Arnold Schwarzenegger is set to make his next non-“Expendables” franchise return to the big screen on July 1st with “Terminator: Genisys.” However, before the future Governator ever went back in time to kill Sarah Connor, he hefted a great sword in another epic ’80s — and later — franchise. That series, of course, is “Conan,” and it all began with 1982’s “Conan the Barbarian.” (Interesting side note — the first “Conan” film fared better at the box office than the first “Terminator” flick…and also the last “Expendables” outing.)
Schwarzenegger’s first big franchise role — and the one that really catapulted him to wide renown (yes, “Hercules in New York,” I know) — Conan was and is a muscle-bound, sword-toting fantasy hero created by Robert E. Howard in the early 1930s. Schwarzenegger was unfamiliar with the character when producers Edward Summer and Edward R. Pressman first approached him about the film, but he admits he was “fascinated” by Conan and “fell in love with the project.” He continues, “but then, of course, it was a long road from 1977 to the time we actually rolled the camera.” So what happened in the intervening years? This fascinating, 3-part, nearly 45-minute documentary from 2000, “Conan the Barbarian: Unchained,” reveals the film’s journey from pulp comic pages to the cineplex.
As Pressman recalls in the documentary, Summer and Marvel Comics writer Roy Thomas penned the first draft of the script. However, despite their commendable effort, it was Oliver Stone’s draft that really got the movie on its feet. It might sound crazy, but Stone used the as-of-yet unproduced script for “Platoon” as a sample to land writing work on “Conan.” (I love “Conan, “but let that sink in for a second.) Stone’s take on the character and, even more so, the franchise’s direction is utterly mind-blowing. “I always thought there would be like 12 movies. But unfortunately, I feel the producers of the movie misunderstood the real goal, and that they sold it short. Arnold should have come back every year or two years, like James Bond, and done one.” How nuts (in an awesome way) might that have been? Stone viewed the film as the first of a dozen installments, all starring Schwarzenegger, which might have carried the series into the 2000s with little interruption
Not only that, but Stone even came close to co-directing the film. The producers considered pairing Stone with production designer Joe Alves, who by then had worked on both “Jaws” films, as well as “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Alves would have served as Stone’s special effects co-director. Oh the things that could have been…
Of course, the incomparable John Milius ultimately did rewrites to the script and directed the picture. Milius knew nothing about Conan — the character, the comics, the movie, anything — until Dino De Laurentiis (who felt the material was too violent for his own tastes, but had “a great script”) and the other producers brought him on board.
And that’s barely the beginning.
Check out all three portions of the documentary below. [via The Projection Booth]