Archive for conan the barbarian

Conan – A Little Conversation About The Frost Giant’s Daughter

Posted in Conan, Making Movies with tags , , , , on September 4, 2009 by outlanderthemovie


Thank you all for taking the time to read the short piece. I just wish people would be more open about their opinions. ;-).  Considering the actively voracious nature of some of the comments, both here and on the REH site, I thought I would maybe expand a little bit on what I was trying to do.  I am going to do this because I think you might be interested in the screenwriting process and why some decisions are made in adaptations. I’m trying not to write defensively, which trust me, is difficult. I’ll try to keep it pure, ’cause we’re all Conan fans here.

As I said, my intent was practice, but what I had in my mind was actually writing what I fantasized might become a teaser scene for one of the new movies, released as an extended trailer or as a pre-title sequence. This means I was really aiming for something very short. It could only be a couple of minutes long. I chose FGD because I felt it could be condensed most easily. This is because the action is simple: a fight, a chase, a fight, an escape. (I know there’s more to it, but those are the basics)

So now I say to myself – what is essential? Obviously many of you disagree, but in THIS INCARNATION of the story – a very short film – I felt that the opening battle was not needed to tell what I thought was the most interesting part – Conan being tempted by Atali, chasing her, fighting her brothers then having his prize taken from him. What convinced me of this was that I was going to get a marvelous battle with the FGs anyway. So that rendered the opening fight extraneous. As for information, do we really need to clock that Conan is a stranger in this land? Not really. He’s merely the survivor of a battle. In this incarnation, do we really need to know anything about the battle itself?

A few people commented on the sword in his belly rather than being bonked on the head. Those are purist thoughts and while I understand them, they are really just staging. All one needs is for Conan to be out of it for a moment so Atali can have the upper hand.  Without a battle, woozy was difficult.  Unconscious was boring.  I decided on badly wounded. The sword just seemed very cool to me, as I imagined a low angle shot across his body and the blade sticking tall from the wound. And I can show Conan being tough by freezing the wound shut.  (However, I take very well the point that Conan would have had a big reaction to Atali toying with the sword.)

Also the ending is not as graceful as I might like. Too rushed, a result of not thinking out clearly how to get the impact of the cloth without Niord’s dudes.

In matters of dialogue, I might very well choose to add back in some of REH’s words, especially “Conan of the Black Hair”, and “I’ll pile the heads of your kinsmen…” etc.  I can’t tell you why I chose not to put them in at the time, except, well… let me think.

No, that’s not true. I can. And it goes to why I wanted to practice on this one. To me, FGD has always been about mood, not plot. The wildness of the landscape, the breath in the wind, Atali’s impossible beauty. Its essence seems purely poetic to me. And, it has its roots in Greek mythology, which I devoured as a child. I think that as I wrote it, the dialogue fell out because I was seeing it from middle and long distances. It seemed more magical without words. And this is the great difference between the stories and a film – REH has to give you everything – all the feeling, the emotion, the sound of the snow. A screenplay doesn’t, and in fact shouldn’t. That’s because it’s a blueprint to which the actors, director, dp and editor will add their skills. So I know as I write that my words will be filled out by many many people working on the project. This is not to dodge responsibility – if I write badly, then that’s on me – but screenplays are different than books. Books are commandments; screenplays are suggestions.

Which brings me to character. You all may have a point here about me missing the boat on showing who Conan is, but I have to admit, this never seemed to be a great character showcase, even in the original. It has always been a little more poetic, perhaps even primal, than many of the other stories. Maybe that’s why it’s always been a favorite. Because let’s face it, Conan was going to rape this woman at the end, as was the character in the Greek myth it’s taken from. (Apollo chasing Daphne I think, who implores Zeus to save her, which he does by changing her into a tree).

However, I don’t think I painted Conan as some staggering dunce. I think your own fears and memories of the horrific earlier movies may be informing your reading.  I think at worse I underpainted him, which if so, is obviously a mistake. My viewpoint of Conan has never been that he is an oaf, so I will always imagine him with a fierce, intelligent face, whether he speaks much or not. (I’ll tell you this – in the script my partner Howard and I just wrote, he speaks quite a bit. I’ll bet half of you complain that it’s too much. 🙂 So perhaps my mistake is this – I wanted to enter the world myself and see where it took me. In doing so, I paid little attention to convincing readers who Conan was, because I already knew. (For myself of course, not in any pretentious, ‘only I know who Conan is.’)

And the last thing I ‘ll say is this, and I think it’s very important. (For the three of you still reading.) There were a few comments about not straying from the material. I mean, not at all. I can’t be any clearer about anything than about this: you don’t really want that.  Here’s why.

Point of No Return

If you haven’t seen Point, it’s based on La Femme Nikita (great movie!) by Luc Besson. Point is awful. Why? Because it is literally a shot by shot remake of Nikita. Someone evidently thought the original was so good it shouldn’t be fucked with. Well they were wrong. The remake became a lifeless mess.  This is because the artists had abdicated their responsibility – to interpret the world through their own lens.

