Conan the Barbarian (1982) Poster


The Friedrich Nietzsche quotation that opens the movie, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger", is a loose translation of "Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker", which more properly translates as "That which does not kill me, makes me stronger." It's from "Twilight of the Idols", Maxims and Arrows, 8.
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Arnold Schwarzenegger had to tone down his workout, as his arm/chest muscles were so big that he couldn't wield a sword properly.
In an interview, John Milius said that the dogs they used in the film were very unfriendly and dangerous. He even went as far to say "When you had the dogs chasing Arnold Schwarzenegger and he's running, he's actually running for his life because he knew those dogs were very dangerous and they even attacked their trainer".
Arnold Schwarzenegger had weapons training, martial arts training, and horse riding lessons from specialists. He trained with an 11-pound broadsword two hours a day for three months, and learned how to handle one; each broadsword cost $10,000 and had to look weathered. He also learned climbing techniques, and how to fall and roll and jump at least 15-feet in the air. John Milius made sure all of these were videotaped, and according to Schwarzenegger, they were just as intense as training for bodybuilding competitions. Franco Columbu was his trainer and was rewarded with a small part in the film.
James Earl Jones was a last minute addition to the cast because of his commitments on Broadway. He and Arnold Schwarzenegger became friends on-set; Schwarzenegger helped Jones stay in shape and Jones coached Schwarzenegger on acting; so did Max von Sydow.
The fake blood used in the film came in the form of a concentrate, which had to be mixed with water prior to use. Due to the cold weather, it was mixed with vodka (as an anti-freeze) instead. In the scenes in which the actors were supposed to spit the blood, they would swallow it instead, then go back to the special effects man for more.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sandahl Bergman did their own stunts, as suitable body doubles couldn't be found.
Arnold Schwarzenegger had to familiarize himself with the Conan comics because there was no script at first to work from; he had never even heard of the character but he seriously wanted the part.
Conan's response to the Mongol General's question, "What is best in life?" are the main character's very first lines of dialog and it is a full twenty minutes into the movie before he delivers them.
Although Conan and Valeria are shown together frequently throughout the movie, he only speaks five words to her in the entire film - and they're all in the first thirty seconds after they meet: "You're not a guard", and "No".
The runes on Conan's father's sword are translated as; "Suffer no guilt, ye who wield this in the name of Crom."
When Oliver Stone wrote the script, he made Arnold Schwarzenegger read comics and fantasy novels to see how he handled period dialogue. Stone set the story in the future after the downfall of civilization; it was to be a four hour saga and had a whole host of creatures. It would have cost the studio 70 million dollars to pull that off so they refused. John Milius wound up rewriting much of Stone's script, which cut the budget by more than half, which also called for a change in location. He wanted the fantasy accurate in every detail.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was entitled to 5% of the film's profits.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was the first and only choice to play Conan.
Conan's response to the Mongol General is an abbreviation of a real quote attributed to Genghis Khan: "The greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies and chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth and see those dear to them bathed in tears, to ride their horses and clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters." Subotai (or Subedei Baghadur) was the name of Great Khan's general. The fact that Conan is not only chased but to some extent orphaned by dogs also recalls Genghis Khan's well-documented fear of that particular animal. Finally, the writers' preoccupation with steel seems oddly coincidental, given that Genghis Khan's birth name, Temujin, is frequently translated as "finest steel."
A Conan expert was brought in to tutor Arnold Schwarzenegger on how to live like the character, e.g. sleeping outdoors, living off the land, etc. Schwarzenegger thanked him by getting him cast as an enemy warrior hacked to bits by Conan. He was delighted that Schwarzenegger had been cast as Conan, as were the fans.
Conan the Barbarian (1982) was intended to be the beginning of a franchise with at least four sequels in the pipeline, and Arnold Schwarzenegger had to commit to all of them.
