Highlander: 30 things you (probably) didn’t know
Highlander Christopher Lambert

THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!

Next week, glorious cult classic Highlander turns 30 – a fact that will make film buffs everywhere feel positively ancient.

With that in mind, we thought it the perfect opportunity to take a look back at the VHS collection staple with some nifty trivia.

Here are 30 things you (probably) didn’t know about the movie.

1. Sean Connery filmed his scenes in a week

The challenge was set due to scheduling issues. He bet director Russell Mulcahy that it couldn’t be done, and lost.

2. Christopher Lambert had to learn English fast

The only other English-speaking film he’d been in before was 1984’s Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes.

3. Connery and Lambert were super good buddies on set

Lambert connery highlander

They got along so well that they called each other by their characters’ names at all times, and it was Lambert who insisted that Connery and his character returned for Highlander II.

4. Queen only wanted to do one song originally

queen-highlander

Freddy Mercury and co intended to record only one song for the film, but were inspired to write more after seeing early footage.

The band members even had their own favourite scenes and composed songs specifically for them.

5. The music could’ve sounded very different

Highlander movie

Before Queen decided to do the soundtrack for the film, a number of big names were considered to provide the music in their place, including David Bowie, Sting and Duran Duran.

6. It was genuinely sacrilegious

The infamous Kurgan scene was filmed in a real church, but the character’s lines were ad-libbed and considered so blasphemous that the priests in charge were making the sign of the cross off-camera as they were said.

7. But Clancy Brown did apologise

Having ad-libbed several offending lines as Kurgan, actor Clancy Brown broke character to apologise to the priest and nuns there for his character’s dialogue.

8. Which was a rare occurrence

According to director Russell Mulcahy, the crew felt that Clancy Brown had really become Kurgan and some refused to go near him between takes.

9. Kurgen was allergic to make-up

Highlander Kurgen

Well his actor, Clancy Brown, was, and nearly turned down the role – concerned that his allergens would play havoc with his ability to wear the required prosthetics.

10. The sparking swords effect was a pretty dangerous one

highlander

The effect was achieved by running wires down each sword attached to the positive and negative terminals of a nearby car battery, so when the blades touched an arc was created and sparks flew.

11. Sean Connery’s opening voiceover was recorded in a bathroom

sean-connery-in-highlander

Which is why it sounds like someone’s added a reverb effect to it; it was played to producers over the phone, and approved because they couldn’t tell the quality over the bad connection.

12. Christopher Lambert’s accent is supposed to be weird

Highlander Christopher Lambert

It’s meant to be “non-specifically foreign”, and the actor spent a good deal of time with a dialogue coach to develop the twang.

13. The film’s extras were asked to bring their own ride

To make up the numbers of horses in shot, extras were given a £10 bonus if they could supply their own.

14. There was some rudimentary special effects going on

Highlander Eilean Donan castle

Before the days of CGI, to cover up a castle’s illusion-breaking customer car park, film makers had to dump tons of peat on it to cover it, much like they did at Scotland’s Eilean Donan castle.

15. That’s not a New York garage

The duel between MacLeod and Fasil was actually filmed in a London fruit market done up like a parking garage.

The original plan called for an English car park, but because us Brits have lower ceilings than in the US, none could convincingly be made to look like Madison Square Garden’s.

16. It was supposed to open with an ice hockey match

Highlander movie

The NHL refused to allow filming at one of their games, because – and the crew themselves even admitted this – the original scene intended to overtly emphasize the violence of the sport.

17. The film’s simplistic opening credits were supposed to be temporary

Red on black is literally the only way to describe the film’s simple opening credits; they were originally just a placeholder, but the film makers liked them so much they stayed.

18. It revolutionised camera techniques

Highlander movie

The film’s opening shot sweeps through a stadium, and was achieved with a forward-thinking computerised system that held the camera on four wires, a system purpose-made for the film by the inventor of the Steadicam.

19. It featured genuine wrestlers

highlander wrestling match

The opening scene’s wrestling match featured real superstars: soon-to-be WWE Hall of Famers The Fabulous Freebirds (Michael PS Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts) against Greg Gagne Jumping Jim Brunzell and the Tonga Kid.

20. And one could’ve featured rather prominently

Hulk Hogan vs Sly

According to himself, disgraced WWE legend Hulk Hogan was reportedly offered the role of Conon MacLeod but turned it down to focus on his wrestling career.

Other names supposedly offered the part include Michael Douglas, Kevin Costner, Sting, Mel Gibson, and Patrick Swayze.

21. Some scenes were lost forever in a fire

highlander fire

A duel sequence that introduced an Asian immortal, a flashback where Connor meets with Thomas Jefferson, a bar scene when Connor and Kastagir go out for a drink are just three ‘deleted’ scenes lost forever to a warehouse fire before everything went digital.

22. Drunk locals kept the film’s medical team busy

Highlander battle

While filming scenes in the Scottish Highlands, ‘liquid lunches’ among the extras allegedly meant a lot of them got a bit too into acting out the clan battles, with many minor injuries as a result.

23. Filming a stag took forever

Filmed at a time of year when stags had lost their antlers, the film’s crew instead decided to put the animal to sleep, glue on the horns and then wait for it to awaken.

It ran away during filming and never came back, and National Geographic stock footage had to be used in its place.

24. The script was an undergraduate’s uni project

Gregory Widen

Screenwriter Gregory Widen wrote the script as a class assignment while he was an undergraduate at UCLA, before later selling his work for $200,000.

25. It was heavily influenced by a Ridley Scott movie

The Duellists poster

Specifically 1977’s The Duellists, which Widen has cited heavily as inspiration.

26. It was filmed in the style of a music video

At a time when MTV was bursting on to the scene, director Russell Mulcahy decided to film the movie using music video techniques, implementing fast cutting and pacy music for a fresh feel.

27. The director makes a cameo in the film

He is the first person to be hit by the Kurgan’s car when he’s driving on the sidewalk.

28. The crew destroyed a restaurant’s roof

When it was discovered post-production effects only drew more attention to some hidden wires, reshoots were planned, but the production had damaged the restaurant roof being used for the finale so much that re-takes were impossible.

29. Christopher Lambert did his own French dubbing

christopher-lambert-in-highlander

Well, being a native French speaker you would, wouldn’t you?

30. It was never meant to be a ‘franchise’

Highlander Cartoon

But the cult love for the first spawned six sequels (mostly straight-to-DVD affairs), and even an animated television series.

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