A Highlander Stunt Slip-Up Almost Sent Sean Connery Packing

Russell Mulcahy's 1986 film "Highlander" is a fantasy mish-mash about a race of immortals who have been duking it out for dominance for centuries. The main character Scottish immortal — a Highlander — named Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) who is alive in 1986, but who first discovered his immortality in the 1530s. The rules of immortals are a little opaque. For instance, an immortal can be killed if they are decapitated, so they tend to carry swords. If their decapitator is also immortal, the killer absorbs their strength in a process called the Quickening. When there is only one immortal left on Earth, they will be granted one wish, called the Prize. When there are only a few immortals left, they will gather for the Gathering.

A lot of the "Highlander" mythos is explored in depth — and with much-added confusion — in "Highlander: The Series" (1992 – 1998) and the additional films that spun off from it. Even the series' most diehard fans have agreed to ignore the notion — introduced in Mulcahy's "Highlander 2: The Quickening" — that immortals are in fact extraterrestrials from the planet Zeist.

But in the original "Highlander," Connor went through an intense training period, learning all about the world of immortals from the roguish and dazzling Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez, a 2,000-year-old Spaniard played by Sean Connery. A reader will note immediately that the Scottish character was played by a Swiss-French actor and that the Spanish character was played by a Scot. 

In a 2016 interview with the Guardian, Mulcahy reminisced on the film's production and noted the robust energy Connery brought ... along with his homemade Scotch. He also recalls a fight sequence where Connery had a near-miss and nearly left production. 

The Kurgan

The Villain of "Highlander" is a black-clad sadist called the Kurgan (Clancy Brown) who gives very little thought to human life, and who wants the Prize to achieve world domination. In expanded-universe texts, the Kurgan discovered his immortality in 930 BC, and is one of the oldest known immortals. In a climactic fight in the middle of the film, the Kurgan and Ramirez have a vicious swordfight in a castle, a swordfight that will ultimately end with the Kurgan killing Ramirez. 

Mulcahy recalls the shooting of "Highlander" to be something of a run-and-gun affair, and he was honored to have a big movie star like Connery involved. This, of course, meant that Connery was occasionally given over to "movie star" demands, including the delivery of a crate of Scotch up the side of a mountain where they were filming. He was at least gracious enough to offer a drink to Mulcahy. The director also recalls a time when Brown and Connery were sword fighting, and a broken sword nearly cause Connery to leave the production. As he tells it: 

"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.'

Thanks to Brown's demure apology, Connery stayed. Any animosity must have cleared, as Connery also returned for "Highlander 2." 

Just don't ask how. It doesn't make a lot of sense.