Who’re they going to cast as the muscle-bound king?
The hype for the release of Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures was enormous, and at Ten Ton Hammer we saw a huge influx of new faces as the game neared its scheduled publication date. Over the last few years, the popularity of Conan has continued to rise as Dark Horse released a new comic book series, a new set of novels based on the Age of Conan mythos was released, and a single player Conan game hit stores. But the one thing that hasn’t occurred as of yet is the release of a brand new Conan film. As enormous fans of the franchise, the Ten Ton Hammer staff took some time to track down Fredrik Malmberg, the president and CEO of Paradox Entertainment (the company that controls the rights to the Conan Properties) and talked with Fredrik about the latest attempt at a Conan movie and how it might be tied in with the Age of Conan MMORPG.
Ten Ton Hammer: Conan comics and games have seen a great resurgence in recent years, is this what lead to the property now being re-introduced on film?
Fredrik Malmberg: In part, yes. Although â€œConanâ€ is such an iconic character it was more a matter of time before it would be back on the big screen, I think the comeback in comics, videogames and collectibles proves to the film community that we (Paradox) know what makes fans tick about the character and they now listen to us more.
Ten Ton Hammer: In articles about the film, it has been stressed that staying true to the Robert E. Howard material is critical, how do the writers plan on adapting his work for both true fans and a larger audience?
Fredrik: Very good question. My team worked closely with the writers throughout the process, which has been more than a year now. It is critical that we reach a bigger audience than the existing fanbase to justify the budget, and yet we are dealing with an R-rated badass hero with not all politically correct values. New fans need to understand what made Conan who he is, so we focused on the character traits that Howard gave us and hope that this will shine through.
Establishing the world is also important so that itâ€™s obvious that this is but the first in many movies about Conan. But to answer your question, Josh Oppenheimer and Tom Donnelly were very well versed, had read all the REH stories, knew the comics, and got in with the latest Dark Horse adaptations. We sat down and played the games with them and they had all the Funcom Age of Conan visuals in front of them as well. In fact, Josh made a movie in college which was a Conan spoof. I think they nailed it.
Ten Ton Hammer: How will the movie differ from the Schwarzenegger film? Will it be set up as a series?
Fredrik: Yes, this is the first in a series of films. It has nothing to do with the 80â€™s film continuity-wise; weâ€™re starting from scratch.
Ten Ton Hammer: Casting Conan is a real challenge, as he is not just some muscle bound brute in the stories. What traits would you look for in an actor who could possibly play this part?
Fredrik: Errrr… acting capabilities? What I mean is first and foremost, [we look for] a good actor. Second, this needs to be somebody who understands Conanâ€™s character. Preferrably, with a personal depth. Physical presence, a big guy but in my mind but not a bodybuilder. Someone with a rugby-player physique, you know? Ultimately, this is a director ‘s choice because the chemistry must work between them.
Ten Ton Hammer: Will Howardâ€™s themes of nature and human will against civilization and corruption be outlined in the film?
Fredrik: Absolutely. We will try to stress pivotal themes such as this to show what sets him apart from superheroes. Just imagine how Conan would deal with the problems on Wall Street today.
Ten Ton Hammer: What artistic style can we expect in the film? With recent achievements like Frank Millerâ€™s 300, will we see a sweeping landscape for Conanâ€™s backdrop and will Frank Frazettaâ€™s influence be seen?
Fredrik: Frank has influenced a generation of fans and every director I met always brought up his art in their pitches. The world is so much more than that though, and I think Funcom did a fantastic job in Age of Conan. I am doing everything in my power to involve their art director, Didrik Tollefsen, into the film project because I think the six years of thought he and his team put into the visuals really pop on the screen. In fact, I talked with the WETA Workshop guys and showed his stuff and they said it was on par with what they do.
Ten Ton Hammer: Pre-production is around the corner, what stage are you in now with the project? There has been a lot of talk on finding the right director, has a decision been made? How close are you? What can we expect in terms of schedule, will the film be set for 2010?
Fredrik: We are happy with where the script is, always polishing until the final shoot of course. We are hoping to announce our director in January, and we have budgeted the script and looked at locations for shooting. The majority will be done in Bulgaria and some in China, and the film start date is set for June for a summer 2010 release.
Ten Ton Hammer: Being in charge of Conan Properties, what is your personal favorite thing about the Conan works?
Fredrik: Thatâ€™s a broad question….â€thingâ€ huh? Probably that every time I pick up a Howard short story, I am stunned with how fresh and relevant it still feels. I like how simple Conanâ€™s choices are and his moral fiber. Wouldnâ€™t we all want to be like him? Yet, like someone said before, â€œI am not sure I would want him as a drinking buddyâ€.