The original Highlander film from 1986 is a classic example of science fiction and fantasy done right. The ensuing sequels, not so much. But what was it that made the first movie so great? In a great oral history from The Guardian, director Russell Mulcahy and star Christopher Lambert reveal that the ingredients may have included alcohol and danger.
According to Mulcahy, the production was shot ‘guerrilla-style’ on a budget of just $13 million. Without CG to help them, car batteries were strapped to the legs of actors and wired into their swords so they’d spark when hit against each other. They only had a few takes to get the shots right before the hilts grew too hot to hold.
The fast-paced and dangerous shooting almost led to Sean Connery leaving the film:
When Sean and Clancy Brown, who plays the villain, had their first big fight, Clancy was meant to burst in and slice the table in half with his sword. But he struck it with the flat of the blade and it broke. A shard shot over Sean’s head. He was on the verge of walking. He put on his dressing gown and called a meeting. Clancy said: “I’m so sorry. I was so nervous because it’s Sean Connery.” Sean was gracious but said: “Maybe we’ll use my stunt double more.”
Meanwhile, Christopher Lambert was dealing with the reality of using heavy steel for much of the sword-fighting shot in the movie:
I was training with Bob Anderson, who’d been Darth Vader’s stunt double. I’m very short-sighted and was nervous. We started with plastic swords, then wood, then aluminum, then light steel, then heavy steel. When you miss with heavy steel, it can be bloody. You have to practice – a lot.
I suppose only the big wigs like Connery could demand the stunt double deal with all the dangerous sword play. And Connery brought more than just his star power to the table. He was also provided the homemade scotch that kept the extras and even the director in a good mood.
Being on the set of Highlander sounds like a wild time, and it’s a good thing there were so many Immortals or someone could have died making that film. Mulcahy and Lambert were interviewed to celebrate the 4K remaster of the movie, so if you’ve got a hankering to revisit Highlander and the great Queen soundtrack that went along with it, now would be a good time.
(Via The Guardian)