January 20, 2005
Throughout the course of modern cinema, several dynamic duos have dazzled us with their undeniable chemistry: Clark Gable & Vivian Leigh, Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy, Sly Stallone & Estelle Getty. But notwithstanding the accomplishments of these talented legends, there is another comedic combo, equally deserving of our recognition. Often grossly overlooked when analyzing the comedic greats of our time, these individuals have devoted their lives to entertaining others and, in doing so, have undoubtedly earned the right to bask in the glow of their legacy. For when the history books have been written and the chapter on Great Cinematic Couples is complete, the listing that should rightfully appear at the top of the page is that of…The Barbarian Brothers.
David and Peter Paul were like most hopeful actors who came to Hollywood in the early 80s — the only exception being they were identical twin bodybuilders. Having competed for several years on the pro bodybuilding circuit, the Paul brothers were now ready to flex their acting muscles for Southern California and forge their path to fame. The newly christened-Barbarian Brothers were pounding on the door to stardom and Hollywood was about to answer.
A T-rific Opportunity
A young, up-and-coming director by the name of Joel Schumacher was the first to recognize the unique appeal of the brothers Barbarian. These were not musclehead bozos merely interested in making a quick buck. They were two larger-than-life cartoon characters — identical twins, no less! — who were genuinely enthusiastic about acting. The Barbarians were anxious to learn, eager to be taught, and oiled up and ready to appear in Schumacher’s film, D.C Cab. Schumacher knew the beefy Barbarians would be the perfect compliment to the film’s star, the incomparable Mr. T. As pre-production continued, Schumacher, no doubt, marveled at his good fortune — three muscular tough guys, all of who have hearts of gold? It was a director’s dream come true. Movie magic was about to be made.
On December 16, 1983, D.C. Cab debuted on movie screens across the country. With a tagline promising wacky hijinks galore (“When these guys hit the streets, guess what hits the fan?”), movie goers flocked to the theaters, ready to be entertained. They were not disappointed. The all-star cast of Mr. T (Spy Hard), Gary Busey (Motocross Kids), Marsha Warfield (Caddyshack 2), Bill Maher(Rags to Riches), Paul Rodriguez (A Cinderella Story), and diva Irene Cara (Flashdance) delivered on the promised laughs and screwball antics. But it was the unknown duo of identical twins — in the memorable roles of Buddy and Buzzy — that truly stole the show. The Barbarian Brothers had arrived.
It can be safely assumed that people who trickled out of movie theaters that cold December evening were in awe of the Barbarian Brothers. They were, after all, quite a sight. Dressed in matching overalls, plaid flannel shirts, and pink headbands, the brothers stood out quite easily from the rest of the cast. And with neon-colored bandanas wrapped around their wrists and ankles, the monstrous Barbarians silently defied anyone to mock their unorthodox appearance. Adding to the mystique of the twin brothers were the strategically-worded final credits, which referred to the pair simply as “David Barbarian” and “Peter Barbarian.” From Seattle to Sarasota, people wanted to know more about David and Peter Barbarian. Where did they come from? And more importantly, where were they going next?
Bonafide Movie Stars
Following their performance in D.C. Cab, Hollywood began to take notice of The Barbarian Brothers. And after a small role in 1984’s The Flamingo Kid, the brothers were ready to move to the very top of the marquee. And that’s exactly what they did. David and Peter rocked the ‘silver screen’ by starring in The Barbarians (1987), a touching film about twin orphans raised by a tribe of jugglers, clowns, and entertainers. Having abandoned their bandanas in favor of loin cloths, the mullet-sporting brothers defeated warriors, beasts, and a less-than-impressive script en route to delivering a memorable performance. The Barbarians was a perfect vehicle for David and Peter to prove their merit as action stars. Little did they know their days as action heroes were over — Hollywood had other plans.
