Conan News Roundup: Cameras, Twitter, Momoa interview, 1982 Blu-Ray cover & UK release

Apologies to everyone for not getting on top of things: I was at the inaugural Kapow! Comic Con, hoping for any Conan or Robert E. Howard related news. Nothing on that front, sadly, and I missed a few bits and pieces over the weekend. No matter, let’s get back on track.

Let’s start off with minor, but nonetheless interesting news from Kodak regarding the filming equipment used on the upcoming film, and some info on certain scenes in the film (which includes spoilers, be warned):

Nu Image/Millennium Films have collaborated with Lionsgate to bring an $85 million 3-D adaptation of Conan to the big screen. Screenwriters Joshua Oppenheimer and Thomas Donnelly went to great lengths to explore Robert E. Howard’s fantasy character and his origins, and the film was seven years in development. The blockbuster was shot on stages at Nu Boyana Studios in Sofia and at locations around Bulgaria, and opens at Conan’s birth on the battlefield.

Director Marcus Nispel, noted for his remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th, had worked with director of photography Thomas Kloss on commercials for 15 years. “In terms of communication, it was not difficult to come up with an appropriate visual approach for Conan,” says Kloss. “Marcus gave me an overall idea of what he wanted – which was a visceral masculine look. I just had to maintain it.”

Kloss had used Kodak stocks since he began shooting in the 1980s, with “very consistent results.” Lacking the time to do exposure tests on Conan, he relied on past experience. “We needed two compatible stocks, so I compared the contrast levels of KODAK VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219 and KODAK VISION2 100T Color Negative Film 5212. In particular, I tested their handling of overexposures and they were very reliable,” he says.

The 11-week shoot proved exceptionally demanding. “It rained constantly for three weeks when we shot the opening village sequence before Conan’s father is killed.

The eight-and-a-half acre site was awash and we were up to our knees in mud. It was like shooting in a war zone. Then we had to tackle actor availability, hundreds of extras, animals, fire, explosions arrows and three or four cameras. It’s a miracle that we captured anything, yet the sequence looks interesting and authentic. The demands the shoot made on everyone are hard to describe, but it’s a good statement why action movies should be shot on film. There’s no way we could have shot in digital format under such circumstances.”

KODAK Cinelabs Bulgaria supplied and processed the film stock. “A couple of alternative resources were suggested to me for the telecine, but we decided to do the transfer at KCB,” states Kloss. “Manager Margarita Petrova and her staff did an excellent job developing the negative and, once they understood what I wanted in terms of the look, the dailies were consistent. I asked them about the density of the negative on a day-to-day basis and adjusted my lighting to the circumstances because I didn’t have time to dial in on location. It turned into a good experience because everyone was so helpful and constantly available for dialogue with us.”

Company 3 in Los Angeles is handling the SFX and scanning for D.I., and colourist Rob Sciarrata is doing colour correction. “Company 3 is one of the best companies in the world for that kind of work,” states the DP.

Kloss proposed a post 3-D conversion to give the movie a cinematic look on film. “Now all the big studio projects agree that 3-D is cheaper and better looking in a post 3-D approach,” he says.

Evan Jacobs, Stereoscopic Supervisor for Conan, comments that “the tight grain structure of KODAK VISION stocks has been really beneficial in the 3-D conversion work, the speed and quality of which is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was just a year ago. We’ve engaged several top-tier conversion companies to work on Conan, each with its own unique approach to the process. By splitting the work, we’re able to apply the best solution to the challenges posed by each sequence in the film.”

Conan is due to be released during the summer.

You’ll have to forgive me for snorting derisively at the mention of Donnelly & Oppenheimer going to “great lengths to explore Robert E. Howard’s fantasy character and his origins,” as well as note that this film wasn’t seven years in development, but rather the latest in a string of stopped-and-restarted projects. Nonetheless, for those wanting a more technically-minded preview of the film, it’s a good read.

Twitter news now, and it seems that everyone’s utilizing the communication platform. Lionsgate are in on the action, by positing the following riddle to the Twittersphere:

Robert E. Howard’s CONAN THE BARBARIAN character has been called both an anti-hero and an “amoral swordsman.” Do you agree with either?

(For the record, my conclusions would be “Conan fits only a certain definition of the term anti-hero,” and “Conan’s morality is too complex to easily categorize as amoral, immoral or moral.” Complex questions require complex answers.) If you’re on Twitter, feel free to respond with your own takes.

Fandango Movies provided a new interview with Jason Momoa from Cinecon:

So this is really your first big film role, and you’re taking over from someone that’s pretty iconic – The Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger. So what does that feel like? Are you feeling a little pressure, or are you excited?

I’m excited! It’s an honor! I mean, I love Arnold, I love his movies, and it’s an absolute honour to take on those shoes. Having said that, the stories that I loved when I was a child, Robert E. Howard stories, it’s like to retell those, and just to reboot this franchise, it’s exciting. Much in the sense of James Bond or Batman, it’s really, there’s a generation out there, it came out in 82, it’s time for another generation to see it. It’s an honour to be that guy.

Yeah, definitely. So the first one was kind of campy. Is this just a complete reinvention or did you keep a little bit of that?

No! No! Like I said, it’s totally re imagining and rebooting the whole franchise. Um, I don’t want to sound bad but I haven’t seen it! It came out in 82, when I was 3 years old. And I’ve never played a character, that I was going to play, that has already been played. So, as an actor you want to build the character from the ground up. You don’t want to be influenced by anything. You want to be influenced by the source material, the paintings… There’s such a richness.

There’s so many different fans. There’s the Arnold fans, the Robert E. Howard fans, the Frank Frazetta fans. So it’s like, there are big shoes to fill – but as an actor, I wanted my imagination and what I was hired for: to build and train to get to this character. I look forward to seeing that, but I want to see mine first.

I just got to see a little bit of the 3D today and I was like, absolutely… I was stunned. It was stunning. I’m really excited to see it because I’m like fighting imaginary characters and the next thing you know, I’m like hucking myself into a stairwell! Now theres like a giant lizard, monster, kraken that’s doing it. And it looks real! It’s gonna be amazing.

So I’ve seen some of the pictures of this film, and… do you ever wear a shirt in this film, or is it pretty much shirtless?

I wear a cape, you know, I’m like half-breasted sometimes, one boob’s covered, the other one’s open, but you know…

Think the ladies are gonna like it?

… Eh, you know. I’ll tell you what, it’s something more breatheable, it’s nice being a little loose.

Wow, so Jason hasn’t seen the 1982 film? Jings, that won’t sit well with some fans.

Speaking of the 1982 film, the fantastic Anastasia of the Robert E. Howard Forums alerts us of the upcoming Blu-Ray release for the classic film appearing on Amazon UK, where it is announced to be released on 11th July 2011. We are also provided with the official artwork:

I gotta say, I’m not feeling this one at all. It reminds me more of Sin City, Pathfinder, or one of the innumerable Fast & Furious/Crank/Pick-Any-Generic-Action-Movie DVDs than it does the 1982 film. It just seems they’ve sacrificed the iconic art design of the film with a bland, blue, dull replacement. Ah well.