Russell Mulcahy Finally Explains the Highlander Rules

The director of the original Highlander on what happens if you cut an immortal in half, what he thinks of the upcoming remake and 'Teen Wolf' Season 2.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


I covered a “Teen Wolf” Season Two event for our TV section (Season One is now available on DVD) but when the show’s director Russell Mulcahy arrived I put my film hat on. Mulcahy directed and created the original Highlander. It’s not just the remake plans that interested me, but I’ve had some burning Highlander questions for 25 years. I think I genuinely stumped him but Mulcahy gave me as thoughtful an answer as I could have hoped for.


CraveOnline: I’ve always wondered, you can only kill an immortal by cutting off their head. What if someone is split down the middle? Would each half of them stay alive until the neck is severed?

Russell Mulcahy: The folklore is in the movie. You can only do it by cutting their head off, so that I can’t answer. I believe in genre films, you can do anything but you should set a rule at the beginning and stick by your rules.


So what’s the cutoff point for the neck? If you’re sliced under your arms, would the shoulders and head stay alive?

Yeah, I guess if you’re hung, drawn and quartered or put through a mincemeat grinder, it’s not like a Terminator where you can reform. I don't know. It was a term that came up and we stuck with the beheading.


Aren’t you glad I’ve thought so hard about it?

Yeah, I’ve never actually been asked that question before.



Yeah, because I know in the film you can get shot, you can get stabbed multiple times and you keep getting back up. I guess if you start losing limbs, it starts getting a little Monty Python and the Holy Grail. “Come back, I’m not scared.”


What are your thoughts on the Highlander remake?

I keep hearing rumors. I know [producer] Peter Davis very well. Unfortunately one of the produces Bill Panzer died two years ago but I know Peter Davis very well. He talked to me about it about a year ago. It’s been talked about for like four years now. I hear it’s getting warmer again. I wish them the best of luck.


And the latest word that Ryan Reynolds is a front runner?

Yeah, I really do wish them the best of luck. I read one version. It’s changed obviously but it’s gone back more to sort of the roots because I was guilty of directing number two. I say that because in hindsight, during shooting we realized we were breaking a lot of the rules in number two. Knowing number one finished with there can be only one. I got the prize, I’m now mortal. I don't think anyone expected it to be a hit and it was a big hit, but anyway, I do wish them the best of luck.


And now there’s been five so far.

And a TV show.


How many episodes of “Teen Wolf” season two did you direct?

Six, and like last season we did a series of blocks, so three episodes and three episodes.


So you do three in a row?

Yeah, but this year it was like two, three, one because there was a scheduling problem with the other director.


What were you able to do this season that you couldn’t last year?

I think we had a lot more success with all of our physical effects and our wirework. We finally worked out how to do it properly without relying on CG. There is some CG but a lot of it is for real. It took a while to work out. It took a whole season to work out actually. I think the characters developed. The story is wonderfully more complex I believe in the second season. So I think you basically ramp it up, you turn the volume up both story-wise and visually. Still trying to keep that cinematic look and just keep pumping.


Is this what you envisioned when you directed the pilot?

[Series developer] Jeff Davis and I go back, we did the pilot almost two years ago now. There are some shots in the pilot, we did some pickups in the pilot, some shots in the forest that were shot in the producer’s garage in Burbank with black draping and some leaves I picked up from Griffith Park. So it was a little bit more advanced this season. We still have the core team with Jeff and me and the DP, the same AD, the same producers. There was still that core family feel and the cast, everyone came back feeling a lot easier. I think this season’s a lot tougher. There’s a lot more action, a lot more happens in the episodes and they’re very complex, but we were prepared for it.