The ubiquitous “Barbarian Brothers” David and Peter Paul were a novelty in the 1980’s when they had smallish roles in the Mr. T movie D.C. Cab (1983), and followed that up with a string of comedic action films that showcased their insanely huge muscles, infantile humor, and abilities as rap singers. After their stint with The Cannon Group’s sword and sorcery spectacular The Barbarians (1987) directed by Italian horror specialist Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust), they segued into the minor hit movies Think Big (1989), Double Trouble (1992), and Twin Sitters (1994). Never appearing in projects apart from one another, the Barbarian Twins hit the Hollywood bodybuilding scene and left their mark like no other pair of twin siblings did before or since. They left the acting world behind and entered the “Where Are They Now?” club, but after tracking David down nearly a decade ago for a couple of short phone interviews, it became clear that he’d moved on from the movie biz to pursue his passions which were carpentry and photography. David didn’t seem too interested, at first, in reliving the past, but as the interviews moved forward, he seemed to have some fond memories of Cannon’s The Barbarians and working with his brother on their music endeavors. Tragically, and quite unexpectedly, David passed away in his sleep on March 6th, 2020. This is the first time the interviews are published.
Dread Central: There’s a great line in Twin Sitters, and it’s probably the best line of any of your movies, this guy asks you how you became so tough, so big, and you say something like, “When you’re a kid, you get bullied, pushed around, and you have to get strong, so we became strong.” Do you remember that line?
David Paul: Yeah.
DC: Was that your line or Peter’s?
DP: I don’t remember.
DC: That, to me, sums up who you guys are. It felt honest to me. It sounded real. Was that true for you guys?
DP: We didn’t get bullied, but we protected the kids who got bullied. I always felt bad for the kids who got bullied. I couldn’t read for the first three years of school. So, I got teased a lot. So I took everything else physically. They didn’t know what was wrong with me. I had no hand/eye coordination. I couldn’t read. They put me in school with the retarded kids. In New York, they sent me to these doctors who said that I had the worst case of dyslexia they’d ever seen on the East Coast. So who knows what it really was. Peter didn’t have it as bad. He stayed in public school and got kicked out in 3rd grade. I couldn’t read a word. I went to this Catholic school where there were only five kids in the class. I had nuns for teachers. It was really good for me. There was only English and math. That’s it. No history and all that stuff. I didn’t miss out. I don’t know where anything is on the map, but I never used that anyway. (Laughing.) My mother understood my disability, so she just pushed me towards the arts. I spent a lot of time in art galleries. She got me a camera at 13, and I’d develop pictures in the basement. I was always doing art, building shit. I had a mother who understood.
DC: Did you attend college? What was next?
DP: We came out here and went to the University of Rhode Island. We were supposed to student teach, but we didn’t care about that. We were gonna do what we wanted to do. We had a big family get together, and we told everyone that we were going to be on Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin, and we told everyone who wasn’t behind us that we were going to make it. The only blessing we got was from our grandfather who told us to go for it. We owned in gym in Rhode Island while we were going to college, and we mirrored it with the mirrors we took from URI. The Dean of Admissions used to work out at our gym, and he loved us. We had 90 dollars and no suitcase, and we took all our stuff and wrapped it in a sheet and wrapped it in speaker wire, got on a plane to Los Angeles with 90 dollars. The way everything happened … We had Robby Robinson who told us we were really cool and told us that if we came out to LA that he would take care of us. We never paid for a gym membership. We walked in the gym, and we would get a free membership. We had workout boots. They called us “The Lumberjacks”, not “The Barbarians”. We wore denim and flannel shirts. We would lift more than anyone in the gym and we were kids. We weren’t on any drugs. When we were doing the magazines, no one was doing it then. We pulled up – imagine these two guys, these huge twins – we’d pull up on a motorcycle. (Laughing.) It’s overwhelming, me thinking about all this. Peter and I would pull up at Gold’s Gym, and their parking meters were only for 30 minutes. Peter would say, “Who would only spend 30 minutes at a gym?” I went there at night and put sheets over the meters. (Laughing.) There would be a line of traffic around the street, beeping at us as we’d ride by. One time there was a Ferrari, and we had a chocolate milk, and we just poured it all over the guy and drive away. People saw us and cheered and clapped. That Ferrari guy was an asshole. We would always do the things people were afraid to do, but we did it. We went to LA with a dream in our pocket. We started in bodybuilding and got into movies. Now I’m into photography.
DC: You did some TV before getting your break in movies.
DP: I was The Animal on Happy Days. I had a metal plate on my head. I was going to be a regular on that show. When I went out there, the crowd went crazy. Fonzy was jealous. I did something else with the guy who played Kramer on Seinfeld. He did three skits of me, the Trailer Park Swinger. My brother and I would both try out for parts, but I would always get the role. I don’t know why.
DC: There’s a credit on your page on IMDB that has never been released. It’s called Souled Out. Ring a bell?
DP: We never did the movie. I sold my soul to the devil to make it in rock and roll. It was a great script. We didn’t get to do it. The money never came through. It was going to be me, Peter, and Gary Busey. Peter was going to be so funny in it. It was an on-the-road movie. I think Gary was going to be the devil.
DC: There was supposed to be a soundtrack release for Twin Sitters. You guys were rapping and doing original songs. What happened to all those recordings?
