Bad news: Schwarzenegger will NOT be starring in the new Conan movie! Well, that’s at least what I’ve been telling myself so I wouldn’t be devastated if the project didn’t work out sometime down the line. Sure, The Legend of Conan is still a GO with Universal Pictures, but you have to understand where I’m coming from. Very few of you know my history, so let me share with you my coming-of-age story. At the age of 11, I snuck into my first rated-R movie and arrived about a minute into the start of the film. Basil Poledouris’ epic score was blaring as the Cimmerian village was being raided. I sat down in awe and watched the brutal butcherings and decapitations, and l listened to the lamentations. I was sucked into a John Milius masterpiece. Minutes later, I was introduced to the powerful presence of Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger. Without a father figure in my life, I saw this Austrian Oak as the ultimate symbol of machismo, and he would be the one I’d look up to and teach me what’s best in life. From that day on, I was an Arnold fan for life. At the age of 11, I was hooked and as many of you DO know, thirty years later, Conan the Barbarian remains my all-time favorite Schwarzenegger film.
I’ll get back to my history with the Conan franchise in a minute, but FIRST the good news! TheArnoldFans, having just returned from Los Angeles, came back with some fantastic Legend of Conan exclusive details and comments direct from the cast (including Arnold), a potential director (Paul Verhoeven), and Paradox Entertainment (the rights-holders of Conan)!
I asked Arnold, at age of 65, what his physical goal is for Conan.
Schwarzenegger: “Well, age doesn’t mean anything to me, because I work out every day. I work out twice a day, as a matter of fact. At night I work out with weights, and in the morning I do cardiovascular training. So for me, to get on the set and to swing the sword around again and to ride the horses and all those things doesn’t mean anything [does not scare me], because I feel like I did thirty years ago. So as long as I stay in shape, that’s the key thing, and to keep your body young. Even though you do feel the pain when you wipe out and when you do your fight scenes and you get more sore and the body doesn’t come back as quickly and all this . . . but just grind through it, you know? That’s what it’s all about!”
Fredrik Malmberg, president and CEO of Paradox Entertainment, next chimes in on Arnold’s physical appearance.
Fredrik: “I think he said himself, he really wants to spend a few months to really get in shape for the role. He’s pretty big still. We want him to be comfortable in the role and play a realistic warrior of this age. So we don’t want him to look like a 45-year-old. But I don’t see a problem with him taking off his shirt or whatever and showing still a big and beefy body with scars, gashes and see this man has really been through every battle there is. And of course Arnold is all about fitness, and he’s still into it. We had breakfast not too long ago and he talked about his health and his oatmeal and what he eats every day. He knows exactly what he’s putting into his body and the effects. I wouldn’t be surprised if he took off his shirt, but definitely he’ll be having pumped-up arms.”
Arnold’s age plays a significant factor in The Legend of Conan, and we want him aged appropriately for the role. This is where we last see Arnold sitting on his throne at the end of Conan when he has a gray beard and he’s tired from his battles.
Fredrik: “The whole idea that got Arnold so enthusiastic about the new creative take is, CAN HE live up to the legend he is? Conan is 65 now, so he will have to fight through an aging warrior body, having cracking bones, aches and having to get back into the battle.”
Malmberg’s company not only owns the rights to the Conan character, but this man also has a lot to say regarding the script in development. Conan is his baby and he’s working with the writers to suggest fantastic ideas, the look of Arnold as Conan and suggest his weaponry to be used in the movie.
Since Universal is once again involved, I asked if they can use the same swords such as the Father’s sword and the Atlantean.
Fredrik: “We can. As you know right now, we’re concentrating on the story and the script, and then we’ll go out and find the right director who has the same passion as the rest of us in the group. And you always have to let the creative side and let the director put his stamp and mark on it so you never know what’s going to happen with the production design. I mean, we’re trying to get the TOP production people involved. We’re talking all the time about who we’d see doing the production, and our dream would be to have the WETA Workshop guys, the LOTR and Hobbit guys. They are huge Conan fans and they would be great to be involved on the creative side. But if they wanted to pay homage to the old swords, we could do it. But will the director and the whole team think that’s a copout or is that an homage? So you never know.”
It was also brought up that the sword may very well be likely to show up at least on the wall in one shot, but Fredrik has his heart set on a new weapon in Schwarzenegger’s hands.
