Rose McGowan says she can’t wait to wear the chain mail bikini of Red Sonja, the barbarian queen. Why? "The suffragettes would have loved her. She would only be with a man if he had bested her with the sword first. That was a pretty feminist statement … well, as far as comic books go back then."
McGowan said she had a "very depressing year" seeking a challenging, nuanced role in Hollywood when most movies present women "not even as straight man, they’re the straight man to the straight man." When a script came her way reviving the Marvel Comics character who first appeared in "Conan the Barbarian" under writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith (drawing, of course, on the work of pulp icon Robert E. Howard) she was intrigued. She showed it to her boyfriend, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, and asked if he had ever heard of the character.
And, of course, Rodriguez turned out to be a rabid fan of the Marvel Conan comics and Sonja as well. "I learned to draw by tracing the art in ‘Savage Sword of Conan,’ John Buscema and all of that. They led back to the books by Howard and loved him, partly because he was the weird guy from Texas like me." The two of them told me all of this on Thursday as they relaxed in a (relatively) quiet corner of Comic-Con after their panel on "Red Sonja." The wide-eyed pair had just bumped into Stan Lee (McGowan: "Wow, he is a salesman") and seemed charmed and a bit overwhelmed by the whole day. "I’m a novice but I love it," McGowan said as Rodriguez nodded.
Red Sonja hit the screen back in 1985 when it was the towering Brigitte Nielsen from Denmark swinging the sword with a certain California governor along for the fun. This new "Red Sonja" sounds as if will have some of the hyper-reality of films like "300" and Rodriguez’s own "Sin City." The movie isn’t until 2010 but Rodriguez said they would be back next year with a full-on presentation. The curvy McGowan said the costume will be a big hit. "It’s, uh, very visually impactful. Sonja lived in a time when men, if they saw a woman with a sword, wouldn’t think twice about killing her. She needs any edge or distraction she can get. The costume gives her that."
One last thing: Will the name "Conan" be mentioned in this film? "I can’t tell you that," Rodriguez said. "The reason i can’t tell you is I don’t know yet."
– Geoff Boucher
Image of Red Sonja courtesy of Nu Image/Millennium Films