KULL THE CONQUEROR began its twisting
road to the big screen as CONAN III by Charles Edward Pogue.
Although initially rumored to have been an adaptation of THE HOUR
OF THE DRAGON, it actually only takes small elements from that
story (the resurrection of a long dead wizard of Acheron, and
Conan reuniting with his old pirate cronies) and instead is
completely original and doesn't directly adapt any individual
Howard story. But when Arnold Schwarzenegger turned it down
(ostensibly because he doesn't care for doing sequels), Universal
decided to do a Kull movie instead.
The KULL THE CONQUEROR script draft
dated Aug. 25, 1993 opens with King Borna gripped by madness,
slaying all of his children in the belief that his royal wizard
Enaros will soon make the king immortal. But Borna has acted too
soon and overplayed his hand.
Meanwhile, Enaros is in his citadel
tower performing a ceremony which reanimates the ancient Acheron
sorceress Akivasha, once known as the Red Witch, using the mystic
Flame of Korsala which exists in the wizard's tower.
Kull, the commander of King Borna's
navy, learns of his monarch's descent into madness and is among
those who confront him. In the battle Kull strikes Borna down.
During the fight a device of the wizard's explodes, maiming Enaros
in the fire. During this fight Akivasha has remained hidden but
she admires what she sees in Kull.
While everyone else stands around
arguing about who will be king, the dying Borna decrees that Kull
will succeed him, and Borna dies laughing. With the succession
official, Tu decrees that no one may dispute Kull's right to the
The character of Zareta, one of the
king's concubines whose tarot cards can foretell the future (she
foretold Kull's rise to be king), is established as a woman who
respects Kull and remains with him even after he frees the women
in the seraglio and gives them money so that they can go and have
lives of their own.
Initially Kull wins favor with the
people by abolishing all slavery in Valusia. But he also believes
that people should be allowed to worship whatever gods they
choose. When Kull rescues the priest Ascalante from being whipped
by his rival, Mandara, another enemy is made as Mandara does not
like the competition.
A group of conspirators meet and they
are joined by the wizard Enaros, who helps to bring Kull down by
having him meet Akivasha. She became partners with Enaros when his
citadel burned down and he was maimed, but the Red Witch magically
repaired his wounds.
Akivasha is presented to Kull as the
cousin of one of the conspirators. During the grand celebration,
Kull is immediately smitten by Akivasha and they soon marry. But
on their wedding night Kull mysteriously dies and suspicion falls
on Rolando, the minstrel, who had attacked Kull during the wedding
feast and slashed him with a knife. In fact the assassin was
Akivasha, but then we all know that Kull isn't really dead as a
double lies in state for him while Kull awakens a captive inside
the citadel of Enaros.
And that all happens in the first 40
When Enaros moves to slay Kull,
Akivasha intervenes, causing the wizard's arm to wither to what it
had been before she healed him. She states that his arm will
remain that way to remind him that she is in command. Alone with
Kull, Akivasha reveals that she is pregnant with Kull's child and
she offers to make him immortal and teach him the secrets of the
gods. When she kisses him he bites her on the lip, but flame, not
blood, spurts from the wound. She leaves, warning that she will
not be spurned.
Kull remains chained in a cell in the
citadel until he is found by Zareta, who had figured out that the
body lying in state was a fraud. They escape the dungeon and
encounter the priest, Ascalante, who has figured out that Akivasha
is the three thousand year old queen of Acheron revived, and that
Kull cannot defeat her alone.
Rolando is to be executed for Kull's
murder but Kull wants to save him somehow as the minstrel is
actually the brother of Zareta. Kull sneaks back into the city by
hiding beneath the saddle cloth of a camel. When it appears a
guard is about to discover that Kull is there, the camel chooses
that moment to relieve himself, discouraging the guard from
peaking under its saddle cloth.
Kull had complained to Ascalante that
the camel had fleas. On page 48 the following scene takes place as
they catch up with Kull in the city.
EXT. ALLEY - NIGHT
Ascalante and Zareta find Kull gasping
for breath, drenched in camel piss. They try vainly to suppress
Well, it probably drowned the fleas.
With a disgusted snarl, Kull shakes the
pungent wetness from him like a dog shakes water out of his fur.
At the funeral pyre prepared for Kull,
the scene of Rolando's intended execution, the minstrel sings an
ascerbic song: "All fled - all done, so lift me on the pyre;
The feast is over and the lamps expire."
Some quick work replaces the phony
corpse of Kull with the genuine article, who causes consternation
when he rises up before the pyre can be lit and lops off the head
of the traitorous Mandara. He frees Rolando and they escape into
Ascalante's temple and then into a secret tunnel.
Far from the city Kull learns that in
order to destroy the witch queen he must find something called The
Breath of Valka, the only thing that can "blow out" the
Flame of Korsala, which is the source of Akivasha's power.
In the seaport town of Tatheli, Kull
pays a visit to a man named Juba, a merchant he fenced goods to in
his pirate days. He wants Juba to supply him with a ship. A
similar scene is in HOUR OF THE DRAGON.
Back in Valusia the Red Witch takes her
wizard slave Enaros into secret pits beneath the citadel and to a
cavern lit by the Flame of Korsala. This secret cavern is filled
with tier upon tier of mummified corpses, some of humans, some of
demons. These are the dead dynasties of ancient Acheron. In order
to reanimate them she needs her blood, but since the flame flows
in her veins instead of blood she believes that the child she
conceived with Kull will posses the mystic blood she needs to
reanimate the ancient dead of Acheron.
Akivasha pulls back her cape, exposing
the milky white flesh of her smooth, flat stomach. She places her
hand on it. AND HER STOMACH BEGINS TO GLOW WITH FIERY TRANSLUCENT
LIGHT. . . exposing inside her, a FETUS! Even at this tiny stage
it is obvious that the child is far from human!
On the ship, Kull and the others are
served a meal which is drugged, and Kull awakens chained to a
galley oar. When Zareta resists Juba's dubious charms, he has her
stripped and thrown overboard to be dragged by a rope tied to her
hands. In fury Kull pulls his chain out of the wood it's fastened
to and he wraps the chain around Juba's throat and then throws the
fat merchant overboard. As Kull fights the men on deck, Juba is
attacked by sharks. In the nick of time Kull pulls Zareta to
safety just as another shark races towards her.
The Captain and other crew members
engage Kull in battle, but he manages to free the galley slaves
(some of whom served under Kull when he was the pirate known as
The Tiger). The slaves slaughter the crew and Kull is once again
the leader of the pirates known as the Black Corsairs.
Back in Akivasha's citadel, the inhuman
child within her is growing. She uses the flame to discover that
Kull is seeking the Breath of Valka. She weeps that Kull would
spurn her love and when Enaros demands to know how she could shed
tears for him, Akivasha turns on the wizard and uses her flaming
power to wither his flesh still further.
Akivasha enters the Flame of Korsala
and moves to create defenses for herself.
Aboard the ship Zareta does a wild
dance in front of Kull and then they retire to his cabin. While
they are making love Akivasha uses her powers to spy on Kull and
becomes furious at what she sees. Not to be outdone, Akivasha
manages to temporarily merge with the duo to become a weird
menage-a-trois as Akivasha appears first as Zareta and then as
Kull and then as part of herself growing out of one of them until
Zareta and Kull achieve climax, oblivious to what has happened.
Their ship nears the Isle of
Ever-Night, where they will seek the Breath of Valka. They
encounter a field of dead ships trapped in the ice. On the island
they find the bodies of men frozen in ice. The cave is filled with
bitter winds. When Kull tests it with his sword he pulls the sword
out to find it covered with frost.
At the entrance to the cave is carved
an inscription which Zareta believes she understands even though
its meaning seems cryptic. She tests it by removing all of her
clothing and stepping naked into the cave-where she is
surprisingly unharmed. She pleads to a face carved of ice and the
wind seems to enter her body, whereupon she faints.
When she comes to in Kull's arms there
is frost on her lips and she tells Kull not to kiss her because
The Breath of Valka is inside of her. But the witch queen has been
observing this through her mystic flame and realizes that Kull now
possesses the instrument of her destruction.
On board the ship, even as it
approaches the warmer climates, Zareta remains cold and reveals
that in order to use The Breath of Valka she must enter the Flame
of Korsala itself, even if it means her death. Kull is overcome
with the immensity of what must happen, and the sacrifice that
Zareta is willing to make for him in order to destroy Akivasha.
In the citadel, Akivasha has arranged
some of the mummies of the dead of Acheron before the Flame of
Ducalon, one of the conspirators,
recognizes at last the threat she poses and he attacks her,
stabbing Akivasha in the heart, but to no effect. The Red Witch
kills Ducalon with just a touch to his forehead. Then she prepares
to give birth to her inhuman child.