I bring this up to make a point that being too faithful to the original can be stifling. It squashes artistry. And please, make no mistake – filmmakers are artists. Every one of them wants to bring their POV, their life, their words, their gestures, to bear to create something new, fresh, alive.  If they feel too constrained by the material, they won’t bring their best game to bear. And then you get Point of No Return. A dead thing.

Please understand – you will never have the REH that is in your head. You wouldn’t get it even if you wrote it and directed it yourself. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If the artists are good, they will take the essence and the soul of Conan and give you something different… and fun as hell. If they’re not good, then faithfulness to the material won’t matter anyway. From my own experience I can tell you I didn’t miss Tom Bombadil in LOTR but hated The Shining… the first time. Now I think it’s a marvelous movie.

Allow me to clarify a couple of things. First, none of what I said is to convince you that what I wrote is ‘good’. Either you liked it or you didn’t. I only hope that some of my words can perhaps frame` the upcoming movies a little for you so you have a better chance at enjoying them. And this should go without saying, but it seems little does these days: REH’s source material is marvelous. Wonderful words and images and characters that have survived a long year. I am merely pointing out that purism is both impossible and undesirable. Some of you asked a very interesting question: ‘why do you think you’re better than the material?’ Truly, nothing could be further from the truth. Shakespeare wasn’t thinking he was the cat’s pyjamas when he cherrypicked Gesta Danorum for Hamlet. Peter Jackson didn’t think “whoo, glad I was able to clean up Tolien’s mess”. Barbara Eden didn’t think Jeannie Riley’s song was shit when she starred in Harper Valley PTA. Anyone who adapts is doing so precisely because they were inspired and thought the original material was worthy of retelling in another medium.

Wow. Longwinded. Sorry. But then, you didn’t have to read this far if you didn’t want to. If you did, hopefully I was helpful. If not, well that’s on me, too…


Conan – The Frost Giant’s Daughter

Posted in Conan, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 28, 2009 by outlanderthemovie


Since some of you seem to be interested, I am posting my version of The Frost Giant’s Daughter. I wrote this as practice for the Conan script, to see if I could get in the mood, so to speak. So let me be clear – this was NOT commissioned, is NOT for profit and is simply to be considered fan material.  It has nothing to do with the script we were hired to write. That said, it is short, little more than a quick adaptation that would produce maybe a 5-6 minute film.  I hope you all like it. (And if you don’t, don’t panic about the script itself. What’s below is just a first draft, written very quickly. The script itself has been combed through. I really like it.

Click on each page to open it in new tab.  I hope.

Page 1

FG - Page 1

Page 2

FG - Page 2

Page 3FG - page 3Page 4

FG Page 4

Now wouldn’t that be fun?

CONAN UPDATE – 5/28/09

Posted in Conan with tags , , , , on May 28, 2009 by outlanderthemovie


Hey Conan fans, long time no see. Sorry about that. It’s been one crazy motherf-ing ride, I will tell you that. I’m sure you have all heard the news that Brett Ratner is finally out of the picture. I think he came onto the scene sometime in September of 2008 and only now has his involvement been settled. Millennium is now searching for another director and will hopefully have someone soon. I hear they’re out to Uwe Boll. I kid.

As for the big news from our side, we are actually writing Conan 2, not Conan 1. For reasons that I am happy to tell anyone should I meet them at Comicon, we never got the chance to write a single page of Conan 1 although that was what we were hired to do. Instead, they stuck with their original script, the Donnelly/Oppenheimer draft. As a result, we were asked to come up with a new tale and we are presently at the end of the second act on that one. So yes, we are writing the sequel to a movie that has not only not been shot, but which does not even have a director yet.

So there’s a little bit of news for you.

Anyone out there read the O/D draft? Any thoughts?

CONAN – an answer to Carlos the Jackal

Posted in Conan, Making Movies with tags , , on January 15, 2009 by outlanderthemovie

Take our poll, then read the ongoing battle – Film: Entertainment or Dialectic?


As I sit here listening to London Calling, I thought I’d answer Carlos’s question of a ways back. It’s not exactly a Conan question, and I apologize for not being able to offer any more red meat except that the last I heard, Brett was leaning away from Conan. This can obviously change at any time, since I don’t think anything is official either way. I’m a little constrained from talking about Conan for reasons I hope I never have to write about.

Anyway, here’s what Carlos asked:

“Is there – in Hollywood – something like a censor-board or a censor-committee, that actually decides about which ideological stream should one film take? Or are writers expected to fit in the dominant stream spontaniously? And are rejected if they don’t come up with the satrisfactory results?

