There’s still a lot we don’t know about the new Conan movie. Or, there was, until the press notes squeaked out in a quiet corner of Lionsgate’s website. Every question you might have had about the film is answered there.
Except for “Is it any good?”, which will go unanswered for a few months yet.
Here are some of the highlights of the press notes, from the informative to the wacky:
A quest that begins as a personal vendetta for the fierce Cimmerian warrior soon turns into an epic battle against hulking rivals, horrific monsters, and impossible odds, as Conan realizes he is the only hope of saving the great nations of Hyboria from an encroaching reign of supernatural evil.
While no Conan feature can ignore John Milius’ 1982 original, Nispel and producers Danny Lerner and Les Weldon of Millennium Films see that film as only a small part of a much larger Conan universe that has continued to develop over the decades since his inception.
Says Lerner, “We’re not approaching this as a movie based on a previous incarnation of the character. We’re approaching it as a film based on an entire culture.”
“When you see those drawings, they just they speak to you,” says [Conan himself, Jason] Momoa. “Our goal has been to capture the hero featured in Frazetta’s pictures. That was our aim.”
Frazetta’s images also considerably impacted [Director Marcus] Nispel’s and production designer Chris August’s vision of the film. “You can’t shoot Conan in a vérité style,” says Nispel. “You have to paint it, choose new angles, light it graphically, and then you’re able to tell the story in such a way as to suspend the disbelief of an audience.”
“Nowhere are the middle ages more prevalent than they are in Bulgaria,” avows Nispel.
As casting continued, the role of Tamara, Conan’s accomplice and eventual love interest, went to action-veteran Rachel Nichols. A novitiate of a Greek-influenced monastery and a master of martial arts, Tamara is a “pureblood,” a direct descendant of the Sorcerers of Acheron whose blood will awaken the power of the Mask of Acheron.
Actor Stephen Lang describes Khalar Zym, Conan’s enemy and his father’s murderer, as “the baddest warlord in all of Hyboria, whose life’s work is recovering the Mask of Acheron, which will help him reclaim his dead wife and even achieve immortality. He’s introduced very early in the film when Conan, still a boy, gets a real dose of what pillage is all about,” Lang offers with a sly smile.
A partner in Khalar Zym’s quest for absolute power is his daughter Marique, played by Rose McGowan . “Marique is half-witch, half-human,” explains McGowan. Jealous of her long dead witch-mother’s hold on her father, Marique is unnaturally obsessed with proving herself to him. “She’s evil, but it’s only to gain her father’s love,” suggests McGowan.
McGowan developed a unique combat style for her character with the stunt team. “I decided Marique wasn’t going to be like everybody else with a sword. I wanted her to be a bit more like a cobra. She entrances her prey and then strikes,” says the actress, referring to the lethal metallic nails created for Marique by the film’s prop master, Dirk Buchmann.
In addition to leading his people, Corin [Conan’s father, played by Ron Perlman] is charged with raising his son alone after Conan’s mother, played by British actress Laila Rouass, dies in childbirth in the middle of battle. “She’s a Cimmerian warrior and she’s heavily pregnant and fighting as hard as anyone else,” says Rouass. “Through her actions we see where Conan’s determination and grit and power comes from.”
McGowan credits costume designer Wendy Partridge for creating Marique’s goth-punk look. “The costumes were feats of engineering, and it took two people to get me in and out of almost every one of them,” says McGowan. “All of them except for one I could not sit in, so at lunch I would just kind of stand in my trailer because I didn’t want to hurt them. They were all leather and had so many different pieces.”