There is an enduring urban legend about the so-called "Conan toy line". The story is that the Mattel Toy Company started to make some Conan action figures, but after viewing the film, the executives realized that they couldn't afford to be associated with a film with such graphic sex and violence. They gave their doll blonde hair, called him "He-man", and thus created He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983). However, since the first He-Man figures were released in 1981, the legend appears to be false. In 1984, however, now-defunct toy company Remco released an officially licensed series of Conan action figures. Ironically enough, once the He-Man action figures became immensely popular, numerous knockoffs were produced, including a repainted He-Man figure that had brown hair, making it look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. The knockoff was sold mainly through mom-and-pop dollar stores and came in generic packaging labeled "The Barbarian".
Sandahl Bergman says she had the tip of one finger cut off while shooting a swordfight for the picture.
Sven-Ole Thorsen got one of his first roles in the film as a heavy, on Arnold Schwarzenegger's recommendation.
All of Conan's enemies had to be bigger than Arnold Schwarzenegger, something he wasn't used to.
According to the original script, the tomb where Conan gets his sword was from the lost city of Atlantis.
Arnold Schwarzenegger had retired from professional bodybuilding after winning the 1975 Mr. Olympia contest. He got back into such good shape while training for his role in "Conan the Barbarian" that he decided to enter the 1980 Mr. Olympia contest. He won the contest although there was a great deal of controversy about whether he deserved the victory.
When this film was released, audiences filled up three auditoriums; a third of the audience were made up of bodybuilders. People lined up around the block in 16 cities for up to eight hours to see it.
A stuntman smashed his face into a camera while riding a horse at full gallop.
Director John Milius says in the documentary Frazetta: Painting with Fire (2003) that more than a few scenes were dedicated to legendary artist Frank Frazetta and based on his artwork, including the scene in the orgy chamber, Thulsa Doom turning into a snake, a girl chained to a pillar and a climactic fight scene.
Arnold Schwarzenegger suffered a back injury (among other various assorted injuries) while filming when the dogs who were chasing him jumped him from behind and he fell down the rock he was climbing to escape them.
The snake cult of Thulsa Doom is modeled after the Flagellants-a cult that arose in Germany at the time of the Plague of the Black Death in the mid 14th. Century. They are wearing similar white robes and some are whipping themselves.
To give the characters' costumes a more authentic and "lived-in" look, Dino De Laurentiis had the cast members wear their costumes both during rehearsals and the actual scene shoots.
200 workers built the sets in a large warehouse outside Madrid. The production crew were made up of people from Italy, England, the US and Spain. 1500 extras were employed and the score was performed by a 90-piece orchestra and a 24-member choir, singing mock Latin.
The swordmaster was played by Kiyoshi Yamasaki, swordmaster for the actors in the film.
Some of the stuntmen took too long to die and had to be paid extra just to lie down and stay down.
The dynamic score by Basil Poledouris has been frequently used by other filmmakers as temp tracks in other films. It has also been frequently used in advance trailers and TV spots for other films.
Although the "Hyborian Age" of Conan was approximately 10,000 BC, creator Robert E. Howard used Medieval themes and influences in the Conan stories to avoid any complicated historical research. Oliver Stone's script placed the story in a post-apocalyptic future rather than the distant past. This was abandoned and the original timeline was restored.
John Milius hired Ron Cobb to be the production designer after seeing his work on Alien (1979).
Neither Arnold Schwarzenegger nor Sandahl Bergman had ever done a love scene before this film, and both felt awkward about doing one together.
John Milius was very knowledgeable about barbarians from history and told the cast how to behave in the proper way, as well as the decadence of Ancient Rome for the orgy scene.
According to producer Raffaella De Laurentiis, pre-production for the movie initially began in Yugoslavia, but due to the political instability in the area, it was ultimately decided to move the rest of the movie's production to Spain.
