Conan then and now
The Conan reboot is finally upon us, and it almost reminds me of when the original Barbarian film hit the theaters back in '82.
The fantasy/sword and sorcery genre had a brief run at the box office with films like Conan, Excalibur, The Beastmaster, along with a handful of other movies.
Conan was also a big step up for Arnold Schwarzenegger before he broke through huge as The Terminator, as well as a hit for '70's screenwriter/director John Milius, who also gave us Apocalypse Now, Big Wednesday, and Red Dawn.
The new Conan is helmed by Marcus Nispel, a former video director who started the whole horror remake conveyor belt rolling with his reboot of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. (He also remade Friday the 13th.)
Variety and The Hollywood Reporter gave completely polarized reviews of Conan, with the Reporter dubbing it "non-stop blood-and-guts action aimed at game boys and emotionally stunted lovers of adolescent fantasy," whereas Variety called the movie, "well-executed," predicting "brawny international biz, with sequels to follow."
As for the original Conan film, the first screenplay was written by Oliver Stone, and his vision of the film could have been some pretty wild sh*t if it had been made. (Stone has a screenwriting credit on the film, even though Milius said he didn't use a lot of the original script.)
In James Riordan's biography of Stone, he said, "My original draft was a $40 million dollar movie," which was a lot of money in those days. "It dealt with the takeover of the planet and the forces of life being threatened by the forces of darkness... If they'd done it my way, they would have had a Bond-type series, several pictures, which is what I wanted to do."
Riordan writes that Stone's screenplay "reads like a medieval Armageddon, complete with an enormous demonic army composed of hideously deformed mutants, half-beasts, and other marvelous creatures... Stone's screenplay is a powerful spectacle, the likes of which has still never been seen on the screen." (Milius called the script "a total drug fever dream" that wasn't shootable "but it was inspirational to read.")
Although they eventually became friends, Stone wasn't totally nuts about the Conan Milius made, even though he told John he was born to make the movie.
"He went more with the bodybuilding aspect of Schwarzenegger, whereas I thought Arnold had a more romantic side...." Stone also envisioned the film being shot in Russia, and wanted the Russian army to be in the film as warriors.
Before he became the Governator, Arnold was also going do one more Conan flick, with a script by Milius, and it was going to be produced by the Wachowski Brothers, "but they decided they were too cool for this world," Milius says. "That was a terrific script, and we stole a lot of stuff out of it and put it in (the HBO series) Rome."