My question is based on an observation of how Hollywood produces films like Dark Knight, which is a strong Bush administration apology (Batman spies on everyone, declares war on terror..), or for example, films like the Bourne trilogy, which is very pro-democrat, anti-Bush, or the new James Bond film, where James Bond stands on the side of Evo Morales’ government against the CIA and the environmentalist multinational corporation. And I ask you this, because the Underworld prequel, as far as I can see, also walks along the same leftist line – Lycans are the undertrodden, not to say “the proletariat”, while the vampires are this upper class, etc. So, I was wondering if storyline like that comes according to some Hollywood planing, like what are the topics we should cover this year, etc.? And than they see that the political climat is like that, and the studios decide and than tell to the writers “OK, now, go and write about the undertrodden!” “

I think, Carlos, you have fallen into a trap that engulfs many people in regard to Hollywood. (And I say this with respect – I love my fellow Conan junkies). There really isn’t anything monolithic about Hollywood. It’s just not that well-organized. (I’m put in mind of Holocaust deniers, who think that in some fashion a hoax was put in play that relied on successfully hiding eight million people, hiring film crews of various nationalities to dress sets and then bribing thousands of soldiers from around the world to lie about what they saw. And then… make sure no one talked. Who could pull this off?)

Obviously I’m overstating, but it’s late, and I’m in the mood. There are certainly themes that occur in Hollywood, but they are arrived at from various quarters. Any decent writer is creating something in which he believes, something that fascinates him. He is often taking cues from the moment, and if he’s not an art fuck, is trying to write something he thinks America will care about. I’m sure when Nolan approached the new Batman with the idea of using the Joker, the first thing he said was ‘how do I make the Joker different?’ He conceived of him as a terrorist. So how do you fight that? America has been asking that question for nearly eight years now – how far are we willing to go? How much of our soul will we part with to save our skins? I would actually say that Nolan carved out his own territory in such a way as to poke both camps in the eye. He created a character, Batman, who recognizes the need to do detestable things BUT IS THEN WILLING TO TAKE ON THE BURDEN OF THEIR ILLEGALITY. Lefties should shudder at the choice to step over the line; righties should shudder at the real-life inability of certain politicans to bear that responsibility themselves.

Wow. Digressed. Point is, Nolan wasn’t following anyone’s script but his own.

Insofar as Underworld is concerned, it is apolitical. Simply put, it is Romeo and Juliet meets Spartacus, in the world of vampires and werewolves. In no meeting did anyone raise any point regarding the underclass, the wealthy, etc. The hero was a slave in love with his master’s daughter. What followed, followed. Therein lies another thing that is important – scripts have their own logic, their own paths. They tend to know what they need to be; writers tear out their hair trying to figure out what that is. I can honestly say, of the hundreds and hundreds of notes I have gotten, not a single one had a political or ideological overtone. An alarming number of them were bad notes, but they were honestly bad.

What writers try desperately to do is take familiar material and make it fresh. We do it by mining our hearts and minds, by trying to take the pulse of the public. We are always trying to create characters that connect with the audience. We often fail. Such is art.

As for studios, their search is for profits. That’s as it should be – movies cost a lot of money. I can’t claim to know the minds of studio bosses, but my experience tells me that their decisions are based far more on what has succeeded than any political bent. Because, and this is important – the vast quantity of films are simple entertainment. No politics, no stance. (For a writer, they are just works for hire that you hope to learn to love, like a partner in an arranged marriage.) As for the more artistic films, it seems to me they run the gamut of topics found interesting by their creators. Doesn’t seem to me like much of an agenda that links Batman, Benjamin Button, Gran Torino, Doubt.

Here’s what I will grant in terms of an overarching ‘feel’ to many of the so-called important movies: at the least, a whiff of liberal thought. Now I don’t for one moment, not one instant, believe that in Hollywood there is an actual ‘agenda’ to forward liberal policies. As I said, there are no cabals, no star chambers where people get together to decide what America needs to hear. What you do get though, is a grouping of similar-minded people who are drawn to this profession. Why are so many of us here? I don’t know. We’re artsy types. Artsy types tend to be liberal. Probably just a matter of the brain’s architecture. (That’s certainly what my highly conservative best friend would tell me.)

But here is where Hollywood gets a silly rap: that it is a miasma of liberal tripe out of touch with ‘mainstream America”. I would estimate that upwards of 90% of Hollywood films are actually conservative. By that, I mean conservative where it actually matters: strong families are present, and when they’re not, they are missed; America is a decent place filled with decent people; parents are fallible, but most often turn out to be right; good wins out; evil is vanquished. For every Milk, there are ten Night at the Museums. Only when you get into the small percentage of statement films does the obviously liberal rear up. And that’s because art is doing what it is supposed to do: question. Should we have gone to war; can we maintain an American philosophy while fighting that war; should gay people have equal rights; etc. And if you think about it, conservatism, by definition, is all about respect for the status quo, the established. And where is the drama in that?

In the end, it is not generally a deep desire to sound off on some political topic that births these films, it’s passion. Someone saw a good story and thought others would like to see it too. That simple.


Posted in Conan with tags , , , , , , on August 27, 2008 by outlanderthemovie


Okay, what the heck. Since Conan has been broached on this blog, I’m curious – who do you think should play  him in the movie? Don’t be afraid to add links or pictures.