News roundup: prequels, Leo, Director of Photography, Rachel Nichols, Rose McGowan, Conan pronunciation, and Ronal

There were a couple of articles I neglected to post back in June, so I’ve included them in this roundup, as well as some pictures of Rachel Nichols making funny faces. Gotta have some pictures to spice up the blog, right?

USA Today has an article on prequels, discussing the matter of origin stories. One of the films brought up, of course, is Conan the Barbarian:

Fans who are familiar with source material are a key to an effective origins story, says Jason Momoa, star of the new Conan the Barbarian, out Aug. 19.
“Some people just think of Arnold Schwarzenegger when they think of Conan,” Momoa says. “But fans know people have been writing that story for years and years,” dating to Robert Howard’s 1932 tale.
“If you take the source material seriously, really do your homework, you can find a lot of great stories,” he says. Origins stories “can be freeing, really.”

I’m presuming that’s USA Today alleging that Conan the Barbarian is in any way related to Howard’s “1932 tale,” which is exactly the sort of misconception the film’s up against in the first place. Jason’s assertion that fans familiar with the source material are key to this is intriguing, considering that those same fans have been so resoundingly critical of the direction and implementation of that very origin story. But at the same time, those fans would undoubtedly get a lot more out of the references to, say, “The Tower of the Elephant,” “The Scarlet Citadel” and “Queen of the Black Coast” than the average cinemagoer. Hmm.

Leo Howard gave an interview with NCTimes.com. Leo doesn’t speak much about Conan, but it provides a bit of background information for the actor himself. In addition, WilliamColePhoto.com has a gallery of high octane action photos of the lad.

The Director of Photography Thomas Kloss has added Conan to his resume, so if you want to check out his previous work, here it is:

Features
“Conan the Barbarian”
Commercials
Samsung
Tommy Hilfiger
F.E.A.R 3
Desperate Housewives Promo (Red Camera)
L’Oreal – Eva Longoria (Arri Alexa)
Garnier
“500 Days of Summer” Promo
Marathon Gas
Music Videos
Lady Gaga “Bad Romance”
All American Rejects “The Wind Blows” (Red Camera)
Pussycat Dolls & A.R. Rahman “Jai Ho”
Britney Spears “Circus” (’09 MTV VMA Best Cinematography Nominee)

In more recent news, Rachel Nichols had an interview/photo shoot with Maxim, pages of which are up here. She doesn’t speak much about Conan – most of it is her pretty much playing up to the “unbelievably hot, unbelievably high maintenance” aura as she answers questions about life, men and modelling, as seems to be all Maxim’s really interested in – but she does have this:

It’s rare for an actress to embrace both ends of the nerd spectrum. On the Wrath of Khan-quoting side, Rachel Nichols played the famous Green Girl from J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek Reboot. Three years later she’s donning robes and sandals as the love interest in Conan the Barbarian. Sci-fi and swords and sorcery? Yes, Rachel may be the ultimate fantasy girl.

You’re a hot warrior monk in Conan, and you’ve played various other ass-kicking roles. What’s up with all the violence?
I wasn’t always as ass-kicking and gym-going. Because I was in Alias and G.I. Joe, I started training. Alias was very action-packed. G.I. Joe and Conan were very action-packed. It’s been established that I can do action, which is great, but now I may just want to make out with a really hot guy.

I love how Jesse Brukman can’t even remember her character’s name in Star Trek

That said, an interview with Maxim.com sheds more light, and she explains a bit about her casting and filming experience:

I actually learned about the role in the film – I met Marcus Nispel, who directed the film, in December, and sat down with him, and had a great time, talked with him about Nu Image. I really liked him, I thought he was very smart, knew the franchise, knew the role. Then I actually went in and I tested with Jason, who plays Conan, and adored him. He’s great! He’s obviously very good-looking and charming and all that stuff, but he’s this gentle giant, and it really came across that we immediately had chemistry. And then three weeks later I got the offer, and then very shortly after that I was flying to Bulgaria for three months.

We shot Conan for three months, in Bulgaria, but we had a great time. There was a lot of fun stunts, and I learned how to ride horses – I’ve never actually ridden a horse before, properly, so I had to learn how to ride horses – lots of swordplay, you know, we had a really great time. What happens when you’re in that kind of situation is it’s like summer camp, and you all become really close really quickly: luckily we all did, and everything went off without a hitch.

Fellow Conan cast member Rose McGowan has quite a few interviews up. The first is with Total Film:

Total Film recently caught up with Rose McGowan, who told us all about Conan The Barbarian and her stalled Barbarella reboot.

On her frightful Conan character, half-woman, half-witch Marique, she said: “I think she’s quite majestic… She is a bit startling at first but I think she’s quite beautiful in her own way.”

Comparing her co-star Jason Momoa to original Conan Arnold Schwarzenegger, McGowan told us: “Arnold is very muscular, but Jason is a beautiful man. His muscles are very different – of the non-steroidal variety.

“If you go back and watch the Schwarzenegger one, he can barely pass his sword from one hand to the other, because he’s so bulky.”

I felt a great disturbance in the force… as if millions of fanboys suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced… Joking aside, the actress reveals something (via ContactMusic.com) that might be quite revealing about her character, Marique:

Actress Rose Mcgowan is thrilled to be back on a movie set after taking a two-year hiatus to mourn her father’s death and the end of her romance with moviemaker fiance Robert Rodriguez.

The Grindhouse star will play a villainness in the new Conan The Barbarian remake, and she admits its great to be back in the make-up chair after a couple of tough, emotional years.