Make ‘em laugh
In the Barbarian Brothers, producers saw a unique gift for comic timing and an overall likeable quality that film audiences would warm up to. In a short period of time, the brothers had risen from obscurity to become Hollywood’s next big action stars to now being labeled as comic geniuses. And never was there a more fitting moniker. Think Big (1990) gave the Barbarians another starring vehicle to showcase their comedic abilities. Working alongside Martin Mull (Ski Patrol), Richard Moll (Monkey Business), and Michael Winslow (Police Academy), the brothers played two loveable — albeit not very bright — truckers who were to transport toxic waste across the country. And while many actors have taken on the role of portraying truck drivers, few have done so with the grace, charm, and moxie of The Barbarians. Fans and critics alike thought they had just witnessed the heights of the brothers’ talents. Needless to say, nobody was braced for what was going to happen next.
While some musicians can successfully transition from the recording studio to the screen, most are doomed to go the way of Vanilla Ice and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze. In any event, as difficult as it is to cross mediums, it is virtually unheard of to do it three different times. Not surprisingly, the Barbarians found a way. As bodybuilders turned actors, the brothers experienced great success. But after starring in another hit comedy, 1992’s Double Trouble, David and Peter were ready for a new challenge. They were going to bench press the music business. That’s right, the Barbarian Brothers were going to rap.
That’s a rap
The release of Twin Sitters (1994) was a monumental happening. In addition to being yet another in an impressive string of hilarious comedies, it also signaled the debut of David & Peter Paul: composers/performers. The Barbarians wrote all six songs on the film’s soundtrack and even performed four of the tracks themselves — the most impressive musical undertaking since the Bee Gees dominated the Saturday Night Fever record nearly twenty years before. Rapping to songs like “At War with the Weights”, “Shut Up”, “Whatcha Lookin’ At?”, “I Ride my Harley”, and “Brothers Forever”, the Barbarians masterfully unveiled yet another layer of their dynamic personalities. Not only did they get through the four songs with minimal stumbling, but they did so with class and dignity. But then again, the Barbarians wouldn’t have it any other way.
Where are they now?
Semi-retired from acting, the Barbarian Brothers made their last major motion picture appearance in the critically-acclaimed Natural Born Killers (1994). Sadly, their one scene – a police interrogation with Robert Downey Jr. — was cut from the final version. These days, David is a professional photographer, whose work can often be seen in the pages of MuscleMag International and at private showings throughout Southern California. Peter operates a personal training business, where he turns 98 lb. Venice Beach weaklings into intimidating and powerful barbarians. And although both are content in their current professions, the alluring spotlight beckons, once again. As of this writing, David and Peter are slated to return to the big screen in the fall release Souled Out, where they will be reunited with D.C. Cab co-star Gary Busey. Rumors that the brothers will be wearing bandanas are completely unsubstantiated.
With their flowing mullets, neon-colored bandanas, and tough-as-nails personas, The Barbarians left an indelible imprint on the movie industry. The brothers set new standards for “cab buddy movies”, “warrior buddy movies”, “trucker buddy movies” and “cop buddy movies”, and always made us laugh along the way. In ascending to these impressive heights, the brothers unquestionably paved their way for other twin sibling actors. One can only speculate where the Olsen Twins would be now, had it not been the trailblazing Barbarian Brothers. Perhaps Olsen classics, such as It Takes Two, Two of a Kind, and Our Lips Are Sealed, would have been laughed right out of a producer’s office, never getting the chance to experience direct-to-video glory. For that reason alone, movie fans everywhere are forever indebted to the Barbarians.
David and Peter Paul have given us so much over the years. From bodybuilding to acting to writing and performing music, the brothers marched to the beat of a very different drummer. Refusing to conform to the Hollywood mold, the Barbarian Brothers rose to the top simply by being themselves. With loveable and charming personas that fans of all ages could relate to, the brothers transcended across multiple mediums, genres, and decades. The Barbarian Brothers didn’t grow up wanting to be beloved actors or rap superstars. They just wanted to be themselves and to entertain others. And by golly, that’s exactly what they did.