Gregory Widen's original screenplay was much darker, grittier and graphically violent. The main characters are also different in a number of ways; Connor was born in 1408 instead of 1518. He lived with his mother and father. In the draft, Heather (Connor's beloved wife in the film) does not exist; Connor was promised to a young girl named Mara whom he loved with all his heart, but who later rejects him after he becomes immortal. Connor leaves his village instead of being banished. His alias in the draft was Richard Tupin and his weapon was a custom broadsword. Ramirez was a Spaniard born in 1100 instead of being an ancient Egyptian born more than two thousand years earlier. The Kurgan was known as the Knight using the alias Carl William Smith. He was not a savage, but a cold blooded killer. Brenda was known as Brenna Cartwright. Other major aspects were later changed during rewrites. Initially, Immortals could have children; in the draft Connor is said to have had 37. In a flashback in the first draft, Connor attends the funeral of one of his sons. His wife (in her 70s) and his two sons, who are in their mid 50s, see him revealed as an Immortal. Also, there is no "Quickening" in the first draft. When an Immortal kills another, nothing special occurs. There is no mention of the Prize either. When Connor finally kills the Knight, he feels a sharp burning pain.
The church scene involving Kurgan (Clancy Brown) was filmed at night time with the permission of the priests in charge. Still, Brown's lines were ad-libbed and were reportedly considered so sacrilegious that the priests off-camera were making the sign of the cross as he said them.
Queen originally intended to record only one song for the film, but after viewing footage from the movie, they were inspired to write more. The band members each had a favorite scene and composed songs specifically for them. Brian May wrote "Who Wants to Live Forever" during the cab ride home after seeing the film, and Roger Taylor used the line "It's a kind of magic" as the basis for the end title song.
The swords sparking while clashing was accomplished by attaching a wire to each sword that led down the arms of the actors to a car battery. One was connected to the positive terminal and the other to the negative terminal, so when the swords touched there was an arc.
The opening voice over by Sean Connery has an echo effect because it was recorded in a bathroom. It was played for the producers over the phone, and they approved of it because they could not discern the quality of the recording that way.
Eight minutes of footage was removed from the original American theatrical release. The original version of the film was not released in America until 1996, with the "10th Anniversary Director's Cut" DVD. All subsequent DVD releases have included the director's cut. Among the footage removed: The opening flashbacks to Scotland as Connor sits in the stadium, Fasil doing back flips in the parking garage, Connor's first wife saying goodbye to him as he rides off into battle, Connor lying on the ground in agony after being stabbed by the Kurgan, and a flashback to World War II with Connor rescuing a young Rachel. In addition, the scene in which Connor is driven away from his village was trimmed, removing the head butts and the more violent punches and kicks.
The opening shot sweeping through the stadium was accomplished using a computerized system that held the camera on four wires. The system was invented by the inventor of the Steadicam stabilizing camera system, Garrett Brown.
In the Scottish festival scene, Ramirez shows MacLeod his sword, claiming it was made by his last father-in-law, Masamune. There was a real Masamune, Goro Masamune, who is renowned as the greatest swordsmith of the Tokugawa Shogunate era. Believed to have lived in the late 13th/early 14th century, his swords were the most cited in the Kyoho Meibutsu Cho, a Kyoho-era sword catalogue compiled by the Honami family of sword polishers and appraisers in 1714 on the orders of Shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune.
The Queen song "One Year of Love" (which can be heard in the background in the scene where Brenda meets Connor in the bar) was never released as a single in Europe or the United States, but was a hit in Japan. The 7" single was released as part of the Highlander marketing wave, and its label said it was from the forthcoming soundtrack album (which never surfaced). However, it was featured on Queen's 1986 studio album "A Kind of Magic".
Gregory Widen was inspired by the story while visiting Scotland on vacation. He was visiting a museum in Edinburgh and came across a suit of Armour and wondered what it would have been like if the man who wore the Armour was alive today.
The brandy scene with Macleod and Brenda was inspired by Russell Mulcahy's dinner with Jim Steinman who, as a wine bottle from 1949 was being opened, sniffed the air between the cork and the bottle and told Mulcahy that he just sniffed air from 1949.
During the film scene at Eilean Donan castle, the car park by the castle had to be covered up with tons of peat to disguise it, the house located by the bridge out to the Castle was boxed in with hardboard and painted over so that it looked just like real stone even when you stood right beside it. Extras were paid £25 a day with a £10 bonus if they took their own horse. A lot of the locals took days off work to do it.
The opening credits, with red text on a black background, were only intended to be temporary, place-holding credits, but the producers liked the look of them so much that they were kept for the final cut of the film.
The brief snippet of "New York, New York" performed by Queen during the movie has never been released officially on an album or single by the group. It wasn't included on the official soundtrack either. The soundtrack was released and then deleted, and re-released in 2003 as a numbered limited edition.
Kurgan's pseudonym, Victor Krueger, is actually an inside joke. Victor, of course, means winner. Krueger might falsely been seen as a variation on the German word, Krieger, which means warrior. So, Victor Krueger would mean, Winning Warrior. The actual meaning of Krueger is "someone who produces jugs/jars/pitchers/mugs"
The opening scene was intended to take place during an NHL hockey match, but the NHL refused to allow the crew to film there because, by the crew's own admission, they were intending to emphasize the violence of the hockey match.
