Their Red Sonja panel having met with an overwhelmingly positive response from the fans, the people behind next year’s big-screen adaptation talked with ComingSoon.net/Superhero Hype! about some of the plans in the works for the She-Devil with a sword.
First up, director Douglas Aarniokoski joined writer David White to talk about the current state of the story and the vision for the final product.
CS/SHH!: When you’re looking at the character of Red Sonja, what angle are you approaching her from? There’s the original Robert E. Howard stories and then there’s the comic book versions.
David White: I looked at everything! I was familiar with Marvel comics from being a kid, sort of semi-familiar with the 1985 film and not-so-familiar with the Dynamite series. So I did my homework which was really a lot of fun because I love the character. But at the end of the day we sort of have to just pick what works and sort of toss the rest and really reinvent the story. We’ve been saying all along that the comic book fans will be pleasantly surprised at what we draw from. At the same time, people who are totally unfamiliar with it will really dig it and be sucked in right away.
Douglas Aarniokoski: I was very familiar with the comic books. I was certainly familiar with the movie from the ’80s. I saw it and, at the time, I really enjoyed it. I’ve worked with Robert Rodriguez for many years and he’s a huge fan. We actually talked about, five or six years ago, wouldn’t it be great to see a remake of it? Not even at the time saying, “We should do it,” but just “wouldn’t it be great to see someone come in and reinvent it?” And now, here we are in 2008 and we’re the ones doing it.
CS/SHH!: So this all predated the Dynamite series?
Aarniokoski: Oh, yeah. He was a huge, huge fan since he was kid. It’s kind of weirdly synchronistic that it all came together that way.
CS/SHH!: What is the fantasy element involved? Is this very real world or are there giant snakes?
Aarniokoski: A little of both. We’re pulling from both. It’s a fantastical, gritty world. It’s a good old, rated-R sword-swingin’ kind of fun movie.
CS/SHH!: Robert had mentioned that he’s in talks to produce the “Conan” movie and there’s also the just-announced “Thulsa Doom” movie. Is this all going to be tied together as a universe of Cimmeria?
Aarniokoski: Boy, that’s a really good question. I don’t know. Quite frankly, when Robert said that, that was the first I’d heard of it. I was excited as anyone else in the auditorium. I was thinking, “Yeah! That’ll be great!” But I think that’s the idea. I know Luke Lieberman who is one of the partners at Dynamite just announced the “Thulsa Doom” with Djimon Hounsou. He does “Red Sonja,” so clearly there’s an integrating and creating this universe. We’ll see how that goes.
CS/SHH!: Does that prevent you at all? Does that mean that Thulsa Doom can’t appear in “Red Sonja”?
White: Well, it would now but it’s sort of after-the-fact. But you never know. Thulsa Doom might pop up anyway. But generally yeah, we’re sort of keeping them separate at the minute.
CS/SHH!: You just need a cameo with Robert Downey Jr. at the end and you can pull them all together.
CS/SHH!: So is that something you’d be interested in when it comes time to find a “Conan” director?
Aarniokoski: Oh my God! I’m a huge fan of “Conan.” It would be an honor. I would love to direct “Conan.” But right now, it’s “Red Sonja” that’s up to bat. We’re just hot and heavy with “Red Sonja.”
CS/SHH!: You mentioned you’re a comic book fan. What other comic book properties would you be interested in working with?
Aarniokoski: Wow. You know what? I was always a huge fan of the “Batman” series. In a weird way, it’s not even that I want to direct them. It’s just that I enjoy them so much as an audience member. I’m a huge Nolan fan. I just love what he’s done. And I love what Favreau has done with “Iron Man.” It’s nice to sit back and be an audience member and not say, “Oh, I wish I had done that.” It’s just a chance to enjoy great filmmaking. And I’d like to think that the fact that I’m the one doing “Red Sonja” means that those guys can feel the same way. That they can just enjoy a good ride. And that’s where we’re trying to bring the audience.
CS/SHH!: What drew you both to the character of Red Sonja?
Rose McGowan: Well, I thought “Red Sonja” was incredibly badass. The studio brought me the script. I got really excited about it. I’d been getting such boring scripts and after doing Cherry in “Planet Terror,” I was really in a quite a deep depression — I’m not going to lie — at least workwise. I came home and said, “I really want to do this movie. It’s kind of great. Look at these comic books, you ever heard of this person? This is insane!” And then…
Robert Rodriguez: I had been into “Conan” since I was twelve. “Savage Sword of Conan” was the first comic I had gotten. There was lots of Red Sonja in that. Robert E. Howard, who I’m a fan of, was from Texas. I used to collect his books and just knew all about it so I was very surprised when she brought the comic script and offer. I said, “If you want to do that, that’s a great project to do!” That’s like a fantasy project for somebody who grew up with this.
CS/SHH!: You mentioned that you’re in talks to do producing on “Conan.” With this, that and “Thulsa Doom,” are you trying to create a filmic universe?
Rodriguez: Yeah, it’s good to have some kind of continuity of Robert E. Howard. I’m kind of protective of that because he didn’t live far from my house. I just thought that, if it’s going out there, it’s a great time to try and tie things together. I thought that if I could do that, I’d love to be involved.
CS/SHH!: Do you have a favorite Conan or Red Sonja story?
Rodriguez: Well, my favorite Conan story is probably “Red Nails” or “Hour of the Dragon.” I really like those original stories. As for Red Sonja, “The Song of Red Sonja” is really just such a great legend.
McGowan: That’s what wrapped me up into it in the first place.
CS/SHH!: What’s going on with “Barbarella”? Is that something that’s still happening?
Rodriguez: This one kind of took its place because I’m committed to another project in the fall. That’s why I can only sort of produce this one.
McGowan: It’s kind of sad. There’s 70 million dollars of funding totally there but it would have to wait for a year and half and we’d have to go to Germany for a long time. Not that’s there anything wrong with Germany, but it’s so far in the future that literally he could get two more movies, I could get another movie or do a TV show. People just don’t understand that usually, you’ve got 20 different things going on at once, hoping that one sticks. If an actor or director had only one thing they were trying to produce or get made, they would be in the poorhouse. They’d be screwed. You’re always trying to hustle. I’m gonna hustle at the end of the day. Hopefully, it’s something really good. It’s like juggling. You don’t know what’s going to stick and what’s going to fall. It’s not like something that dramatically fell apart. You ask and director or producer here, they’ll tell you the same thing.
CS/SHH!: Is there a particular scene you’re looking forward to the most in the movie?
McGowan: There’s a scene where I’m underneath a bunch of horses and stabbing upwards. I’m excited about that.
Rodriguez: Well, we can’t say what [the scenes] are.
McGowan: Then that’s a lie! There are no horses!
CS/SHH!: You mentioned a family film coming up. Is that going to be “The Jetsons”?
Rodriguez: No, it’s “Shorts.” I just shot that one.
CS/SHH!: So are you no longer on “Jetsons”?
Rodriguez: I wrote a script for them. But I don’t know about that. “Shorts” comes out next summer. I’m still working on that.
Red Sonja is targeted for a 2009 release.