Once he left the governor’s office Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t waste any time getting back to his big screen action roots, lining up one high-profile star gig after another. A return to the Terminator series has been rumored for a while now, but the prospect of seeing the Austrian Oak donning shades, a shotgun, and biker duds to battle evil robots at his age doesn’t particularly excite me. If you need proof as to why I feel that way, you obviously haven’t seen Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
But I know I’m not alone in possessing a long-held desire to see Schwarzenegger return to the iconic role that launched his career as a cinematic action hero in 1982’s fantasy-adventure classic Conan the Barbarian. John Milius wrote and directed the feature (with contributions from future rabble-rousing filmmaker Oliver Stone) with the intention of making a trilogy of grand epics revolving around Robert E. Howard‘s legendary thief, warrior, and king. Sadly though those intentions went unrealized as Milius was elbowed out of the series following the release of the first film when producer Dino De Laurentiis decided to go a more family-friendly route for the PG-rated 1984 sequel Conan the Destroyer. That movie was derided as meager Saturday afternoon entertainment for kids by fans of the original and longtime followers of the character’s brawny pulp exploits. Despite an attempt by Milius to revive the franchise in the 90’s with a script entitled King Conan: Crown of Iron, the series would lay dormant for nearly three decades. A CGI-enhanced 3D reboot of the series directed by Marcus Nispel bombed at the box office in August 2011.
Well you can’t keep a good Cimmerian down for long. Conan endured the Wheel of Pain, so navigating the savage circles of Tinseltown is comparatively a cinch. And by Crom it looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger is angling to take up the mighty sword and strike some iconic poses for the first time since 1984 in Universal Pictures’ just-announced reboot The Legend of Conan. According to Mike Fleming at Deadline, the new feature will be produced by Fredrik Malmberg, the CEO of Paradox Entertainment, and Chris Morgan, the screenwriter of the last four entries in the Fast and the Furious franchise as well as Wanted and the forthcoming 47 Ronin. The Legend of Conan will ignore the 2011 movie and Conan the Destroyer and serve as a direct sequel to Conan the Barbarian.
Schwarzenegger said of the new Conan movie in a statement, “I always loved the Conan character and I’m honored to be asked to step into the role once again. 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.” Discussing the project with Fleming, producer Malmberg outlined the direction Legend will take for the Conan character:
“The original ended with Arnold on the throne as a seasoned warrior, and this is the take of the film we will make. 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.”
Morgan also offered up his hopes and ambitions for The Legend of Conan:
“After the original seminal movie, all that came after looked silly to me. 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 is hoping to have The Legend of Conan ready for release in the summer of 2014 and although Morgan is also contracted to write the seventh Fast and the Furious movie before then, mounting a new Conan feature film is something of a lifelong dream for the writer-producer. Another question mark surrounding the movie is whether or not it will go for an R rating much as the original did. The source material isn’t exactly kid friendly and no matter what rating Legend ends up with, Morgan insists it will stay true to the character’s dark origins as set forth in the classic Robert Howard stories and the 1982 John Milius film:
“I loved the choices they made in that film. You start with the wholesale slaughter and death of Conan’s village at the hand of the warlord played by James Earl Jones, and you see young Conan chained to a wheel as he becomes stronger. Then he’s a pit fighter, and later basically a stud bull before he meets the first kind person of his life, who lets him go. All of that horrific stuff happened for a reason, and then an act of kindness sends him on his journey. Will that level of violence be there? Absolutely, but only if it serves a character who lives by that barbarian law of the wild, who is capable of extreme violence and rage, but who has created his own code and operates from within it. By the end of that film, Conan became a certain character, and this film picks him up there, as he faces different challenges that include dealing with age.”
A return to the world of Conan the Barbarian seems like a perfect career choice for Schwarzenegger: he’s still got the warrior’s physique and his weathered face that betrays a thousand lifetimes of memorable and life-altering experiences is ideal for an adventurer in the twilight of his life. I doubt the Governator will be baring his torso as much this time as he did in his younger days, but it won’t matter much. Just give the guy a great sword and let him kick some ass again, and most importantly let it be as gloriously lusty and violent and jaw-dropping as the material demands.
Sadly composer Basil Poledouris is no longer with us, so I highly doubt Conan’s return to the screen will have as mighty and powerful a theme as this: