What Actor Would You Cast to Play the Iconic Barbarian Usurpers?
Two Conans have already been cast in film as well as at least one TV casting, which I have not viewed. This is a hard part to cast as actors tend to be smaller than non-actors, especially smaller than athletes and all of Howard’s characters were athletes. Kull is certainly the Conan prototype and was cast in a TV movie, which was very bad and starred a TV Hercules.
Many artists in comic and on book cover art, have done Conan and one him well. The two most prominent efforts were by Boris Valejo, who employed bodybuilders as models and whose art had much of the pose about it, and Frank Frazetta, who seemed to have painted form his mind’s eye, presenting a darker, wilder more menacing Conan, best exemplified by his painting Rogues in the House..
The two movie actors cast as Conan were Arnold Swarzenegger, who was very much in the buff, mechanical posing mode of Vallejo, and Jason Momoa, a half-Polynesian man who looks much more the part of the black-haired prehistoric Gael of Howard’s imagination than the Austrian Arnold. He also possesses better acting range. All three movies were travesties in terms of their writing and reflect almost nothing of Howard’s vision or setting.
Now, If I were going to write a Conan movie script who would I suggest be cast as the lead?
This is a difficult casting job, so I will approach it chronologically.
In Howard’s time the movie should have certainly starred Johnny Weissmuller, the best of the a Tarzan actors, a real champion athlete with very limited acting range but a suitably barbaric accent.
In the 1950s and 60s, long after the death of Howard and his pulp medium, when the Conan character was enjoying revival, the best pick would have been Clint Walker, who more closely represented the physique and face and hair color described by Howard than any other actor on this list.
In the 1970s and 80s Arnold was the best man available for the job, despite being too short, brown-haired and mechanical.
In the 1990s and 2000s the best actor available would have been Adrian Paul, the man who played Duncan McLeod on the Highlander TV series.
In the current age I really like Jason Momoa, possible as the best Conan of all.
That said, the movie with room to be made, that could be based directly on the plot of a single Howard work, would be one about an older king Conan, either combining The Phoenix on the Sword with The Scarlet Citadel or using The Hour of the Dragon. An alternative script could be made of Beyond the Black River, The Black Stranger or The People of the Black Circle, which would involve and older Conan. For this part I would suggest Ray Stevenson, who played Titus Pullo in HBO’s Rome, Frank Castle in Punisher: War Zone and Irish mobster Danny Greene in Kill the Irishman.
(c) 2018 James LaFond