Fredrik: “I would like to see that Conan has it still [the original sword], but it would be cool to pick up on some new fighting techniques. Wouldn’t it be nice to have Arnold fight with a double-axe? In the comics, he always has that swinging double-axe. I’m all for double-axes. But the sword is so classic, and it has to be in there sometime.”
Fredrik poses with my licensed Atlantean Conan sword signed by most of the cast members.
Arnold mentioned that this new film may be filmed in New Zealand and that an A-list director will be attached. Since Paradox told me they may want to make two or three Conan movies and that they would really like to use WETA Workshop for production on this film, I asked if Peter Jackson is a likely director candidate.
Fredrik: “I’m a huge fan of Peter Jackson, but he must have spent over ten years in fantasyland, and maybe his storytelling is slightly different from Conan’s. I’m not so sure Jackson would be attracted to Conan. It’s more fast-paced. LOTR and The Hobbit are great films of course, but his are maybe more high fantasy and Conan more down and dirty.”
So how about Paul Verhoeven? Brandon Krum from TheArnoldFans and I just found ourselves sitting down with the director of RoboCop, Basic Instinct and Total Recall to interview him for Brandon’s upcoming documentary, Arnold’s Army, and to see if he’d be up for reteaming with Arnold for The Legend of Conan.
Verhoeven: “If they asked me, I’d certainly love to – let’s put it that way. But I don’t know what the script is. I don’t know what Arnold wants. I’m a big fan in fact of Conan. That’s a great movie and I found that the composer, Basil Poledouris, basically inspired many of my movies [the soundtracks] like Flesh and Blood, RoboCop, Starship Troopers and Total Recall. The score of Conan is great. The style of editing that Milius used was very beautiful, and Arnold does a great job. He was really the perfect choice.”
Talented is Verhoeven in his craft, but he’d have to promise the fans and Universal that he’d remove any campiness, which he instilled in films like RoboCop and Starship Troopers. Verhoeven could be a great director for this project as long as he crucifies any form of shtick to the Tree of Woe. We learned Arnold did tell Verhoeven he’d like to work with him again soon. Could this be the right project?
Enough talk of Verhoeven. We now find ourselves with Conan alumni Franco Columbu, Sven-Ole Thorsen and Ralf Möller. Möller, wearing a huge silver skull ring that looks a lot like Arnold’s ring, sits across from us. This huge ex-barbarian, who once played Conan in the TV series and who was trained by Arnold to wield a sword, is talking to me about Schwarzenegger’s film Ten and telling me he will NO DOUBT go after a role in The Legend of Conan. This big bad-ass star of Gladiator was considering if he’d like to be a good guy or a bad guy and was leaning toward bad. We can’t wait to see him fight Arnold next year! He holds my sword and practices some poses.
Franco Columbu (Mr. Olympia, Mr. World and Mr. Universe) confesses to Brandon and me that he has not been in the last several Arnold movies, but he will absolutely drop everything to be in The Legend of Conan!
Franco: “Now that’s a movie I want to be in. I can come back and keep doing the same thing like scouting and running. That will be a good thing to do. I actually think that Arnold will be better for Conan right now than then. Back then he was almost too young, almost like a kid. But now the way I see Arnold as Conan . . . well, you go back thousands of years; the guys in the tribes who were really wise and knew what to do to survive in the forest or against animals were the older guys. The most feared men in the tribe were the old guys.”
Now I understand that many of you are worried that with the low box-office numbers of The Last Stand that Universal might think Arnold does not have what it takes anymore. Fear not, because Fredrik of Paradox assures us that the co-president of Universal Pictures is a HUGE Arnold fan!
Fredrik: “The co-president over there at Universal Pictures is Jeffrey Kirschenbaum, and he’s one of the top two executive producers. He has a huge position there at Universal, and he’s always been a huge Conan fan. ‘I want to make Conan,’ he’s said many times.”
The Last Stand was a fun and exciting time in the theaters. Most critics liked it and the fans, including myself, were very satisfied. But let’s hope Universal doesn’t decrease Conan’s budget due to the fact that TLS didn’t pull in higher numbers. The Last Stand will make its money back with overseas showings and with DVD and Blu-ray sales, but certainly Universal would be smart enough to know a Schwarzenegger Conan film would be a surefire smash hit with a built-in audience. Some people felt The Last Stand could have been marketed better, but most fans do think that Arnold’s next two films, The Tomb and Ten, look much more exciting than this Western trial film. Schwarzenegger’s star power is rebuilding and will be primed again for Conan.
