Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to one 1980s-born franchise this summer with Terminator Genisys, the fifth installment overall in the Terminator movie series. Schwarzenegger is already gearing up to revisit a different role that he originated in the ’80s, with The Legend of Conan: a third chapter in the Conan the Barbarian movie continuity to feature Arnold as the eponymous Cimmerian warrior.
Legend of Conan has been in active development since 2012, but has yet to officially secure a director and/or lock down a firm production start date. However, the screenplay – penned by Chris Morgan (the Fast and the Furious series) and reportedly revised by Andrea Berloff (Straight Outta Compton) – has been finished and handed over to Universal, so it’s plausible that Legend of Conan will end up entering production not long after Schwarzenegger finishes promoting Genisys (a little later than the previously-expected Spring 2015 filming start).
The 1982 live-action Conan the Barbarian film has only given rise to one sequel to date: 1984’s Conan the Destroyer, a movie that offered a lighter, PG-Rated, fantasy adventure with Schwarzenegger’s Conan, when compared to its R-Rated predecessor. Destroyer is generally considered to be inferior of the duo nowadays (despite being a larger commercial success upon initial release), which accounts for why the writers and producers working on Legend of Conan have emphasized its connections to the 1982 Conan installment, rather than its followup.
Case in point, Morgan responded as follows, when asked by TheArnoldFans if Legend of Conan would aim for a “light-hearted” tone, along the lines of your average (non-gritty) PG-13 tentpole nowadays:
A light-hearted Conan?! CROM! No. Our tone 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.
Morgan’s words echo the sentiment previously expressed by Schwarzenegger, who in the past has said that he doesn’t view Legend of Conan as being a “B-movie or just an edgy action movie,” but rather a quality genre film. That’s also in keeping with the approach that director John Milius took with the 1982 Conan the Barbarian, which treated its (pulpy) mythology and fantasy setting with much reverence and respect – resulting in a movie that can be campy, yet never really feels tongue in cheek.
Legend of Conan, therefore, has the potential to be a respectable swords and sorcery adventure that’s intended for mature audiences, unlike the bloody-yet-hollow 2011 Conan the Barbarian reboot (starring Jason Momoa as the film’s namesake). That’s the idea behind this new installment, anyway, as Morgan said that the project is being made by people who prefer Milius’ take on Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian literature above other interpretations from the past three decades:
Milius was a visionary. And a hero of mine. He established a milieu that is stunning and violent and clear — incomparable. The goal, the dream, is to live up to his world. To make it worthy. And to expand on it in a truthful way that audiences will embrace. We’re very lucky that the architects of this new film — the writer, the producers, the studio and most of all, Arnold — who is Conan — are all first-generation fans who either worked on the film or who came along for the ride, cheering from their theater seats opening night. We plan nothing more than to immerse ourselves in the world Milius envisioned from Robert E. Howard’s unforgettable stories and Frank Frazetta’s stunning artwork. I can’t give specifics (nobody likes a spoiler!), but know we are honoring the locales, the religions and the traditions of the ’82 film.
Morgan also teased that “at least three” characters from the 1982 Conan the Barbarian will return in Legend of Conan, though he offered no hints on the subject beyond that. Right now, though, it sounds as though the highest priority for this project is to lock down a filming location (such places as Spain and Colombia have apparently been looked at recently), as well as a director to captain this ship. Once that happens, though, details on the casting process should be made available, as the project keeps on moving towards beginning principal photography later this year.
The Legend of Conan does not currently have an official release date.