As Kull's ship nears the shore, the
army under command of Taligaro prepares to attack Kull as soon as
he lands, and they begin firing arrows at the ship to kill
whomever they can even before the ship drops anchor. But When Kull
climbs the rigging and shouts to his former army, revealing that
he is alive, this causes the ranks to break as those loyal to Kull
turn on Taligaro and his Dragon Legion.
As the ship docks Taligaro on horseback
leaps aboard Kull's ship. Kull knocks him from his saddle and the
two men engage with swords. Kull's blade is shattered, but when
Taligaro moves in for the kill, Kull moves in even more quickly
and stabs Taligaro in the throat with the broken blade.
Meanwhile, Ascalante the priest has
entered the citadel and found Akivasha preparing to give birth,
floating a dozen feet above the floor in the Flame of Korsala.
Kull enters carrying Zareta and he
leaps down the stairs just in time to avoid a silent explosive
thrown by Enaros. But the explosion hurls back Rolando and
Ascalante. Enaros hurls a knife at Kull which Rolando leaps in
front of and takes in his chest. Kull then hurls a stone at
Enaros, knocking him into the pit from which the Flame of Korsala
Zareta enters the flame but nothing
happens to her or to the flame. Kull manages to pull her back out
and when she seems to be dying he kisses her and the Breath of
Valka flows into him, causing Zareta to revive. But Akivasha
doesn't realize this. In the throes of childbirth she reaches out
to Kull, realizing in the last possible second that his skin is
cold, too cold. But Kull pulls her to him and kisses her, passing
the Breath of Valka into her.
Akivasha screams. Her body withers and
once again turns into a mummified corpse before being consumed in
Kull, Zareta and Ascalante escape,
leaping into the sea as the earth shakes and the citadel
collapses. The threat of the Red Witch is ended.
Later, Kull is recrowned king by
Ascalante and Kull takes Zareta to be his queen, shouting down
Tu's protest that she is not of noble birth. Kull points out that
he is not of noble birth either and from that day forward he will
uphold only the just laws and strike down the unjust. Kull is king
In Chuck Pogue's last draft of KULL THE
CONQUEROR, dated Feb. 1st, 1996 (he discusses the circumstances of
this rewrite in the following interview), the script opens on the
resurrection of Akivasha more quickly, and then introduces Kull in
the same blindfolded swordfighting contest seen in the previous
script. The storyline continues unchanged until a scene is added
when an assassin attacks Kull in the palace and Taligaro kills the
man with his own knife, which Kull notes angrily prevents him from
discovering who sent the assassin. It's clear to us that the man
was sent by Taligaro, who killed the man because he failed.
The story proceeds apace, the same,
until page 76 when Taligaro and his Dragon Legion are given a ship
which sails in mystic pursuit of Kull, it's aim to head him off
and thwart his quest of The Breath of Valka. Akivasha is using her
power to speed the ship across the sea.
Kull's ship reaches the Isle of
Ever-Night as before where Zareta takes The Breath of Valka inter
her, but before they can leave the island they are attacked by
Taligaro and his Dragon Legion. At one point Taligaro tries to
sneak up on Kull and kill him from behind, but Rolando throws
himself between Taligaro and Kull so that Rolando is stabbed
instead. Taligaro and his men leave the island, believing Kull and
the others trapped when the ceiling in the ice cavern collapsed.
Inside the cave Rolando, who is badly
wounded in the side, is trapped along with Kull and Zareta. Soon
Rolando dies in his sister's arms, but Kull discovers that the ice
cave has a thin wall holding back the sea and he crashes through
it with his mace and they swim to safety, emerging on the surface
of the icy waters and then swim to an ice floe upon which an
ancient ship is trapped.
Taligaro had put Kull's ship to flame
as he left and Kull takes timber from the burning ship and builds
bonfires around the ship on the ice floe in order to free it from
its icy prison. The story then proceeds as before and they return
to Valusia to confront Akivasha and destroy her.
This time when Taligaro leaps aboard
Kull's ship on horseback, Kull stabs Taligaro in the chest and
throws his body overboard. Later, after Akivasha is destroyed,
Taligaro, somewhat worse for the wear, reappears from the sea to
attack Kull again. During the fight Taligaro grabs Zareta, but
Kull frees her and stabs Taligaro in the chest so that he falls
back into a cleft in the wall which is quickly filled with debris
from the collapsing citadel.
