Despite years of Arnold Schwarzenegger teasing his return to the Conan the Barbarian franchise with The Legend of Conan, it appears that the project is dead in the water for now. Schwarzenegger first broke out as an actor playing the iconic warrior (a character created by pulp literature writer Robert E. Howard) on the big screen, in director John Milius' 1982 fantasy adventure Conan the Barbarian. The 1984 sequel Conan the Destroyer saw Schwarzenegger reprise his role as Conan, but a third installment failed to materialize and the Conan film series was eventually rebooted in 2011; with Aquaman/Khal Drogo himself, Jason Momoa playing the famous barbarian.
A few different writers have worked on The Legend of Conan at this stage, including Will Beall (who is co-writing Momoa's Aquaman solo movie, as it were) and longtime Fast & Furious franchise writer, Chris Morgan. The plan was for Legend of Conan to unfold as a continuation of Milus' 1982 Conan film in story and spirit, while mostly ignoring the events of the less well-received Conan the Destroyer. However, according to Morgan, the project in that form has slid off the rails.
Speaking to EW during a larger interview focused on next week's release of The Fate of the Furious (the eighth Fast & Furious movie overall), Morgan offered the following response - when asked if he had any updates on The Legend of Conan:
Not so much. That’s kind of a longer story. At the end of the day, the studio decided that they weren’t gonna make that. I gotta say, it’s honestly a heartbreak. I love that first movie so much, so much, it’s one of my favorite movies. We had Will Beall do a draft on [the Legend of Conan script]. He killed it. Our take was Conan, 30 years later, a story like the Clint Eastwood Unforgiven. It was so awesome. Ultimately, the budget was big, the studio was not really sure of the title, and the relevance in the marketplace. They ended up letting it go. I think they’re gonna look to do a TV show or something with it. But just to be associated with it, pitch it to Arnold, have him get so excited, there was a moment of magic for me, personally [laughs]. You never know, down the road we may revisit!
There were once reports that Legend of Conan could start a shared universe based around characters from Howard's source material, in addition to bringing Schwarzenegger back to one of his film career-making roles. However, given the lack of meaningful updates on Legend of Conan over the past year, it doesn't come as a surprise to hear Morgan confirm that Universal Pictures' initial plans for the Conan property have been abandoned. It also sounds as though Schwarzenegger's recent allusions to Legend of Conan being in active development (which he made when teasing his return to the Terminator franchise) are more wishful thinking than anything else.
Fans of Milius' Conan the Barbarian will no doubt be disappointed by the news, not least of all because Legend of Conan promised to deliver the "King Conan" story that so many had been wanting to see. While Morgan compares the vision for the movie to Unforgiven, one imagines that Legend of Conan could have served as the bloody and violent, yet poignant final chapter in the tale of Schwarzenegger's Conan the Barbarian, much like last month's Logan did for Hugh Jackman's Wolverine. At the same time, between the commercial under-performance of both Schwarzenegger's most recent starring vehicles and the 2011 Conan franchise reboot, one understands why Universal would be dubious about Legend of Conan's "relevance" in the current film marketplace.
We will bring you more Conan the Barbarian/Legend of Conan-related updates as they come our way.