Twenty-five years ago, American moviegoers were introduced to a new kind of antihero when bar bouncer Dalton took off in his baby blue Mercedes for The Double Deuce, a seedy bar in the tiny town of Jasper, Missouri whose residents were in need of the kind of justice that only a man like Dalton could deliver. Road House has since become a cult classic – the perfect mix of ridiculous storyline, over-the-top acting, and (sometimes unintentionally) hilarious dialogue. But the key ingredient to the film's immense watchability is one thing: the fighting.
Whether he's peacefully perfecting his martial artistry or ripping a man's throat out with his bare hands, Dalton's appetite for human destruction is why so many have seen the movie over and over, and sensei Benny "The Jet" Urquidez of Team Karate Centers in Woodland Hills, California is the man who made it all happen. "The producers were looking for a martial arts teacher," Urquidez recalls of how he came to arrive on the set of Road House. "I hold nine black belts in nine different disciplines, so they asked me if I would work with Patrick Swayze."
A pioneer of the free form method of martial arts, Urquidez has been a competitive fighter since the age of five. Judo, boxing, kickboxing, full-contact karate, and Muay Thai are just a few of the art forms the undefeated world champion has practiced professionally. Yet he still recalls his time on the set of Road House as one of his most thrilling victories. And on the occasion of its 25th anniversary, he shared the details of choreographing some of cinema's most memorable ass-kickings.
Fight 1: Bar Brawl at The Double Deuce
The Setup: Before committing to clean the place up, Dalton checks out the scene at The Double Deuce. Predictably, an all-out bar brawl breaks out between just about every one of the bar's patrons – men hitting men, men hitting women, women breaking bottles over the heads of the male counterparts.
The Story: "It's easier to shoot a scene like this, when you have a lot of chaos, because the camera can go to a lot of different angles," says Urquidez. "When you've got a one-on-one fight, it's all about detail, but it's hard to see any detail when you've got a lot of people involved. When you're shooting a bar fight and everybody's fighting everybody, it's a lot of fun. The audience picks out certain things when you're watching it, but there's so much going on that it's hard to really see what's happening."
Fight 2: Be Nice Until It's Time to Not Be Nice
The Setup: After spending the day teaching his partners in bar policing his three simple rules (1. Never underestimate your opponent, 2. Take it outside, and 3. Be nice) Dalton gets to observe as they put these lessons into action. When a switchblade is pulled, it's time to revert to the extended version of that rule: Be nice until it's time to not be nice.
The Story: Adding a weapon into the mix is always a challenge, says Urquidez, because "You always start off with a real weapon and use it until you get to the point of actual contact. When you get into the actual contact, you have to bring in plastic guns, plastic knives, or whatever – weapons that only look real."
Fight 3: An Office Meeting With a View
The Setup: A human resources meeting in the office of Tilghman, The Double Deuce's boss, turns violent when Dalton refuses to re-hire shady bartender Pat McGurn. McGurn expresses his disagreement with this decision by brandishing a hunting knife. Dalton responds by throwing McGurn through the office window.
The Story: "Here's the thing about breakaway bottles and breakaway glass," says Urquidez, "They hurt! And sometimes you don't break it perfectly in the middle – you hit the edge of it. It breaks and crumbles, so it doesn't stay in a sharp point, but if you don't hit breakaway glass at the right place, it hurts. So people come out with big old knots on their head and little cuts. Especially when you're doing two or three takes. You can't slow down; you have to go full action, because you can see everything." The key to doing it right, says Urquidez, was practice. "We practiced hitting it just right. Sometimes we had to raise the body to make sure it went through it just right."
Fight 4: Never Sneak a Boot Blade Past Dalton
The Setup: Dalton can spot danger – and a tiny blade in the tip of an entering patron's boot – before the guy's foot has barely made its way into the camera's line of vision. He's not about to let this guy ruin the good time being had at The Deuce, so he and his team quickly snap into action.
The Story: Swayze busted out every move in his fighting toolbox to take down these baddies, from power punches to the gut to some seriously impressive leg work. For training him, "first I taught him how to do damage with what he was doing [with his leg work], then I took it to the completely opposite side and taught him how to control it," says Urquidez. "You control it all by knee motion; wherever your knee points is where you're kicking. I got him to the point where he could kick a cigarette out of my mouth. And we had the kind of trust because I knew he could do it. He had that kind of control where he could go from one extreme to the other, and then I taught him how to find the balance in that."