‘Conan’ producer: Arnold’s aging Barbarian faces self-doubt

Dec. 03, 2012 | 8:00 a.m.
conan copy Conan producer: Arnolds aging Barbarian faces self doubt

Arnold Schwarzenegger in a scene from the 1982 film “Conan the Barbarian,” left, and during his term as governor of California, right. (Reuters; Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

When screenwriter-producer Chris Morgan met with Arnold Schwarzenegger this fall to pitch him a proposed sequel to “Conan the Barbarian,” the Governator required convincing on one matter above all others – and it had nothing to do with wearing a furry codpiece.

At a time when Schwarzenegger, 65, is attempting to reclaim his throne in Hollywood after years stalking Sacramento’s corridors of power, why should he return to Conan? Why should he follow in his own footsteps to the pre-“Terminator” role that shot him to stardom?

“To put yourself out there in your 60s? As Conan the Barbarian? I could see why he’d hesitate,” Morgan said. “You’re really putting yourself out there.”

In the end, though, Morgan – whose screenwriting credits include the last four “Fast & the Furious” sequels and the hit 2008 Angelina Jolie thriller “Wanted” – convinced Schwarzenegger to sign on to the upcoming “The Legend of Conan” by framing the project as the pop cultural equivalent to catching up with an old friend: “Not a reboot, not a remake. Just an update. Where has the character been all this time? A catch-up with Conan.”

The project is the latest splashy star vehicle for Schwarzenegger, who inhabits a small part in the two “Expendables” films, and will next be seen as a sheriff battling a drug cartel in “The Last Stand,” set for release early next year, and the upcoming “Ten,” a David Ayer-directed thriller in which he portrays a Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

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Any devotee of author Robert E. Howard’s fantasy pulp serial, published in “Weird Tales” magazine in the early 1930s, can tell you that Conan was never just a barbarian. As the tagline for director John Milius’ 1982 film explains, Conan is many things to many people — “Thief. Warrior. Gladiator. King.” – among them. In Morgan’s reimagining, “The Legend of Conan” picks up the story deep into Conan’s magisterial rule over his kingdom, toward the end of a wildly multifaceted existence.

“He’s not going out and fighting battles, but he ends up getting drawn into something,” Morgan explained. “And he has to access the barbarian he was in his youth. I love that Conan has been many things in his life, notably a pirate, a major tactician and a commander of men. In this movie, we’re going to tap into some of those things – things you haven’t seen on screen yet.”

And that necessarily involves acknowledging that the movie’s star is no longer the oiled-up Mr. Olympia he was in his physical prime. Rather than try to CGI-in muscle bulging pectorals that no longer exist, Schwarzenegger — his bulk diminished by age — will be dutifully portrayed as the lion in winter that he is.

“I want the warrior whose joints have started to fuse together, who has to crack the cartilage so he can pick up a sword again,” Morgan said. “I want the guy who’s not necessarily lost a step, but there’s some rust he has to shake off. I want to embrace that. It makes it a greater hero story.

“Conan needs to be faced with challenges,” he continued. “The greatest challenge to him isn’t the armies that are set before him. It’s, on some level, self-doubt, a little bit of slowing down and forcing yourself to be heroic beyond what people expect of you. What I don’t want is for him to step back in and look the same. That would defeat the purpose of our story.”

Of course, Conan was brought back to the screen in 2011 with former “Baywatch” and “Game of Thrones” star Jason Momoa swinging the broadsword, but the $90-million, R-rated film flopped, taking in just $48 million at the box office.

Morgan describes himself as a “huge fan” of the Barbarian and says the first film influenced much of his screenwriting. But despite the producer’s evident zeal for his dream project, Morgan may not be the one to draft the “Legend of Conan” script in the end. Although Universal Pictures wants the movie ready for a summer 2014 release, the writer is obligated to first deliver a seventh “Fast & Furious” installment first.

“No matter what, I’ll be there every step of the way,” Morgan said. “Whether it’s penning this quickly or selecting the writer, it’s me guiding the process or being a real honest-to-god producer. I’m excited either way. I’m really, really stoked.”

–Chris Lee

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex


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10 Responses to ‘Conan’ producer: Arnold’s aging Barbarian faces self-doubt

  1. sftheory1 says:

    I'm hoping this is good. But I just have a bad feeling. Hollywood hasn't treated Robert E. Howard right when it's come to adaptations. Personally, I don't know why the Conan stories don't get the Agatha Christie treatment.

  2. Irma says:

    After the way he's treated his wife and just women in general…I would not be interested seeing him any movies…old or new!

  3. Thulsa Doom says:

    This could be great or it could be grating, it depends on both the script and director… if Morgan isn't necessarily writing the script himself, then get John Milius back to revise his 'King Conan' screenplay to everyone involved's liking, and hire someone like Paul Verhoeven to direct it; instant blood-soaked classic right there!

  4. Fxnld says:

    Yes, script by Milius and direction by Verhoeven would be a match made in heaven for this film. Or why not Clint Eastwood as director, since this is supposed to be Arnold's "Unforgiven"? At least, by Crom, get someone who will not turn this into a silly CGI-fest for the video game generation. It need the earthy, raw and grim look and feel of the first film. Somehow, I don't quite have full confidence someone who wrote four “Fast & the Furious” sequels will help deliver this… But who knows.

  5. I've been saying the exact same thing. Milius + Verhoeven + Arnold… good or bad, at the minimum it would produce something fascinating to watch.

  6. Amra says:

    Should of happened 20 years ago.

  7. Tracy says:

    Jason Momoa was a really good Conan he looked more true to the character then Arnold. His movie flopped mainly because of the big storm Irene. Jason is a really good actor.

    I use to be an Arnold fan but I'm no longer I don't care to see him in anything. But, them making him Conan at 65 is a big NO…who wants to see him in lion cloth? I saw him in Expendables 2 my first impression was why is he in this movie?

  8. Marcus says:

    This could be a great idea, if done properly. The Conan series (original stories + adaptations by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter) end with Conan being the king of Aquilonia. If he, as such, faces challenges in the form of intrigue, magic, deceit and betrayal, with the occasional sword play, that would be more interesting than mindless wholesale slaughter. The novel The Hour of the Dragon would make a great movie with an aging Conan.
    Jason Momoa did a decent job of portraying a barbarian, and he obviously had fun doing so, but he wasn't Conan. Also, the story sucked.

  9. David says:

    The Jason Momoa Conan flopped becouse the script didnt have any deapt. John Milius Conan script had deapt and that is why it didnt flopp considering it had no realy good actors except James Earl Jones in the leading roles. John Milius Conan was a drama set in a fantasy world. Jason Mamoas conan was an action movie set in a fanasy world (this becomes flat for so meny reasons).

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