NYCC | Conan the Barbarian Panel
What began as a gathering at New York Comic Con for fans of this summer’s less-than-blockbuster hit Conan the Barbarian turned into a frank and entertaining hour-long Q&A with three of the movie’s stars, Jason Momoa, Rose McGowan and Stephen Lang.
There was no talk of an upcoming DVD or clips from the movie – in a surprising and refreshing turn, the stars moderated the panel themselves and audience members were asked to field questions. Subjects ranged from which of their characters they’d like to have over for dinner to their dream roles, and there was even a moment when one of McGowan’s fans presented her with a portrait he made of her. (She invited him up to the stage and gave him a hug, proudly showing off the full-body drawing, exclaiming, “I look hot!”)
When the conversation took a turn to comics territory (let’s consider the crowd, after all), Lang waxed poetic about his love for Marvel comics, Thor, the first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man and more – to which Momoa said, “Basically you like everything except for Superman.” Lang retorted that he likes Mr. Mxyzptlk. Momoa, on the other hand, loves WildCats and Spawn, and collected Sleepwalker as a kid. McGowan divulged that she always wanted to be the guys in comics.
When asked which Conan author is their favorite, McGowan immediately replied Robert E. Howard, then went on to say she thinks Momoa really captured the essence of his character, and looked as though he stepped right off the pages of his comic. “I think Robert E. Howard would’ve been quite pleased with the film. Much more so than a blond dude with weird extensions,” she deadpanned.
While on the subject of comics, McGowan was asked if there was any truth to the rumblings of her possibly playing Red Sonja. “Well that would’ve been a dope movie, to be honest with you,” she admitted. “But I did a movie called Planet Terror… I was doing backbend things and back handsprings in the movie, but I had a five-pound cast on my leg … and on the other leg I had a five-inch-high high-heel boot. So when I was doing these things and arching, I landed wrong. So I was paralyzed for a year, I had three surgeries on my elbow, two on my wrist … and if I do anything where I hurt it again I’ll be paralyzed forever. So, Red Sonja: super-dope. Paralysis: life. So I can’t, sadly.”
Many in the crowd uttered sympathetic and disappointed sighs, so McGowan lightened the mood, pointing to Momoa and saying, “He’s gonna play her for me, though!” Momoa laughed and nodded his head.
Asked whether Arnold Schwarzenegger gave him any tips for playing Conan, Momoa conceded, “No, the old governor never called me. I didn’t take any tips from him.” “He raised my taxes!” McGowan interjected, triggering laughter from the crowd.
That was where the discussion took a refreshingly honest turn as a fan asked point blank whether there will be a Conan the Barbarian sequel.
“I wish, but we never heard from any of those assholes after it came out,” Momoa said, somewhat sarcastically. Over the laughter, he continued, “I haven’t heard a word from anyone – it’s kind of really sad, ’cause I feel a little cheated, myself, ’cause we really busted our ass to make this amazing for the fans, and I was a fan and I think we really struck it and hit it. But to tell you the truth, a lot of people didn’t go see it, so with that, you know, I doubt they’ll make a sequel. I would love it but there’d be less money there and it’s something I would want to be bigger and better. So, unfortunately, I cross my fingers, but who knows.”
“People don’t really understand behind the scenes,” McGowan added. “Lionsgate and Millennium – the people behind it – to an extent did a really good job, but the entire distribution team at Lionsgate just got replaced.”
Someone in the crowd said, “Ohhh!” to which McGowan bluntly replied, “No, no, no, no, it’s not an ‘ohhh’ situation. The thing is, what people don’t realize … it’s almost like giving birth, and it was a really fun popcorn flick. It was a hard R, so that was tough. There’s a lot of factors people don’t take into play – but it sucks, and it’s happened to me before, where you have this really great super-fun film. So it’s essentially like giving birth to this really pretty baby, you hand it to the nurse and the nurse is like ‘ehhh’ and it falls out of her hands and flies out the window.” The audience cracked up as Momoa and Lang exchanged perplexed looks and McGowan shrugged, “It makes sense to me!”
Momoa nodded and laughed, “They dropped my baby!”
“They did! They drop-kicked it!” McGowan said. “And also the second weekend, hurricane Irene happened and two thirds of the country was shut down, so it was just bad luck, essentially.”
Veteran actor Lang added his own sage commentary. “Given how difficult it is to make a movie, it’s always kind of remarkable to me that anything does well. I think that failure is more often the case, but I must say I was shocked. I really felt the ingredients were in place here for this to do very well, and it’s really easy to kind of post-mortem on the thing. I think that the R didn’t help it … I don’t think it helped the business of the film one bit. Maybe it was necessary for the movie, I see that, but … I think that Rose says it pretty well that somehow the distribution didn’t quite work out the way it should’ve. But I sure wish this one had done much better than it did because I think it deserved a number of sequels, and I would like to see Jason really track that character for a long time.” The crowd obviously agreed, erupting in applause.
The conversation moved on to which actors the stars would love to work with, leading Lang, who now stars on Fox’s Terra Nova to divulge a possible plot point for the sci-fi drama: “I very rarely get the girl, so I’d really like to do something with … I have a thing for Kate Winslet.” He was interrupted by an audience member who yelled, “Maybe in Terra Nova!” Lang shrugged it off, laughing, “Yeah, maybe,” but then adding, “They’ve got romance played in it for me at some point.”
Momoa, best known for his action roles and as Khal Drogo on HBO’s Game of Thrones, admitted, “I wanna do a romantic comedy, because I’m pretty romantic and I’m funny as fuck, so … the world needs to know! And I’m tired of frowning!” Applause and laughter greeted his exclamation. “And I’d want something that my family and my kids can watch one day – they can’t watch any of my stuff now.”
Asked about the sequel he penned to Conan the Barbarian, which likely won’t come to fruition, Momoa revealed that writing is still in his future. “Yeah, I wrote a script to direct, and I’m shooting actually right now. I feel like in the future I’d love to be behind the camera, I’d love to be a filmmaker.”
The project is called Road to Paloma, and Momoa explained that it, “Tackles the subject of some horrible things that are happening on Native American reservations, with women getting raped. And there’s a bit of a loophole where tribal law can’t arrest, say, if a white man came onto a tribal land and raped a woman, it would have to go to federal court – tribal law can’t prosecute. But the problem is federal court is busy doing a billion other things [so] that 75 percent of these cases are getting thrown out. It’s pretty sickening.”
“So then, is this the romantic comedy?” Lang interjected with a chuckle.
Lang, who played Col. Quaritch in the 2009 blockbuster Avatar, was asked whether he was surprised by the re-release of the James Cameron film. “Jim worked on that film for a lot of years and there’s nothing that says the day a film is released that the work is done,” he replied. “Which is the motivation – totally – behind the 3D version of Titanic, which I’m sure will be derided by many people as a way to make more money. Yeah, you do make more money – but that ain’t why he does it. He feels it enhances the film and continues on the life of a movie, I think. So I wasn’t surprised – I wouldn’t be surprised if another cut comes out. There’s a lot of material there.”
McGowan ended the panel on a somewhat shocking (and ironic) note, after an audience member asked about her love for old movie stars and old films.
“My father, he was an artist and he had a ton of kids so there wasn’t a ton of money,” she answered. “So we would go down to the two-dollar theater and we were the nerds who would be like, ‘Yes! Lawrence of Arabia just came out – re-mastered 70 millimeter on Cinerama Dome!’ I’ve never seen a single Star Wars!” The audience gasped as McGowan laughed, “I know, I know … it’s like heresy, and I’m gonna get killed. I just realized where I said this!”