This Friday's The Last Stand ushers in a new wave of what may-or-may-not be successful Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, but the upcoming title that has geeks of all shades curious (us included) is The Legend of Conan.
Arnold received fan questions about the Conan the Barbarian trilogy finale (ignoring the woebegone 3D reboot) at an early Last Stand screening. He discussed such topics as his longtime attempts to get the ball rolling on Legend of Conan and plans to recruit "A-list" creative personnel, as well as when (and where) production may be getting underway.
Here is what Arnold said about development on Legend of Conan (via AICN):
"Well, Universal Studios has for the first time, six months ago, expressed interest... even though I've now asked for the last ten years to get serious about the Conan series and not look at it as a B-movie or just an edgy action movie but as any quality movie and hire the best directors and the best writers."
A sequel to Conan the Destroyer (titled Conan the Conqueror) was planned back in the 1980s, but Schwarzenegger's commitment to Predator - coupled with the Red Sonja spinoff tanking - left the movie dead in the water. Lionsgate attempted to wipe the slate clean and start over with a 3D Conan the Barbarian in 2011, but director Marcus Nispel's film - whether you love it or hate it - doesn't aspire to be a high-minded epic treatment of its pulpy sword-and-sorcery inspiration (unlike director John Milius and co-writer Oliver Stone's 1982 film).
Schwarzenegger's promises that won't happen with Legend of Conan and says its themes and story (where an elderly Conan wrestles with his own mortality) will be given the respect and grandiose vision it deserves:
"[The current Universal heads] said, 'You're absolutely right. The previous regime has missed the boat here. We want to pick it up. We're going to buy the rights and we're going to be serious about it and make a quality film with an A-director and with A-writers and so on. And we want you to participate in this. We want you to star and you to play Conan. We're going to take a story where Conan is at that age so it's totally believable and you're not looking like a 30-year old action guy.'"
Screenwriter Chris Morgan (Fast and the Furious 3-6, 47 Ronin) may end up both scripting Legend of Conan and producing the film - drawing from his story - but there's no indication yet as to whom Universal is considering to direct. It probably goes without saying that a prestigious name (like an Oscar-winner or nominee) is something of a long shot, but someone above Nispel's level of "accomplishment" (his credits include Platinum Dunes' Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes) is both desirable and fitting.
Production on Legend of Conan could take place in New Zealand; or, as Arnold calls it, "Jackson's country" (in reference to Lord of the Rings and Hobbit director Peter Jackson, of course). The majestic landscapes of that country could easily do justice by Conan creator Robert E. Howard's savage Hyboria if photographed appropriately (a la Jackson's Middle-earth). Not to mention, it reflects its protagonist: an old and deteriorating, but nonetheless one-of-a-kind warrior seeking one last hurrah before his reign ends (hence, Arnold makes for very meta-casting).
Lastly, Universal is fast-tracking The Legend of Conan to begin shooting before the end of 2013. A Summer 2014 release date is (technically) still feasible, but the studio heads are probably already looking ahead to 2015 instead. As always, we'll keep you posted.