Via Dirty Harry’s Place, which is far and away my favorite film blog, you can read a nice interview with Conan the Barbarian director John Milius. Deep into the discussion Milius mentions Conan and REH, an exchange which may be of interest to readers of The Cimmerian:
TG: At one point, there was going to be Conan sequel, “King Conan,” with Arnold returning and you writing the script.
MILIUS: Yeah, I did a script and the Wachowski Brothers were the producers. But they decided they were too cool for this world. That was a terrific script. We stole a lot of stuff out of it and put it in “Rome.”
TG: So what’s the project you’re going to make in China?
MILIUS: The movie I’m doing now is “Genghis Khan,” and I look back at how much Genghis Khan influenced me in doing the original “Conan.” There’s even quotes of Genghis Khan in there, “Crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women.”
TG: There’s also a great scene in “Conan” where his father hands the sword down to him as a young boy and tells him that man will betray you, woman will betray you, but the steel will not betray you.
MILIUS: That was sort of my interpretation of (Conan author) Robert E. Howard I guess. He talked all the time about trusting your sword or something, but I liked the idea of trusting steel. The steel itself was an enigma and a mystery; I always had that thing about the blade, and that comes from my other Samurai life. My wife is convinced I was a Kamikaze pilot.
TG: Maybe you were a Samurai in another life.
MILIUS: She was also convinced that I rode with Cortez!
Interesting that Milius shares REH’s more-than-superficial fascination with the possibility of reincarnation. The film Patton (which Milius touches on in the interview and admires) also delved into this subject. I read Milius’ Conan the King script a few years ago and did a (negative) review of it for REHupa, so now I’ll have to check out the now-defunct HBO series Rome to see what was cribbed for use in that series.
Even though Milius’ “Robert E. Howard the Shotgun-wielding nut” mythologizing bothered me a great deal on the Conan the Barbarian DVD documentary, I still respect the man enormously as a writer and filmmaker, and have always defended Conan the Barbarian as a fine film (albiet not a faithfully Howardian one). I’ve even had the honor of loaning my video camera and light kit to Ethan Nahté for his John Milius interview a few years back, when Ethan was in LA doing REH-related pickups for his as-yet-uncompleted documentary on the Texan. As I recall he also used my equipment to record the late, great composer Basil Poledouris, who remains one of my all-time faves.