They escape from the collapsing citadel
and the story concludes as before.
The Feb. '96 rewrite is interesting in
that it inflates the role of Taligaro by adding the sequence in
which he pursues Kull to the Isle of Ever-Night and then returns
to battle Kull one final time after Akivasha has been destroyed
but before Kull and Zareta can escape from the citadel which is
shaking itself to pieces. Is it improved? Well, it adds two more
very good action sequences to the script, which was probably the
Due to a disagreement that Chuck Pogue
had with producer Raphaella DeLaurentiis (daughter of the
notorious Dino DeLaurentiis) during the making of DRAGONHEART,
Pogue was removed from KULL in 1996 and subsequent rewrites were
done by Don Mancini. The latest script I have, which seems to be
the shooting script (it has scene numbers) lists no less than nine
different versions done starting with June 7th, then June 18, July
16, July 18, July 25, July 29, August 2, August 8 and finally
August 15th, 1996. The credits on this script (which could be
different when the final screen credits are assigned) reads
Screenplay by Charles Edward Pogue, Based on the Characters
Created by Robert E. Howard, Participating Writer Don Mancini.
Let's see just what Mancini's
participation led to.
Initially Kull did not appear in the
opening scenes, but in the new version a new battle scene opens
the story with Kull, ax in hand, battling a black-uniformed
opponent on a river bank. Kull is fighting members of Taligaro's
Dragon Legion, but it is just an exercise. This is an obvious
reworking of Pogue's scene in which Kull and Taligaro test each
other by having a mock fight while blindfolded. In fact this leads
to that same conflict as this time Kull is vying to join the
A silly bit of business is introduced
here in which we're told that Kull only fights with an ax and is
unfamiliar with the use of a sword. This is ridiculous as a true
warrior is expert with many weapons, even if he chooses to
specialize in one.
When Kull reveals that he's a
barbarian, Taligaro turns him down for admission as only nobility
can join the Dragon Legion. Just then Dalgar rides up and
announces that the king is murdering his heirs.
When Taligaro confronts King Borna, he
claims that his oldest son challenged him and so he decided to
kill all of his children.
Thus far we have seen nothing of Enaros
or his resurrection of the Red Witch of Acheron.
Kull confronts Borna who is about to
kill Taligaro. In the fight Kull strikes Borna down. The argument
over the crown follows and it is ended the same way, when the
dying Borna bestows it on Kull.
Then follows the same scenes Chuck
Pogue wrote in which Kull talks to Zareta and she reads his fate
with her tarot cards. Then the next morning Kull announces that
all slaves in Valusia are to be set free, which is also Chuck
Pogue's scenes. But then this is abruptly cut off when Tu points
to a carven stone tablet in the wall which proclaims that
Valusians may own slaves, and that the law is greater than any
king. Kull backs down from his proclamation, which makes him look
like a wimp king.
Thus far the changes have been
pointless, making Kull a member of the king's army rather than
commander of his navy. Superficial changes which don't affect the
story in any substantial way - yet.
Another new scene involves an
assassination attempt at Kull's public coronation, but Kull kills
the assassins. It's just a pointless action scene.
The same scene follows in which the
wizard Enaros gathers the conspirators together for his own plan
to unseat Kull. But this version of Enaros is hideously burned and
scarred (without explanation). This is followed by having all of
the conspirators witness the resurrection of the Red Witch,
This is followed by the same scenes in
which Kull is introduced to the most beautiful women in his
kingdom as he is meant to choose a queen. When introduced to
Ducalon's niece (actually Akivasha), Kull is instantly smitten
with her and the wedding soon follows. When Kull is found
"dead," suspicion falls on Zareta because she
accidentally scratched his arm after the wedding. The character of
Rolondo is nowhere to be seen.
When Akivasha offers Kull immortality
if he stays with her, he refuses and she orders that he be put to
death. As she leaves she orders the eunuch Zuleki to kill Kull,
but Kull manages to kill Zuleki and escape. When he learns that
Zareta is to be burned on his funeral pyre he goes to rescue her
(in the previous drafts he was going to rescue Rolondo). A lot of
Chuck Pogue's material is used all through here.
The absence of Rolondo is explained
when we discover that Ascalante, the priest whose life Kull saved
earlier, is actually Zareta's brother. The elimination of
Rolondo's character is odd as all it does is reduce the number of
players by one and combine things Rolondo would have done with
what Ascalante was doing.