The sword fight between MacLeod and Fasil was filmed in a London fruit market made to look like a parking garage. The producers had scheduled to film in England but couldn't film in a parking garage there because they had lower ceilings than American parking garages and could not convincingly be made to look like Madison Square Garden's garage.
The wrestling match in the beginning scene was between the legendary AWA (American Wrestling Association) tag teams of "The Fabulous Freebirds", consisting of Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts, and the team of Greg Gagne (son of AWA owner Verne Gagne), Jumping Jim Brunzell (the same Brunzell of the WWF tag team The Killer Bees), and the Tonga Kid (also known as Tama of the WWF tag team The Islanders).
Sean Connery would later reprise his role as Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez in Highlander II: The Quickening (1991). Other than James Bond, this is the only character that he has played in more than one film.
The producers tested dozens of actors for the role of Garfield, the cop who berates MacLeod in the police station. The actors were Americans living in England, and the producers decided not to cast any of them because they had developed English accents after living in England for several years.
According to the scene where a computer compares the signatures on the deeds to MacLeod's house, his previous aliases before Russell Nash were Adrien Montagu, Jacques Lefebert, Alfred Nicholson and Rupert Wallingford.
The low flying aircraft in the final scene was a Sepecat Jaguar T2 belonging to 226 Operational Conversion Unit based at R.A.F. Lossiemouth. This unit is incorrectly listed in the final credits as the "Jaguar Fighter Wing, R.A.F. Lossiemouth." The Jaguar is actually a ground attack aircraft and not a fighter. 226 O.C.U. was a training unit used to train pilots to fly the Jaguar.
Some scenes were deleted from the movie and ended up being lost forever when they were destroyed in warehouse fire. One of these was a duel sequence that introduced an Asian immortal named Yung Dol Kim. In this deleted scene Kim was working as a night security guard in a New York City office building at the time of the Gathering, where he was challenged by the Kurgan. Kim fights Japanese two-sword style. During the fight Kim surrenders wearying of Immortal life and is willing to suicide himself. The Kurgan takes his head and the body explodes out of the 40th floor of the building. In the continuity of the film, the Kurgan's duel with Kim takes place before his duel with Kastagir. A few stills from the sequence, some in color and others in black & white, did survive and were later used in the collectible card game based on Highlander for cards featuring the Kim character. Other deleted and lost scenes are flashback where Connor meets with Thomas Jefferson, bar scene when Connor and Kastagir go out for a drink and are partying in bar where they meet Det. Walter Bedsoe who ends up drinking and partying with them, this scene also expanded more on Kastagir and Connor's relationship and revealed that they met during the American Revolutionary War. There was also a scene in which Connor shows Brenda his katana, the sword she was so intrigued about after finding metal shards from it in the parking garage, after their sex scene.
Before Queen decided to do the soundtrack for the film, David Bowie and Sting were considered to do the soundtrack instead. British rock band Marillion, who had enjoyed a big success in the UK in 1985 with their "Misplaced Childhood" album, turned down an offer to record the soundtrack because they were busy on a world tour. Guitarist Steve Rothery later said in an interview this was "a really stupid thing for us to turn down".
the martial arts legend portrayed by Jean-Claude Van Damme in Bloodsport (1988) is an old man who drives his car by a sidewalk while Kastagir fights Kurgan. When Kastagir dies, Kurgan steals his car to run away.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
According to the director's commentary, the animated lightning on Connor's shoulders when he receives The Prize was actually supposed to disguise the wires - ironically, this may have just drawn more attention to them.
Ramirez was born in 896 BC in Egypt, during the XXII Dynasty. When Ramirez meets McLeod in 1541 AD he is 2437 years old, and he was 357 years old when Masumune, Ramirez's father-in-law, made the katana sword for him in tribute to Sakiko, Ramirez's wife and Masumune's daughter.
The scene in the alley where the Kurgan (Clancy Brown) beheads Kastagir (Hugh Quarshie) and then stabs the gun nut, followed by the explosion, was filmed in an alley in England even though it was set in New York. The director was reluctant to set off the explosion in the alley because the windows were full of Victorian glass, but he was given permission to do so because that particular site was going to be destroyed in a few months anyway.
In the scenes following Connor taking the Kurgan's head, director Russell Mulcahy had originally envisioned an animated dragon with the Kurgan's skull battle helmet emerging from the Kurgan's decapitated body and challenging Connor again. Only after Connor had defeated this Ghost-Dragon would he have received the final quickening and subsequent Prize. This idea was eventually cut due to budget restraints.
According to the DVD commentary, the film's climax was originally intended to take place on top of the Statue of Liberty. This was then changed to an amusement park, and finally changed to the rooftop of the Silvercup Studios building.
During the final fight sequence between McLeod and Kurgan on the roof of the Silvercup Studios building, cables can be seen in the foreground pulling the studio's neon sign down - in post-production they have bolts of electricity coursing down them to hide them. After filming had been completed, the production discovered that they had done so much damage to both the set and the actual roof of the Silvercup studios building as to make re-takes impossible.
Christopher Lambert was considered to play Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon a year after this film but Mel Gibson got the part. Michael Kamen who made the music of this film also made the music on all 4 lethal weapon movies.