Highlander’s Best Villain Was Cheated Out Of His Paycheck

Clancy Brown says he was paid "nothing" and receives no residuals for his role as the Kurgan in Highlander.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

clancy brown highlander

Clancy Brown, the iconic character actor who played the Kurgan,  the original Highlander villain, revealed in a recent interview that he was paid essentially nothing for the part. In a video interview with Inside of You Clips, the Starship Troopers actor said that he had received essentially no paycheck and continued to receive no residual payments for the 1986 cult fantasy classic. Specifically, Clancy Brown said of Highlander that “I met with those guys and I’m, like, ‘I think it’s a great story, I would love to play it, y’know. How much you gonna pay me?’ And they don’t want to pay me anything… so they pay me nothing. And they’re thrilled because they pay me nothing.”

Clancy Brown did not go into extreme detail about how precisely he ended up with such a bad contractual deal for Highlander, but it seems to have been some kind of organizational issue. He goes on to say that franchise creator Gregory Widen (who wrote and sold the original screenplay while an undergraduate student at UCLA) took a backend deal that paid him only a few thousand dollars, but millions from eventual residuals. While it certainly is unfortunate that Clancy Brown did not receive an adequate paycheck from Highlander, it is nice to know that it worked out for the guy behind it all.

While Clancy Brown says he earned “nothing” for Highlander, it is probably safe to assume he was paid some amount of money (likely Screen Actors Guild minimum) for the role and he is speaking figuratively. Regardless, it is highly unjust that Brown’s portrayal of the Kurgan, one of the fantasy movie genre’s best and most lasting villains, did not get a suitable payment for the role. 

clancy brown highlander

Although Clancy Brown had appeared in several notable cult films before appearing in Highlander, including the 1985 Frankenstein film The Bride and 1984’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, he was still a little-known actor at the time. According to the same interview, Arnold Schwarzenegger was actually the first choice to play the Kurgan, but passed on the role in order to move away from villain parts after the first Terminator movie. Even if Clancy Brown was paid very little for Highlander, it at least guaranteed him a place in film history.

Not that he would exactly need it. Although Clancy Brown rarely appears in lead roles, he has been part of numerous notable films and television programs like The Shawshank Redemption, The Guardian, Hail Caesar!, Warcraft, Tales from the Crypt, ER, Carnivàle, both Netflix’s Daredevil and The Punisher, and The Flash. If there were a definition of a working character actor, Clancy Brown would certainly fit it. 

In upcoming work, Clancy Brown will appear in John Wick: Chapter 4 alongside Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Donnie Yen, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ian McShane, and Lance Reddick. He will also be joining The Boys’ universe in a thus far unrevealed role, in the college-themed spin-off Gen V. Hopefully, he is not getting paid “nothing” for those roles.