an appearance as a pimp in Crocodile Dundee, Snyder quickly became acquainted with the inside of a voice recording booth, playing Jigen in the English dub of Hayao Miyazaki's The Castle of Cagliostro. While making one-off appearances on several television shows, including Miami Vice and Knight Rider, Snyder continued to build a career as a voice actor, appearing in English dubs of Fist of the North Star and Mobile Suit Gundam and eventually voicing ISSP Officer Bob in both the Cowboy Bebop series and film. Even eagle-eyed viewers and fans of voice actors may not recognize the name John Snyder, as he often performs under the name of Ivan Buckley. More recently, Snyder has voiced characters in Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans, Fate/Extra Last Encore, and B: The Beginning.

Come out to play

The Warriors' aesthetic and style has influenced countless pieces of pop-culture, but one single line has infiltrated the cultural lexicon like some sort of insidious virus. "Warriors! Come out to plaaaaay!" is sneered out by David Patrick Kelly during the climax of the film. He plays the Rogues' leader, Luther, an agent of chaos who is more interested in watching everything crumble around him than he is in just about anything else. He clinks glass bottles together on his fingertips as he whines out the iconic line, adding a strangely intimidating and menacing lilt to what could just as easily come off as a weak schoolyard taunt.

Kelly made an impact in what could have been a forgettable, shlocky villain role. This led him to working with famed auteurs Spike Lee and David Lynch on multiple occasions. Kelly has appeared in three Spike Lee joints — Malcolm X, Crooklyn, and Chi-Raq. He worked with Lynch in Wild at Heart and has been a continual presence in Twin Peaks as the bizarre and enigmatic Jerry Horne. Most recently, Kelly reprised his role in Twin Peaks: The Return as an almost unrecognizable version of the character, having traded in some of his more illicit criminal activities for the growing and selling of legalized recreational marijuana.

Undercover talent

While Mercedes Ruehl's time on screen is minimal in The Warriors, she steals at least part of the show as an undercover cop on a park bench. Ajax, being the machoest of the many macho men of The Warriors decides that the best course of action to take while running for his life is to sexually assault a young woman out alone in a park. She quickly reveals herself by slapping handcuffs on Ajax and hauling him off to jail.

Ruehl went on to have a long, rewarding career in Hollywood. She appeared as Tom Hanks' mother in Big before netting herself an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Supporting Role as Anne in Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King opposite Jeff Bridges. From there, Ruehl appeared in Married to the Mob and starred in Lost in Yonkers with Richard Dreyfuss. After a role as a mother dealing with inexplicable Arnold Shwarzenegger weirdness in The Last Action Hero, Ruehl ventured into TV with a stint on the third season of Frasier and has continued to appear on the big and small screens over the years. Recently, she's made appearances on NCIS, Power, and Bull.

Mercy, me

Mercy is one of the few female faces in the main cast of The Warriors, meaning Deborah Van Valkenburgh has to work double time to put her stamp on a movie defined by aggressive machismo. Van Valkenburgh makes it look easy, giving an inner light to a character that could have so easily been exploitation movie eye candy. Mercy walks the thin line between tough and vulnerable at all times throughout the film, and her newfound relationship with Swan adds interesting depth to both characters as they live through one of the worst nights of their lives.

Van Valekenburgh, like many cast members of The Warriors, would go on to have a working relationship with the screenwriter of the film, Walter Hill. She appeared in Hill's Streets of Fire with Rick Moranis, Diane Lane, and Willem Dafoe. While keeping up with a healthy stage career (she appeared on Broadway in Hair before being cast in The Warriors), Van Valkenburgh also made frequent appearances on '80s and '90s staple shows like MacGyver, Quantum Leap, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. One of her most recent credits is for a one-episode role on a 2015 episode of the CW sci-fi show The Messengers. She will be starring in the upcoming thriller Kill Me Twice.

Dingoes and Bacon

The original script features a handful of gangs and scenes that didn't quite make it into the final version of the film. One such gang was the Dingoes. The Dingoes were envisioned as a gang of young, gay men with a sadomasochistic streak, flanked by vicious Doberman Pinschers. The gang played on harmful gay panic stereotypes of the time and was eventually cut from the film. As interesting as it is to see what got left on the cutting room floor, it's who may have been a member of the Dingoes that may pique the interest of film fans who can't help but wonder what a famous actor's career could have been like had they had gotten their breakthrough role at a slightly different time.

According to Joel Weiss, who plays a member of the Rogues in the film, a young Kevin Bacon would have been a part of the cut gang. This would have been two years before his role in Friday the 13th and six years before his popularity exploded with the release of Footloose. While it's doubtful that a small role in The Warriors would have had the same impact as playing Ren in Footloose, it's fun to wonder at what could have been.

Playing the game

The Warriors is not a massive franchise with decades of lore and side stories. It's one splendidly perfect unit of storytelling; one film to tell the tale of one fateful night that rocked the world of its characters. Decades after the original film, Rockstar Games changed that with the release of The Warriors on the Playstation 2. The brawler offers a glimpse into the lives of the Warriors before and during the film, featuring gangs that were cut from the film (including the Dingoes).

Players follow Cleon as he forms the Warriors, recruiting familiar faces and facing a murderer's row of rival gangs from the film. The game is a love letter to the film and a gift to fans. It also functions as a reunion of sorts, bringing the talents of a large chunk of the original cast back to the streets of New York. Michael Beck, James Remar, Dorsey Wright, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Thomas G. Waites, and David Harris all make appearances, giving the game as authentic a sound as possible.

One last ride

The on-screen adventures of the Warriors lasted for one fateful night, but the impact of The Warriors has lasted for decades, culminating in a 2015 reunion that took place as part of a fan-organized event. Fans from all over the world made the trek to Coney Island to celebrate all things The Warriors. Some of the original cast were in attendance, and took a trip on the Q Train to make it to the festivities. Their last trip together was chronicled in a short film by Rolling Stone.

In the short, Michal Beck (Swan), Dorsey Wright (Cleon), David Harris (Cochise), Terry Michos (Vermin), and Thomas G. Waites (Fox) are shown climbing the steps of a New York train station and hopping a ride towards Coney Island to attend the fan celebration. They're all smiles as they crack jokes about their ages and how things have changed, decked out in their Warriors vests. It's charming and heartwarming to see them all sharing the moment together as the train carries them towards Coney Island one last time.