I grew up loving Robert E. Howard. Through Howard, I discovered the joy of pulp literature. The translation of his work onto the big screen has been a rocky one. The tendency to turn his material into high camp has led to some unfortunate cinematic travesties. But the one that virtually everyone agrees is the best Howard adaptation was CONAN THE BARBARIAN, directed by John Milius back in 1982. The film was a watershed moment. Not only is it now known as one of the great fantasy films of the genre’s golden year, it also shot lead actor Arnold Schwarzenegger to stardom.
Now, after many years, the impossible seems to have happened. Schwarzenegger looks to play the character once again for Universal Pictures in THE LEGEND OF CONAN.
Deadline reports that the new film will be produced by Frederik Malmberg and Chris Morgan, with Morgan writing the script. It will be a direct continuation of the 1982 film, regarding Conan at the end of his life, long after he has become king. It will ignore the continuity of 1984’s CONAN THE DESTROYER as well as last year’s film starring Jason Momoa.
“The original ended with Arnold on the throne as a seasoned warrior, and this is the take of the film we will make,” Malmberg said. “It’s that Nordic Viking mythic guy who has played the role of king, warrior, soldier and mercenary, and who has bedded more women than anyone, nearing the last cycle of his life. He knows he’ll be going to Valhalla, and wants to go out with a good battle.”
Easy to forget with films like DESTROYER, RED SONJA or even KULL THE CONQUEROR, but Howard always took his characters very seriously. Those characters were very sternly adapted in the dark, brooding 1982 film.
“After the original seminal movie, all that came after looked silly to me,” Morgan said. “Robert E. Howard’s mythology and some great philosophy from Nietzsche to Atilla the Hun was layered in the original film. People say, he didn’t speak for the first 20 minutes of the film, but that was calculated in depicting this man who takes control of life with his own hand. This movie picks up Conan where Arnold is now in his life, and we will be able to use the fact that he has aged in this story. I love the property of CONAN so much that I wouldn’t touch it unless we came up with something worthy. We think this is a worthy successor to the original film. Think of this as Conan’s UNFORGIVEN.”
Universal would like to get the film in theatres by 2014, which would mean Martin would have to split writing duties between this and the seventh FAST AND THE FURIOUS film. Hopefully, he’ll be able to pull it off. Regardless, it appears that Schwarzenegger is on board.
“I always loved the Conan character and I’m honored to be asked to step into the role once again,” Schwarzenegger said. “I can’t wait to work with Universal and the great team of Fredrik Malmberg and Chris Morgan to develop the next step of this truly epic story.”
On a personal note, this is the most excited I’ve been about an upcoming film in a very, very long time.