Due to production delays, Arnold Schwarzenegger took smaller supporting roles in the interim to give him more experience in front of the camera. During filming, he was away from Maria Shriver for five months, so she tried visiting the set as much as she could.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's first time filming in a foreign country; he picked up a lot of Spanish because few people on-set spoke English. He enjoyed some sightseeing while he was there.
Charles Bronson and Sylvester Stallone, and William Smith were considered for the lead role.
Universal were worried the film's violence was too excessive for viewers. Sid Sheinberg, the president of Universal saw a rough cut and thought it too violent for a holiday release so it was pushed back. On Golden Pond (1981) was Universal's Christmas release instead. The censors asked John Milius to tone the violence down which he did, but in the end it still wasn't enough for them. Arnold Schwarzenegger was annoyed about that but now thinks it brought more people to see it; it was his first real taste of large scale studio marketing and he also helped promote the film in six different countries.
Sean Connery and John Huston were considered for roles.
Sterling Hayden was first choice for the role of King Osric but became ill before shooting began.
The four dragon heads at the top of the Wheel of Pain are exact replicas of the dragon heads on the Gokstad Ship-a Viking ship of the 9th century.
CASTLE THUNDER: Heard during the scene when the spirits try to take Conan's body away.
Osric was the name of some Anglo Saxon kings who ruled parts of Britain in the early 7th and 8th centuries.
The DVD commentary promises a third movie a few times, but the third movie was shelved entirely.
The first teaser trailer was sent out with 1400 prints of Flash Gordon (1980), which premiered in American cinemas on December 5, 1980.
Whenever Arnold Schwarzenegger was injured, John Milius felt the film was going right, even when Schwarzenegger required stitches.
Arnold Schwarzenegger had never seen or ridden a camel before this film.
Oliver Stone asked Ridley Scott, fresh off Alien (1979), to direct. He declined.
John Milius originally wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger to be the narrator. But executives at Universal had problem with Arnold as the narrator, due to his accent and instead Mako was the narrator.
The film had an empty hangar on an air force base at hand.
The script called for weapons of many different kinds.
John Milius wanted the village attack to be violent to show the impact.


The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

When Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones) points to one of his priestesses and she jumps to her death, a women's free fall record was set at 182 feet by stunt woman Corrie Jansen.
The script called for Conan to throw a torch into the palace's central window/balcony. Arnold Schwarzenegger missed on the first attempt, but no retake was possible as the set proceeded to burn to the ground, as intended.
Arnold Schwarzenegger said in the behind the scenes features that during the crucifixion scene, they used a live vulture to peck at his wounds. Then for the close up they used a real dead vulture they found for him to actually bite into its throat. After they cut, they immediately had Arnold rinse his mouth out to avoid disease.
The scene of the crucifixion on the dead tree was shot in Almeria, Spain. When Conan is nursed back to health, we can see mysterious magical figures drawn all over his face. One of them is the "indalo" (a red symbol resembling a man with his arms over his head), a traditional symbol of the province of Almería used since ancient times by the local inhabitants to expel witches and lightning. Now it has become a symbol and tourist trademark icon for the province and its tourism industry.
The life of Conan oddly mirrors that of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Conan's formative years are spent in a small village, then spent in hard manual labor as a slave. Then Conan gains fame and wealth through his physical prowess. Although at first given to wine and women, he eventually abandons his hedonism and uses his skills for acts of heroism. Eventually, Conan becomes a king. In real life, Schwarzenegger was born in a small Austrian village and spent his life bodybuilding. He then becomes famous and wealthy through bodybuilding competitions and action/adventure movies. Schwarzenegger engaged in drug use and womanizing in his past, but gave those up later in life and then campaigned for social causes. Eventually, he was elected Governor of California.
King Osric's death was cut from the film, in which he is murdered in his throne room by Thulsa Doom's henchmen. It can be found on the DVD.
Conan's prayer to Crom just before the Battle Of The Mounds begins is his last dialogue in the movie.

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