'The Warriors' Reunion

Sunday, 9pm

Michael Beck
Michael Beck

Actor Michael Beck's quietly seething turn as Coney Island gang leader Swan in Walter Hill's 1979 The Warriors might not have won any Oscars, but it did raise a red flag to an exasperated city officialdom that had been seeing the metropolis through some of its worst years ever. Twenty-five years later, Hill's gangbanging urban nightmare borders on the kitschy – those costumes! that hair! – but the film, as well as Beck's stiletto-sharp performance, has defied the odds and gone on to become a genuine classic of the genre. No less than Elvis Mitchell sang its praises on NPR in honor of the film's 20th anniversary, saying, "It really set a template for a type of action picture: spare and lean and very much in the European, almost existentialist tradition." We spoke with Beck about the film and the dangers of playing gangster in a time and place where the real McCoy could turn up at any moment (minus the baseball jerseys, of course).

Austin Chronicle: There's a lot going on this weekend that people are excited about, but everyone we've spoken to has been most ecstatic about The Warriors reunion – it's almost as if the film were being released for the first time.

Michael Beck: I meet people my son's age – he's in his early 20s – who tell me that it's their favorite movie, and I think, you weren't even born when it came out, how can it be your favorite movie? But it's got a life of its own, which is kind of cool.

AC: Do you attribute that to anything special, apart from the obvious fact that it's flat-out one of the coolest films ever made?

MB: Well, I think that it's still an exciting movie both visually – because of the way Walter shot it and all the colors and images of all the surrealistic gangs – and because it's still an old-fashioned cowboy movie, basically, with the cavalry coming to the rescue in the end, and I think that genre still works. Why it's become a cult movie, though, I have no idea.

AC: It's been 25 years now since The Warriors – what are you up to these days?

MB: I'm in the middle of writing a novel, actually. I've written some screenplays, but this is my first novel. It's something I've wanted to do for 10, 15 years. I'm just really looking forward to coming back to Austin – I've been at the Alamo before, for Xanadu – and I really love what Tim and Karrie have done with the Drafthouse and how imaginative they are with the events they put on. It's just a great idea.

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