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King Conan: Arnold Schwarzenegger on why sequel hasn't happened

Conan may yet return... but It might take a little convincing.

Arnold Schwarzenegger recently sat down with website The Arnold Fans to talk about a number of projects including King Conan, the proposed sequel to 1982's Conan the Barbarian and 1984's Conan the Destroyer. Alternately referred to as Legend of Conan, the project had been teased as long ago as 2012, when rights holders Paradox Entertainment (since rebranded as Cabinet Entertainment) announced that they were moving forward with a story that they called "Conan's Unforgiven," referring to the classic 1992 Clint Eastwood film about an old gunslinger who reluctantly picks up his guns one last time.

Production studio Universal ultimately opted to drop the project, and it's been in a state of flux since then. It was even briefly thought that the property would get the small screen treatment, with Amazon Prime announcing plans to develop a series in February of last year before unceremoniously scrapping those plans just months later. All the while, fans have held out hope for a return to theaters for the Cimmerian, and in recent years it hasn't been Schwarzenegger who has made the most noise about it but Paul Verhoeven, the legendary Robocop director. He's been expressing his desire to direct Schwarzenegger in the film for years, and the star himself has been game. But according to Arnie's recent interview, it hasn't been a matter of scheduling conflicts or creative differences that have kept the adventures of Conan from being revisited on the big screen, but an old and familiar nemesis — rights issues.

Cabinet still holds those rights, and in Schwarzenegger's humble opinion, they don't have the faintest idea how to effectively exploit their property. "The sad stuff about all of this is when... someone buys these rights, those people now own the rights and they have their own vision of what they want to do and the guy that has the rights is some young guy, and he's trying to figure out how to get his way through Hollywood, and this is not easy to do," the actor says. "So there are people that say to him, 'why don't you start with a TV series?' And then he negotiates for a TV series and that falls apart. And then he goes maybe to Netflix and that falls apart."

Schwarzenegger went on to elaborate that throughout this entire dead-end process, he and other interested parties have bent over backwards trying to get Cabinet to see their vision for what King Conan could be. "[The rights holders decide] to make a movie, maybe... but in the meantime, we have been trying to convince [them] for years now that the way to go is to come back and hire a really great director and to do another Conan movie and have me play King Conan, when Conan is like 70 years old. And he's disgusted by sitting on the throne and being the king, and then something happens after that."  

Well, yes, Arnie, the idea you're sketching out for us would certainly be a lot cooler if, in fact, a lot of things happened after that. One might think that it would simply be too far of an uphill climb to get the project in motion at this point, but that is not necessarily the case. Aquaman scribe Will Beall and Fast & Furious series writer Chris Morgan have reportedly had a killer script locked away somewhere for years, and Schwarzenegger seems to think that it would only be a matter of a few minor tweaks before King Conan would be ready to go before the cameras. "It's really not that far from creating a finished script," he says. "The only one who really has to pull the trigger there is the people who own the Conan rights to do a movie. Let's go to Netflix or whoever it is, let's hire a director who [is] very creative and can elevate the project to make it a winning project. I hope it will be done very soon because I think it's a great idea."

Created in the 1930's by pulp novelist Robert E. Howard, Conan appeared in the pages of magazines, books, and even Marvel comics for decades before his big-screen debut. Directed by Apocalypse Now scribe John Milius, Conan the Barbarian was a singularly dark and bizarre sword and sorcery epic featuring supporting turns from such heavyweight acting talent as Sandahl Bergman, Max Von Sydow, and James Earl Jones; it made the ultra-ripped Schwarzenegger, until then a legend only in bodybuilding circles, a household name. Sequel Conan the Destroyer was toned down significantly from the hard-R aesthetic of the original, sported a weak story with shoehorned-in comedic elements, and was mercilessly panned by critics; the less said about the 2011 Jason Momoa-starring reboot, the better.

With onetime rival Sylvester Stallone successfully revisiting his iconic roles of Rocky Balboa and John J. Rambo in his golden years, there's no reason to think that Schwarzenegger — who, incidentally, still adheres to a workout regimen that puts us mere mortals to shame — couldn't do the same. It appears that all it would take is for those who hold the film rights to get off of their duffs to give Conan the cinematic ending he's always been destined to have: crushing his enemies, seeing them driven before him, and hearing the lamentations of their women.

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