“Conan” Movie News: Corin, Ukafa, Momoa, and Rewrites
Sunday, February 28, 2010
posted by Al Harron
Even though it’s only a few weeks until the new “Conan” film starts shooting in Bulgaria, announcements on cast and crew are thin on the ground. Following the news of “Conans” adult and youngster, a few pieces of news cropped up. Regrettably, very little inspires any much-desired confidence in the project.
The first piece of news is another scoop from Deadline, who tell us that Sean Hood has been hired to rewrite the insipid quagmire of mediocrity and ineptitude calling itself a script. This follows on an earlier rewrite by Andrew Lobel: generally, a film that’s had multiple rewrites a matter of weeks before rolling the film is not a good sign (as if we didn’t already know that). Hood’s past credits are mostly competent, including the decent “Masters of Horror” episode “Sick Girl” and the “Fear Itself” episode “Echoes,” to the mediocre Halloween Resurrection and Cube 2: Hypercube. Still, far superior to Sahara and A Sound of Thunder.
Would that a mere rewrite would be enough to save this project: nothing less than tossing the Doppenheimer disaster into the furnace would interest me, and that would involve defenestrating the character casting sheet in the process. Since I sincerely doubt they’re going to get rid of Khalar Singh and his proto-goth rocker son, I’ll just have to hope that Hood makes the dialogue and action less derivative than it already is.
Second is casting news, where the much-rumoured Mickey Rourke connection to the project has been confirmed. Rourke will be playing Corin, “Conan’s” blacksmith-father, and so will appear in the prologue with “Conan’s” early life, as well as in a series of flashbacks and… other scenes that boil the blood, but shan’t be discussed here. An interesting coincidence is the Lisa Bonet connection: Lisa is the significant other of Jason Momoa, and mother to two of his children. One of her most infamous roles was in Angel Heart, in which she had a number of explicit and controversial sex scenes with… Mickey Rourke! All we need now is to cast Lisa as Conan’s girl-of-the-story Tamara (or, knowing the idiots running this circus, Conan’s mammy Islene) and we could have a rather sordid little family scandal in Cimmeria.
Rourke has been going through something of a career renaissance, with critical acclaim in The Wrestler and a number of high-profile roles coming up. Apparently, there was some friction in the signing, with Rourke also eying up the role of Hyperion in War of the Gods: I’d hate for him to lose out on a good fantasy film should this project fail financially. Having seen the ungodly Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen break even and hundreds of millions of dollars to spare, I’m not daring to hope that the cinema-going public will render this film the flop it deserves to be.
Third is the first major villain casting: Bob Sapp as Ukafa, as reported by ever-reliable (to my disappointment) Latino Review. I’d been tending a small hope for WWE’s Shad Gaspard to gain the role–come on, would a professional wrestler really make things any worse at this stage?–but I suppose even the dreams of a Brooklyn boy done good aren’t going to be realized, much less the aspirations of many Howard fans. The ironic thing is that Sapp was likely chosen for his notoriety as a kickboxer and mixed martial art fighter: his kickboxing record is 10-9, and his MMA record 10-6-1. Combined with his monstrous visage, he does seem a formidable opponent for the Cimmerian. However, Sapp is equally infamous for his glass jaw, notoriously falling to opponents half his size: anyone who knows anything about Sapp couldn’t help but have this in the back of their mind as mighty Ukafa growls and flexes on the screen.
Though Ukafa is the main henchman of the primary antagonist Khalar Singh, this hasn’t prevented many news sites from claiming otherwise. Thus we have inevitable comparisons between the “original” Conan the Barbarian having James Earl Jones, and the “remake” having Bob Sapp, thus reinforcing the irritating conceit that Conan the Barbarian was already perfect, and that we don’t “need” a reboot. The only thing “The Beast” has on Jones is his gargantuan form, evoking Howard’s Gulka Gorilla-Slayer, but again, that’s unfortunately tempered by memories of Super Hulk Grand Prix 2009. Like Deuce, I really dislike the idea of Conan yet again having a black man as one of his foes, especially one as generic as Ukafa: you could replace him with Bombaata, and lose nothing in the process. “Ukafa! Ukafa! I Need You! Ukafa!”
On the Momoa front, some recent pictures have emerged. Sporting a rather more Cimmerian hairstyle, swapping stylish goatee for designer stubble, and revealing no small part of his hirsute torso, he looks altogether closer to Conan than previous photographs suggest. Without the misleading dreadlocks-and-goatee from his time on Stargate Atlantis, looking altogether more rugged than his Baywatch days ten years ago, and cultivating a respectable rug on his chest, I’m more cautiously confident in Momoa’s abilities to portray our favourite Cimmerian. In the hands of an excellent director and working from a great script, Momoa could even be a pretty solid Conan: it’s a real shame we have neither.
A final piece of news again relating to Momoa: the contemptible TMZ (which I am loathe to dignify with a link) harassed Jason outside a nightclub while he awaited some friends. However, they managed to wrangle a few questions from the affable star: he queried Jason on his hairy chest, which he explained as perfectly appropriate for the Cimmeran: “He’s a drunken f’n hairy animal.” Salty, reminiscent perhaps of the character himself, but I guess quoting The Hour of the Dragon’s mention of Conan’s broad hairy chest would be lost on the “interviewer.” On whether Jason would take anything from Schwarzenegger’s performance, he flatly said “No, I’m not going to take anything from the Governor,” following it up with “I’m going to keep things true to Mr. Howard.” Encouraging stuff, even if the TMZ stooge obviously had no clue who Mr Howard was, and responded accordingly.
Sadly, no sign of Mark Finn and his REH Guerilla Army commandeering Lionsgate’s head offices and throwing the script out the window to start fresh. Give it time, though…