It’s been more than three decades since Arnold Schwarzenegger headlined director John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian, launching a cinematic take on the Hyborian Age that continued in 1984’s Conan the Destroyer and 1985’s Red Sonja. Now, with cameras nearly ready to roll on The Legend of Conan and Schwarzenegger set to reprise the iconic role, it’s sounding like a cinematic universe based on Howard’s characters isn’t far off. Deadline today reports that Legend of Conan producer Frederik Malmberg, who also produced the 2011 reboot starring Jason Momoa, has acquired the rights to Howard’s entire catalogue of characters, paying $7.5 million to take control of Paradox Entertainment.
“These days,” Malmberg tells the outlet, “it comes down to brands and characters and we are looking at long term possibilities. We look at how Marvel played out with its rich based of characters, and this too is a universe that lends itself to exploitation in TV and film. There aren’t many libraries like this.”
Among the hundreds of characters included in the deal are Kull the Conqueror and Solomon Kane, both of whom have been the focus of theatrical films in the past. It gets a bit more complicated when it comes to the Red Sonja rights, however. Although the character was loosely based on a Howard creation, Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith are credited with creating the Sonja we know today, having debuted the warrior in a 1973 issue of Marvel Comics’ “Conan the Barbarian” series. Following a legal dispute that broke out nearly a decade ago, the rights to Sonja were awarded to an LLC separate from Paradox. Since then, however, Paradox and the Red Sonja LLC have been working in cooperation to keep current Sonja stories set in the Hyborian Age. It’s quite likely that a similar deal could be worked out for the big screen, although no plans have been confirmed at this time.
Legend of Conan, meanwhile, is moving forward at Universal Pictures with a screenplay by Chris Morgan and Andrea Berloff. Morgan recently confirmed to The Arnold Fans that “at least three” other characters from the original films are included in the screenplay for the new adventure.
“We’re very lucky that the architects of this new film — the writer, the producers, the studio and most of all, Arnold — who is Conan — are all first-generation fans who either worked on the film or who came along for the ride, cheering from their theater seats opening night,” he says. “We plan nothing more than to immerse ourselves in the world Milius envisioned from Robert E. Howard’s unforgettable stories and Frank Frazetta’s stunning artwork… [W]e are honoring the locales, the religions and the traditions of the ’82 film.”
“It’s 30 years after the original film,” says Malmberg, likening the overall tone of the sequel to Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, “and [Conan]’s facing his mortality and how a legend deals with the fact he’s older, and how does he want to go out.”
Malmberg’s Paradox acquisition also includes the rights to some non-Howard properties, such as the 90s role playing game “Mutant Chronicles”.