Thursday, July 9, 2015

Screenplay Review: Oliver Stone's 1978 Conan The Barbarian Draft

I was listening to the nerdist podcast interview with screenwriter/ director Oliver Stone a few weeks back and he mentioned his script for Conan the Barbarian. It was written in 1978 before his oscar win for Midnight Express. He was on screen with a writing credit but it is often director John Milius who gets the major block of credit. He was told to not worry about budget, and it shows, it was projected as a 40 million film even in 1978, three years later it was made with a different much more stripped down script. In the interview done a few years ago Stone said his script presented a grand vision that he saw could have been expanded into 12 films.

This interested me, I wanted read Stone's script and see what the man saw so differently. I don'tthink Stone is a perfect filmmaker but when he is on he is great. I am a huge fan of Platoon, U-turn and Natural Born Killers for example.

I love the 1982 Conan, it one of the films that makes that year so special. The Milius film is a quoteable classic of fantasy. While many Robert E. Howard purists have problems with the film, it mostly has to do with the casting Swarzenegger.

My first impression is how many of the classic lines of dialogue were written by Stone. "This you can Trust..." or his prayer to crom before the battle were written by Stone. The prayer was changed slightly, as Conan is leading an army in Stone's script. If we had seen Stone’s script I think another spoken by a Wizard character named Zhang probably would be just as legendary “If I had a hundred tongues and a hundred, and throat of iron, I couldn’t describe all the crimes done here against the soul.”

The heist in the tower is there, the first scene with the raid on the village and the murder of his parents is there. One major difference is the revenge story line with Thula Doom was entirely John Milius’s contribution. Some of the scenes that remain from Stone’s script are placed in the plot in entirely different spots. In the end Stone envisioned the arc for Conan to see him go from beggar to King. I prefer the film’s “But that is another tale.”

I think the only reason we didn't get 12 Conan movies had less to do with the shedding of Stone's script and more to the mismanagement of the second film. Stone's script was slightly more epic, at that point he had less practical issues to deal with, one Conan spoke alot more dialogue. Stone envisioned three headed dogs, mutant guards, and armies. Half man half pig warriors.

I think the script shows a wider scope and canvas. It would be awesome to see it, but in the end I think we just a more stripped down and better film. Too bad Oliver Stone’s vision of a series like Bond of a dozen or so films never happened.

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