Universal and Schwarzenegger are back in the ‘Conan’ business

I want to meet Chris Morgan.

Perfect world, we could sit down over the refreshment of our choice and we could talk about Conan.  Specifically, we could talk about “Conan The Barbarian,” the 1982 film that Universal released, directed by John Milius and written by Milius and Oliver Stone.  That film was one of the things that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a viable movie star.  Before that, he was known for a few quirky appearances in film like “Stay Hungry,” his charismatic appearance in “Pumping Iron,” and his bodybuilding triumphs.  But “Conan The Barbarian” changed things for him, and its reputation has grown over time.

I’ve loved the film since opening weekend, and I love running into a hardcore fan of the film.  You know you’ve found a kindred soul when you can ask, “What is good in life?” and someone answers without hesitation, “To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.”  And based on the story that Deadline reported earlier this afternoon, Chris Morgan may be one of those people.

Universal Pictures is committed to developing “The Legend Of Conan,” and the thing that makes this more exciting than last year’s bizarre reboot attempt by Lionsgate is that Universal has Arnold Schwarzenegger returning to the role.

Now, admittedly, it’s been a lot of years since Arnold made that first film, and recapturing something that you did before, in terms of tone and style, is a tricky thing.  Between “Conan The Barbarian” and “Conan The Destroyer,” they lost the ability to get it right, and the franchise promptly drove right into a ditch.  I don’t really consider “Destroyer” a sequel to the first film.  In my world, they made the 1982 film, and then they never did anything else.

They came close, though.  When I was at Ain’t It Cool, I wrote many times about my love of the Milius movie, and for our 10,000th story, I posted a sneak peek at the John Milius script for “King Conan: Crown Of Iron,” a sequel that was at that point a distinct possibility.  Milius wrote it, and the Wachowskis were attached to produce for Warner Bros.  It sounded like it got close to happening, but Warner ended up not making it, and the film vanished into a development morass.

I honestly believed that any chance at a final Arnold sequel, a return to the storyline established in the ’82 film, had disappeared with the release of the Jason Momoa film last year.  When I read the news today that Chris Morgan is going to be writing and producing, and that he’s got Schwarzenegger onboard, I noticed that Fredrick Malmberg is still onboard as a producer as well.  Malmberg has been involved for at least 12 years now.  He was the other producer on “King Conan: Crown Of Iron,” and he was the one who kept it alive at Warner Bros. for a few years, just as he was the one who eventually moved on and got the Lionsgate movie made.  I’ve talked to Malmberg over the years, and I truly believe that he loves Conan and that he also sees the Conan property as a valuable media asset, and that his enthusiasm for the project is genuine.

In the Deadline piece, Malmberg said, “The original ended with Arnold on the throne as a seasoned warrior, and this is the take of the film we will make… It”s that Nordic Viking mythic guy who has played the role of king, warrior, soldier and mercenary, and who has bedded more women than anyone, nearing the last cycle of his life. He knows he”ll be going to Valhalla, and wants to go out with a good battle.”

Talking about his approach, Morgan seemed to be very serious about his approach, and he said things that hit me exactly right as a Milius fan. “After the original seminal movie, all that came after looked silly to me… Robert E. Howard”s mythology and some great philosophy from Nietzsche to Atilla the Hun was layered in the original film. People say, he didn”t speak for the first 20 minutes of the film, but that was calculated in depicting this man who takes control of life with his own hand. This movie picks up Conan where Arnold is now in his life, and we will be able to use the fact that he has aged in this story. I love the property of Conan so much that I wouldn”t touch it unless we came up with something worthy. We think this is a worthy successor to the original film. Think of this as Conan”s ‘Unforgiven.'”

Conan’s “Unforgiven”?  Okay, that’s it.  I’m in.

We’ll keep an eye on this, and hopefully we’ll have more on it as the film develops.