She explains, “I took two years off because my father died. I pulled out of three films to deal with it.”

But she can’t wait for fans to see her big comeback in Conan: “I am so impressed by how insane and magnificent I look in the film. I was in prosthetics for five hours each day.

“The whole project was otherworldly and beautiful, and I really loved what was being created. It was nice to feel that way.”

It’s very interesting to me that one of the first roles McGowan took after the death of her father was one in which a complicated father-daughter relationship is such a strong aspect. I have to wonder how much of her own experiences she’ll be taking into her role, and whether that could bring something unique and uncommonly affecting to her performance.

I’d already spoken about how this film finally seems to be pronouncing Conan right, and here, we find Conan himself Jason Momoa is emphasising that point in an interview back at CinemaCon:

Conan – and we really had a lot of people going “It’s co-NAN” – but it’s CO-n’n. It’s CO-n’n. Thanks for asking that question, though. Yeah, CO-n’n.

It was an amazing experience. You know, I’ve been working in this business about 12 years, I’ve never experienced anything – I was the lead role, doing the fights, and just the training alone, I’ve never done that in my own personal life – so, really, to take on the body, physicality, the mentality to be Conan, was quite a feat in itself. It was amazing, it’s the first time I’ve ever had to stretch myself so far. It was really an honour.

Not really about “more dialogue,” more in a sense of how I had to transform myself to play the role. I’m not normally going around decapitating people’s heads and raping women. But you know, I had to learn how to do it! It is (a required skill), but my wife always smacks me for it!

More on the filmmaking side of things is Sean Hood, who returns to Quora (cross-posting with his personal blog Genre Hacks) with the answer to a question regarding dealing with criticism. He discusses his own projects, with the surprising admission that most criticisms of his past products were accurate, and discussing his own expectations regarding the upcoming Conan film:

For my upcoming film Conan the Barbarian, I fully expect to get some bad reviews. Because of nature of character and people’s preconceived notions, disappointing certain fans and reviewers will be inevitable. The “bad reviews” will come from three camps:

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger/John Milius fans. Many people simply cannot see anyone but Arnold as Conan, they see John Milius’s film as a brooding, philosophical masterpiece, and they will hate any effort to “reboot” the franchise.
  • Robert E. Howard Purists. – After writing the new Conan, I’ve had a chance to interact with fans of pulp writer and Conan creator Robert E. Howard on websites like http://www.conanmovieblog.com. These fans are, generally speaking, highly literate, highly opinionated, and passionately devoted to the source material. Many of them will simply not accept any movie that does not adapt a REH story as faithfully as was the Lord of The Rings trilogy or the Harry Potter series. Bad reviews from this camp will sting the most, because I count myself as a REH fan myself.
  • Genre Haters – It should be no surprise to anyone that the new Conan The Barbarian 3D is an action packed, violent, fantasy film with few pretensions of radical originality or sophisticated narrative complexity. Ironically, by celebrating some of the most well-known elements of the boy’s pulp magazine stories (which REH fans will love), we will no doubt be scoffed at by reviewers like Anthony Lane. It’s a movie filled with “blood and boobs,” and many reviewers will roll their eyes and look down their noses. Lines like “I live, I love, I slay, I am content” will excite fans of the original stories and fans of the genre, but it will make others gag.

That said, I fully expect Conan to be hit, popular with moviegoers who are in the mood to see barbarian savant Jason Momoa take on warlords, witches, Lovecraftian monsters, and nubile sword girls in scanty armor.

So ultimately, I just ignore bad reviews and focus on my craft. I had enormous fun working on Conan, and I’ve got a very thick skin. I’m confident enough in my own work to know that I write well, and I’ve accepted the fact that the filmmaking process is collaborative, frustrating, and often unfair: setting up the screenwriter to take the fall. That’s okay. I can take the heat. It’s worth it.

Ultimately, I get hired again and again to write movies based on the screenplays I’ve written that have gone unproduced. These scripts often get rave “reviews” from the executives and producers who read them, along with condolences, “too bad that didn’t get made. It’s just fantastic, but female leads, dramas and period films are just hard. They don’t make their money back. But, we love your writing and we’d like to hire you to write Children of The Corn Part 36.”

I have no delusions that I’m a screenwriting genius. I’m a “genre hack” (as chronicled in my blog genrehacks.com) and I’m an artsy, eccentric indie filmmaker. But when given the opportunity, I write well structured stories with complex characters who make surprising choices. What “bad reviews” remind me of, is that I rarely get the opportunity.

To snarky and clever professional reviews, I say stop shooting fish in a barrel, and go find well written, but smaller, films and direct people to see them. To jaded, cynical fan boys, I say stop rewarding “formulaic” films by buying tickets to see them, and ignoring films that are far better. Search out and find those ambitious and well-written movies that may not have a big star or swollen digital effects budget.

Screenwriters want to get original, ambitious, and entertaining movies up on the screen. Help us do that! This is what I think about when I get bad reviews.

(Cheers for the plug, Sean!)

Finally, a bit of somewhat Conan-related fun, starring previous Conan cinematic alumnus Sven-Ole Thorsen and Red Sonja herself Brigitte Nielsen, in the upcoming Swedish parody Ronal the Barbarian. Tons of links all over the ‘net for this one, including a motion poster, dealing with international profanity mores and concept art.

Reminds me somewhat of Tim Schafer’s Brütal Legend mixed with Heavy Metal.

That’s all, folks! Rachel?