In a scene when Taligaro is arguing
with Akivasha, he complains that this wasn't their pact and she
replies: "I've altered our pact. Pray I don't alter it
further," which is a line Darth Vader used in THE EMPIRE
STRIKES BACK. One thing I've noticed about Mancini's rewrites is
that his new dialogue is flat and uninteresting, and here he tries
to prop it up by stealing a line from another movie!
Kull, Ascalante and Zareta then ride to
the port of Tatheli and more Pogue scenes follow involving Juba
and obtaining a ship. Many scenes of these scenes are the same,
including the drugging of Kull, his escape, his slaying of Juba by
throwing him overboard, only instead of sharks a sea monster gets
him - a minor change.
When Akivasha realizes that Kull is
sailing north she sends Taligaro after him, only now she has
offered Taligaro the chance to share the throne with her that Kull
spurned. He is to become her consort.
The lovemaking scene when Akivasha
quietly intrudes remains but has been toned down, as have all of
the sex scenes in the script.
On the Isle of Ever-Night, it is
Ascalante who is stabbed trying to help Kull, since the character
of Rolondo has been eliminated.
In this script Taligaro captures Zareta
and flees the ice cave as it collapses and traps Kull and
Ascalante inside. After Ascalante dies from his wounds, Kull
escapes the cavern as before and finds his ship burned and his men
dead, as before. But now Taligaro has Zareta whom he plans to use
to slay Akivasha to eliminate her and take over the throne.
In previous drafts there is reference
to a ship with a flying fish carved on its prow. Kull retrieves
this ship from the ice, but in this final draft we're not shown
how. Also, for some reason Mancini has found it necessary to
stretch credulity by having it be the ship of Kull's father.
The pregnancy of Akivasha which she was
to use to revive the dead of Acheron has been replaced with an
eclipse of the sun, which is beginning as Kull's new ship enters
the harbor. The scene where Taligaro attacks Kull by leaping
aboard his ship on horseback has been eliminated (too bad, it was
Taligaro pushes Zareta into the Flame
of Korsala but nothing happens. She is retrieved by Kull, who sees
Akivasha turning into a demon. Zareta kisses him, as before, and
as before Kull then kisses Akivasha.
Amid the citadel as it is being
destroyed, Kull is attacked by Taligaro and kills him with an ax
to the chest.
The dialogue from the ending is a mix
of Pogue and some new, including Kull's declaration that "By
this axe I rule!" But he still doesn't free the slaves, the
The following interview with Chuck
Pogue was conducted at his home on February 25, 1997. In it he
outlines the history of the Kull project and how he was replaced
in a conspicuously political maneuver, which he describes in some
detail. Chuck and his wife had been close friends with Raffaella DeLaurentiis
(the daughter of Dino deLaurentiis) for several years, and when
she coldly turned against him and chose to link her fortunes to
up-and-coming director Rob Cohen (DRAGONHEART and DAYLIGHT), the
producer apparently believed that this was a good course to
follow. History seems to be proving otherwise as Cohen's
ham-handed rewriting of the scripts for both of those films
diminished their box-office performance considerably, leaving
Cohen's future as a director in Hollywood in a greatly diminished
position as well. Some people have unfairly blamed Chuck Pogue for
what DRAGONHEART ultimately was, but anyone who has read Chuck's
novel understands what his true vision for that project was before
director Rob Cohen compromised it, and Chuck expounds in this
interview on just how it is that a director can cripple a script
and cast the writer aside. But primarily this interview concerns
the history of the motion picture known as KULL.
VAN HISE: I UNDERSTAND THAT ALL OF THIS ACTUALLY BEGAN BACK WHEN
UNIVERSAL WAS GOING TO DO CONAN III?
POGUE: Actually it was my suggestion
that they do CONAN III. I had just finished [writing] DRAGONHEART
for Raffaella and then suddenly the sun rose and shone on my butt.
I could do no wrong there at the studio and Raffaella thought I
was a genius. I said that what I've always wanted to do is Conan,
because, begging your pardon, but I don't think that anybody's
quite got it right yet. So she ran up to Tom Pollock and said that
Pogue wants to do a Conan movie and within two weeks the deal was
done. It was the fastest deal that had ever been done because they
really wanted me to write it.
