When Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in “Conan the Barbarian” in 1982, he was an Austrian bodybuilder with a hardcore last name, and not much else. Sure he had “Hercules in New York” under his weight belt, but the double-whammy of the “Conan” sequels (“Barbarian” and “Destroyer”), followed by “The Terminator” is what put the future king of action on the map. Now with news of Arnie’s return to his breakthrough role in “The Legend of Conan” one has to wonder…how the heck is this going to work?
Arnold Schwarzenegger climbed all the way up the ranks of Hollywood, eventually becoming a box office behemoth starring in classic smashes like “T2,” “Total Recall,” and “True Lies” and pulling in a $25 million paycheck for his infamous (or should I say ICE-famous…sorry) turn as Mr. Freeze in “Batman and Robin.” As his career tapered, and his age, ya know, went up…Arnie’s star dimmed and he shifted focus into politics. Seizing the opportunity of the recall of Governor Grey Davis in 2003, Schwarzenegger became Governor of California, holding the position until 2011. But as soon as his term was up – and in the midst of a well-publicized divorce from his wife Maria Shriver – Arnie jumped right back into movies, reprising and expanding his role as Trench in Sly Stallone’s “The Expendables 2” aka “your Dad’s favorite movie.” According to IMDB, Arnie’s got 4 movies in various states of production, not including “The Legend of Conan” or “Triplets,” a bizarre-sounding sequel to “Twins,” which I’ll believe when I see.
So for whatever reason (money), the guy wants to work, and he wants to work a lot. And working a lot means revisiting one of his most famous parts. Perhaps Arnie got late-career advice from pal Stallone, as he took the similar path in resurrecting famous roles in “Rambo” and “Rocky Balboa,” but Sly was never Governor of California. He’s never been anything other than “action star Sylvester Stallone.” Sure he’s had ups and downs and downs and ups, but he’s a genre actor in Hollywood and that’s kind of how it goes for those guys. Schwarzenegger’s political career, not to mention the “I’ll be back”-spewing performance in the “Expendables” movies has taken the man into post-modern territory. Schwarzenegger is now meta-Schwarzenegger. He’s not an actor. He’s the character of Arnold Schwarzenegger, one time movie star/former Governor. His inherent Schwarzeneggerness is unavoidable and I can’t imagine the image of him donning a long wig and furry underpants will do anything to sway the perception of that image simply being Arnold Schwarzenegger, one time movie star/former Governor in a long wig and furry underpants into the area of “cool, Conan’s back!”
Fredrik Malmberg of Paradox Entertainment told Deadline:
The original ended with Arnold on the throne as a seasoned warrior and this is the take of the film we will make. It’s that mythic guy who has played the role of king, warrior, soldier and mercenary, and who has bedded more women than anyone, nearing the last cycle of his life. He knows he’ll be going to Valhalla, and wants to go out with a good battle.
I always loved the Conan character and I’m honored to be asked to step into the role once again. I can’t wait to work with Universal and the great team of Fredrik Malmberg and Chris Morgan to develop the next step of this truly epic story.
Ya see, I have no problem with an older actor returning to a role, especially if there’s a story to tell. And honestly, the idea of this being Conan’s “Unforgiven” sounds pretty dang cool. But that’s simply not what this is going to be. This is going to be a story about Arnold Schwarzenegger in a silly wig, lugging around a silly sword and sitting in a silly throne. And it will always be silly because Schwarzenegger’s very presence is silly. He’s meta-Schwarzenegger, he’s essentially a living meme. And if “The Legend of Conan” makes it to screens (skeptical!), when the first teaser plays, I await the chuckles when theater-goers first see Arnie in that wig. I await the still images covered with white “Impact” snark. The Tumblrs will love this film.
This is a man who fought his way to the top of the world and assumed the throne, playing a man who fought his way to the top of the world and assumed the throne. And that might seem like a perfect fit, but when we’re dealing with the irony-laced, meme-factory of a world we live in today, it simply can’t work. Perhaps I’m just cynical, perhaps I’m close-minded, perhaps I should lighten up. Or perhaps, if Arnie wants to keep the career going, he should stick to the new…because in all honesty, if he tries to strap on a leather jacket and shades and play the Terminator again (which will TOTALLY happen if this “Conan” flick makes bank) I will be very upset.
I leave you with this image of Schwarzenegger from his new movie “The Ten.”