In 1982, a fantasy story came to the big screen and created a new action star: Conan the Barbarian.
Based on pulp fiction stories of the 1930s written by Robert E. Howard in Weird Tales Magazine, director/writer John Millius rewrote the screenplay that had been done by Oliver Stone.
The project was sold to producer Dino De Laurentiis by Edward R. Pressman when he couldn’t make it wok and was consequently produced by his daughter Raffaella De Laurentiis and Buzz Feitshans.
Arnold Schwarzenegger had been chosen to play the lead character by the previous production company while Millius chose James Earl Jones to be the villain. During the time period between production companies, Schwarzenegger agreed to a $250,000 contract and to not star in any other action/fantasy films.
Conan (Schwarzenegger) is a young boy when his people are attacked, his parents killed and he becomes a slave because of Thulsa Doom (Jones). He becomes a man, a gladiator and is then set free, and makes a plan to go after Doom.
With his friend Subotai (Gerry Lopez) and friend/lover Valeria (Sandahl Bergman), Conan pursues Doom and takes on a new challenge to rescue the daughter of King Osric, who has become captured by Doom’s cult.
Conan is captured and set to die, but is rescued by Subotai and Valeria, who both agree to help Conan fufill his quest to rescue the daughter and avenge his family by pursuing Thulsa Doom again.
Filmed in England Spain over six months, Schwarzenegger did his own stunts and the sets were very elaborate to showcase the detail of the fantasy stories. With a budget of US$16 million, the team spent almost a year in post-production. When Universal Pictures saw the final edit, they requested more edits, worried about some of the violence shown.
Released in May 1982, the film had been promoted for a year before its official release, using artwork from the 1966 book Conan the Adventurer.With a budget of US $16 million, the film garnered support from fans across the US and quickly became the first blockbuster of the summer movie schedule.
Thanks to the success of this film, Schwarzenegger became a bonafide action star and the sequel was immediately planned. The film made US $130 million at the box office.