Worst case, if Universal only wants to put in, for example, $80 million but $140 million or so is needed to do justice to The Legend of Conan, maybe Arnold can do a Kickstarter campaign to raise additional funds. What if Schwarzenegger signs a Legend of Conan promotional teaser image for every Arnold/Conan fan who sends in $10.00 to Kickstarter? Talk about pumping up a film budget! The Legend of Conan will be a worldwide event, and it could be good for the fans to feel we have contributed to this long-awaited epic.
For a decade-and-a-half I’ve been with this website, and for these 15 years Arnold knows that I’ve been one hell of a driving force behind the resurrection of a new Conan film. Maybe it’s a redhead/geek thing, but perhaps the history books will one day list Harry Knowles of AICN and me as the two leading names of fans who forged the movement to ensure that a new Conan would walk the Cimmerian world again in his sandaled feet. Will Harry and I be rewarded with a Conan set visit in 2013? If I’m on that movie set, the studio and Arnold can trust me to never leak any spoilers. In fact, we already learned of a brilliant proposed scene that Paradox and Schwarzenegger would LOVE to have in the new script, and I would NEVER tell a soul, or may Crom strike me down.
Harry and I are relentless forces as we bring up Conan every time we get an interview going with the Barbarian star. As the spokesman for Arnold’s #1 fanclub in the world, I personally told Schwarzenegger that a Conan sequel remains his single-most-anticipated film. More than a T5, a Predator sequel, a True Lies 2 or any other film, Conan is always brought up the most by the fans. Interestingly enough, when I interviewed the cast of The Last Stand on the red carpet, 80% of the lead cast said "Conan the Barbarian" is their favorite Arnold film too. Knoxville tells us Commando is best.
Ten years ago, René (my VP at the time) and I started a King Conan petition to get Schwarzenegger to consider making the movie as his follow-up to Terminator 3. Harry Knowles and The New York Times picked up our cause, and our signatures went from a few thousand to over fourteen thousand. TheArnoldFans gave the petition to Schwarzenegger and a few weeks later, Bob Costas brought up our petition to Arnold on his HBO show and asked him if he’ll do it. Arnold gave the answer that the fans wanted to hear. The petition worked, or so I thought it did until Arnold was on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, announcing his Governor candidacy. At least John Milius sent me a nice, signed King Conan script as a consolation prize. But much heartache was suffered by us Conan fans who had the project ripped away from us in the past. This is why I and many others are trying to convince ourselves that a new Conan film is just TOO GOOD to be true. We must be dreaming and although we are all praying to Crom that this works out and it will be The Oak’s next movie as we hear it will be, we won’t truly be celebrating until Arnold is on the set with the wind blowing through his long hair.
Fredrik: “It’s very Viking actually. We have these super-bad warriors, and they get old. Well, HOW are they going to die? They don’t want to die from old age or gout. That’s kind of what Howard writes about when he becomes king . . . when he’s lazy and when he had all the wine he wants . . . girls he wanted. It’s like all he really wants is to go back into battle. That’s what makes him truly live. That’s the moment we want to come back to in the movie when he has been king and he may have felt he would go off like an old animal and die. Then he realizes . . . I’m not going. I’m too strong to die. I’m going to go out and meet death when I want to meet death. On my terms.”
We’re all anticipating that Conan is The Oak’s next movie, but knowing our past luck, we can see it now . . . what if Arnold signs on at the last second to film Twins 2 or T5 BEFORE Conan?! NOOO! Actually it MIGHT be okay to do Twins 2: Triplets first as long as it's made SOON as I imagine this film would only require three to four months of shooting and then Arnold can dive right into Conan around December of this year. But should Arnold strap on his T5 leather before he straps on his loin cloth, then there's the chance Conan may NEVER happen. T5 could be an eight month production and during this time there's no telling what will happen with Conan! We can wait for T5 but the fans desperately beg Schwarzenegger that he will do everything in his power to not let other film obstacles get in the way to crushing our dream. Terminator 5 COULD terminate all hope for the barbarian's glorious return! NOOOO! I can imagine every camel in every zoo and every desert getting punched in the face by every Schwarzenegger and Conan fan out of anger and frustration. Please Arnold and Universal, please work together so we don’t punch camels!
Fredrik: “He wants to do Conan next, and his people want to do Conan next. It’s all a question of, can we get a great script done in time? After we get a go on the script, we can go into production within six months. As soon as the script is there, BOOM, we’ve got the green.”