DP: There was. We wrote the soundtrack. I didn’t even know what was going on. Peter and I never got paid a penny. We got fucked. Someone was selling it somewhere, and I told them to take it down and that they owed us so much money. You could see how many people had bought our songs on this site, and every song was maxed out. The NFL station called me because I had trained one of their players for the season, and Peter and I wrote all the workout music for this video we did. We called it “War With the Weights.” So they called to see if they could get a clearance of that song, and we looked it up, and that’s when I realized that our music was being ripped like crazy. Peter and I were with a big producer for our rap. We had so many songs, but we never got a record deal. We went to Epic. Peter remembers a lot of this shit. We never got the call to get a deal. We went to Chicago. We went all over. Our song “What You Looking At” was big. It was in Twin Sitters. That’s a good song. We did concerts in Hawaii. Everyone knew us there.
DC: I have a buddy who told me that you and your brother came to his school when he was a kid, and you guys rapped in the auditorium as some kind of special event.
DP: We might’ve done that. We did do that in some schools. Was he in a school for bad kids?
DC: Maybe. I don’t know.
DP: We did some schools for bad kids. We did that a lot in those days. A lot of charity work.
DC: How did you guys get involved with Cannon?
DP: There was an article about us in Playgirl. We were dressed like barbarians. I think they saw that and then we went in there and they liked us. We met with Jim Silke, the guy that wrote it. Peter and I came up with so much of that story. It’s crazy. We should’ve gotten story credit. But back then we didn’t know the rules.
DC: So all the shtick you guys did was made up on the set?
DP: That wasn’t in the script. When we got the screenplay, it was so bad. We thought that the only way to make it work was to make fun of it. They spoke Italian, and they didn’t even know what we were doing. When the director saw what we were doing, he started going along with it because the dailies were funny. They were talking about doing parts 1, 2, 3, 4. Everybody thought it was funny. But there was a problem with Cannon. When the movie was done, they didn’t have any money to promote the movie. They were going down at that point. The movie was a hit in every country all over the world – even in Hawaii, which is such a small area. It set a record there. It played for four months. It was a hit in Italy, France, Germany, Spain. It was a hit everywhere but in the U.S.
DC: Your director was Ruggero Deodato, who is best known for his horror films. What was it like to work with him?
He was terrific. He was a good guy. It was a lot of fun working with him.
DC: Did you enjoy working in Italy on location?
DP: We got there a month early to train in sword fighting and to ride horses so that we looked good at what we were doing. Thank God we had practiced a lot of sword fighting. We had those helmets on – you couldn’t see out of those things. It had to be like a dance, otherwise it wouldn’t have worked out. We fought so much with the swords. Yeah, it was fun, but I got hurt in the first week of filming. There was a tree that had fallen down. It was the first scene of the movie we shot. I told my brother, “I’m going to jump over that tree!” He said, “Just play it straight.” I said, “No, no.” I go to jump over the tree and I went flying. Oh, my God. I hurt my ass. I had a big bruise on my ass. You can see in that scene when I’m pulling the horse. I screwed my knee up. I was limping through the whole movie. That’s why that bandage is on my knee. Ruggero kept saying, “You ruined my movie!” I couldn’t cross my legs the entire time. But it was a blast riding horses. Italy is amazing. The food, the culture, the people. What a beautiful country. That was the most fun movie we did – by far. I had a good girlfriend then. She was one of the extras in it. I learned Italian. I learned to understand it, but I didn’t speak it well. She didn’t understand English, but we had a great relationship. (Laughing.) We went to the beach, and out there, girls don’t shave under their arms. She raised her arms and went, “Look, I shave like an American girl!” (Laughing.) We used to go out there and pick up these little cars they had. We’d dead lift the cars from the bumpers, and they thought that was so funny. Those people loved it.
DC: Do you remember actually seeing The Barbarians with a crowd?
DP: Yeah. It was awesome. It was in L.A. Cannon didn’t have a lot of money to do a big thing, but it was in Westwood. That’s where it opened. That’s the first time I saw it. I was in shock. I thought it was funny. Everyone was talking about it. Everybody was laughing. They talked about it being a franchise. It was a funny movie. Just to see yourself up there like that was shocking. For two guys who went to the gym and listened to rock and roll and then to get to be in a movie like that. That movie was sort of a time travel movie concept, in a way. The two gym guys who listen to rock and roll go through time and end up in that barbarian time. That’s how we played it. We spoofed it. We didn’t play barbarians from barbarian times. We played it like these goofy guys in that time. When we read the script, I didn’t like it. It would’ve been a bomb if we’d done it that way. It didn’t have good dialogue. It was dumb. You’ve got to remember that at that point, Arnold and Stallone hadn’t started doing comedies yet. We did. We wanted a good comedy.
DC: Are you a fan of the sword and sorcery genre?
DP: I like it, yeah. That’s what this movie is supposed to be.
DC: Was this movie a good career move for you and your brother at this time?
DP: I don’t know what happened, but something happened to our careers after this movie. There were a lot of articles in magazines and newspapers all over the world that my brother and I were going to take over. We were funny and we were different. I can’t say for sure, but something did happen. After that movie, we only did “B”-movies. The Barbarians was a “B”-movie, but it looked expensive. It didn’t have “B”-movie written all over it. It had really good art direction and the music was really good. Usually in a “B” film, it doesn’t look good and the sound quality is poor. But this film was different. It’s a real cult classic, that film. If you’re having fun making a movie, the audience is going to have fun watching it.
DC: Have you seen it in a while?
DP: No, I never watch our films. I’ve always been an artist in a muscle suit. I never really liked our movies. To me, it was all crap. Peter and I were funny, and we held those movies together. There were stars in our movies, but you would always focus on us because we kept the movies going. Our comedic timing and all that.