Know, O prince, that between the years of 1982 and 1984 a man named Schwarzenegger assumed the role of Conan, a mighty hero from Robert E. Howard pulp tales of yore. Blonde-haired, sullen eyed, cigar in hand, a bodybuilder, an actor, a recording artist, a governor, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, Schwarzenegger long talked of returning to the part. Now that talk seems to be inching closer toward reality. Producer Frederik Malmberg and co-writer/producer Chris Morgan—best known for his work on the Fast And Furious films—gave interviews with the Arnold Schwarzenegger fan site TheArnoldFans over the weekend that revealed a few details about the proposed film, The Legend Of Conan.
Emphasis on a few: The main nugget here is that, per Morgan, “at least three” characters will return from the 1982 film Conan The Barbarian. But what’s most notable about the conversations is how often that movie and its director, John Milius, come up. “Our tone,” Morgan says, “is a logical extension of the character established in the ’82 film… but 30 years later. When we meet him again, Conan has been many things over the course of his life—a thief, a warrior, a pirate, a king, a legend—and is now an older man. Think Unforgiven…with a sword-wielding barbarian.”
I’m thinking about that right now. And liking it. In fact, Morgan seems to be describing the movie a lot of fans of Conan The Barbarian—and Milius, and Howard—have been wanting to see for years: A hard-edged fantasy film in a world as thought-through and fascinating as the one Milius brought to the screen in 1982. In other words, forgot about the weak sauce that was Conan The Destroyer and the unfortunate sidetrack of the Jason Momoa-starring 2011 Conan The Barbarian.
The real-world parallels should make it interesting too: Like Conan, Schwarzenegger has spent the years between as a ruler and can convey the weariness that comes from presiding over any political body, be it the state of California or a quasi-medieval feudal kingdom filled with scantily clad temptresses and deadly beasts. Though signing on for another Conan film is in some ways a retreat to a past success, it could also allow Schwarzenegger to continue to use his advancing age to expand his acting range.
The only shame—with all due respect to Morgan, Malmberg, and whatever yet-to-be-named director takes on the project— is that Milius, who has suffered ill health in recent years, doesn’t seem to be involved. When recording their audio commentary for Conan The Barbarian in the late ’90s, Schwarzenegger and Milius ended the conversation by expressing a mutual a desire to return to the character, last seen in that movie’s coda as a bearded, middle-aged man atop a throne. Working from a script by Oliver Stone, the film provided Milius with an ideal outlet for his brutal, poetic notions of how the world works. “The goal, the dream,” Morgan says, “is to live up to his world. To make it worthy. And to expand on it in a truthful way that audiences will embrace.” Doing so without Milius is a task that might make even Conan wince in fear.