Exclusive Conan Movie Interview with Fredrik Malmberg

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.

Exclusive Conan Movie Interview with Fredrik Malmberg

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 “Conan” 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 it’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 80’s film continuity-wise; we’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 Conan’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 Howard’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 Miller’s 300, will we see a sweeping landscape for Conan’s backdrop and will Frank Frazetta’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: That’s a broad question….”thing” 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 Conan’s choices are and his moral fiber. Wouldn’t we all want to be like him? Yet, like someone said before, “I am not sure I would want him as a drinking buddy”.

Conan Publisher in trouble?

As deadlinehollywooddaily interpreted yesterday on the basis of the quarterly report from Lionsgate, their financial situation is not the best one. Since Lionsgate signed up to be the Publisher for the new Conan movie it may be a bad sign for the publishing situation which could result in no publishing or cheap publishing – meaning less advertisement and less broad starting cinemas – lets hope that either Lionsgate catches up some speed in the coming quarters or Millenium Films decides to publish together with someones else, that does not stand on shaky feet.

Luckily the Conan Movie Producer decided early on that they were going to pull of the financing part of the movie alone and not involve the publisher too much, that at least gives us hope, that we will not see Lionsgate pushing out a cheap, cash-in version of a Conan movie.

Dirk Blackman talks about Conan

Even if this is a bit old news, Dirk Blackman, one of the screenplay writers of the new Conan movie has created his own blog. The main topic of the blog is his new movie Outlander, that was directed by his Co-Writer from Conan and other movies – those guys make for a great team it seems – but after a while he also posted some articles about the new Conan and the situation and answered some user questions.

On a sidenote, if you are from the US, watch out for Outlander in some cinema near you, its not really advertised enough, but its a really good movie and for all the others: Buy the DVD once its released 😉

Conan Movie delayed?

During the New York Comiccon Comic author Rob Liefeld talked about a Youngblood movie project helmed by Brett Ratner. In this interview Liefeld mentioned that the Youngblood movie would take precedence over the Conan project for Ratner:

Liefeld told us Reliance and Ratner want to get the project off the ground “asap”, and mentioned a 2012 release date as “optimal”.

Liefeld also told us that Ratner’s Conan project (which the Hollywood Reporter reported last fall he was an “negotiations” to direct) is behind Youngblood in the director’s pecking order and a deal for that other film was not even finalized as of a few weeks ago.

This can either mean that Ratner is no longer involved with Conan, or that Conan will be moved back or, and with the track record of Liefelds projects this seemed most likley, that Liefeld voiced his wished, rather then and facts.

The Conan Movie Blog opens its gates

If all goes well we will see a reboot of the Conan license in form of a movie in 2010. Because that is not so far off, we thought it is time to start a little blog that will collect all available information on exactly this topic: The new Conan movie.

Since this is not meant to be a one or two man show we encourage anyone who wastes spends his time plowing through the internet in search of news regarding this movie and Robert E. Howard in general to join our team of havoc madness and participate in making this the one and only and best place to find information on the new Conan movie.

We hope you enjoy the futur of this little project as much as we enjoy bringing it to you and that it will flourish and rise (don’t forget to bookmark it or register for the RSS!).

Cya soon!