DID UNIVERSAL STILL OWN THE OPTION AT
Yes, they still owned the character
because Raffaella had told them that they should buy it when
Dino's option was set to expire. But the plan very early on had
been that if they couldn't get Arnold to do Conan, we would change
it to Kull, because they kept saying that they had the rights to
Kull, which they sort of did but sort of didn't. Actually some
other guys had the rights to it [Kull] and they had to acquire it
SINCE CONAN IS OBVIOUSLY A BETTER KNOWN
CHARACTER THAN KULL, WHY WOULDN'T THEY HAVE COMMERCIALLY DECIDED
TO JUST RECAST CONAN WITH ANOTHER ACTOR JUST LIKE IT'S BEEN DONE
WITH JAMES BOND AND TARZAN?
It's a good question and it was my
question at one time. What is more valuable, the cachet of Conan
or switching to Kull? I think their fear was that Arnold was so
identified with Conan, even though it had been close to ten years
by the time we knew it would come out, that they just didn't want
to risk it.
THE ODDS OF ARNOLD DOING ANOTHER CONAN
MOVIE SEEM PRETTY REMOTE.
They did and they didn't. For awhile we
thought that he'd look at it from a box office point of view.
"Arnold back as Conan!" would have been a wonderful box
office draw, just to see that character. And the other thing was
that we had a script now that was a much more mature script and
had taken into account Arnold's growth and maturity as an actor.
My edict was always, I want to do a thinking man's swashbuckler. I
want something along the lines of THE VIKINGS or SPARTACUS -
something with a brain that really requires acting, and something
that was the definitive Robert Howard.
I typed this up and it was the first
note I sent out on my whole philosophy of how to approach this
project, and it's taken from Robert Weinberg's ANNOTATED GUIDE OF
ROBERT E. HOWARD'S SWORD & SORCERY:
"Grimness is the word. The best of
the Conan stories have an undercurrent of moody despair that makes
them more than mere sword and sorcery adventure. Howard believed
in this philosophy; this dark and despondent outlook on life, and
anyone not using this background as a basis for Conan stories can
never achieve the results that made Howard's work great."
I said let's go for a really mature,
multileveled, thinking man's swashbuckler like they used to make
in the old days. Also I think if you watch the first Conan movie
and then watch the second one, the mistake that they made going
from 'R' to 'PG' is that we had a much more interesting first
movie (although I still think that one is flawed) and a kiddie
movie in the second one.
THE FIRST ONE IS A JOHN MILIUS MOVIE,
IT'S NOT A ROBERT E. HOWARD MOVIE.
Exactly, but Milius has a closer feel
for Howard than what happened in the second one.
THE SECOND ONE WAS A GENERIC SWORD AND
SORCERY. . .
Bad kind of movie that you've seen
eight hundred times.
So there was a hope, but Arnold
actually mulled this over for it must have been a year or more
before he ever gave us an answer, which is another reason it's
taken so long because I wrote the script in '91. I knew going into
it that I had this Conan/Kull possibility and so my goal was,
okay, we'll start with Conan as king, that way if I have to switch
over I can go with Kull as king. I'm going to look at the Conan
stories that were rewritten Kull stories and I'm going to deal
with that material. But I read everything. I read all the Kull
stories, all the Conan stories, except for the pastiches - just
the stuff that was actually Robert Howard's Conan. And I evolved a
story where I knew I could switch it over to Kull because if you
look at some of those early stories that he rewrote as Conan
stories, Kull is basically the same character as Conan, he's only
a bit more cerebral. And "Phoenix on the Sword" and
"Scarlet Citadel" were two strong ones that I certainly
looked at, and THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON. And then I concocted a
whole new story around it all, stealing bits and pieces from them.
SO IT WAS NEVER AN ADAPTATION OF
"THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON."
No, not at all, because the Heart of
Ahriman had been used in CONAN THE DESTROYER, so I couldn't use
that. Also if you read HOUR OF THE DRAGON, the problem with it is
that it's very episodic. It looks like what it was - a serial
which was serialized in WEIRD TALES. But there was a theme there
that I rather liked which was this man confronting his past, going
back to his past and his origins to find out who he was, what had
made him king, and why he's not king any more, and that's what we
tried to adhere to. That theme, while finding a new story that was
a bit more cohesive as opposed to episodic, which is what THE HOUR
OF THE DRAGON is.
I READ THAT YEARS AGO KARL EDWARD
WAGNER HAD DONE A SCRIPT FOR CONAN III, FOR DINO, I ASSUME.
I never heard a word about it. That's
literally the first I've ever heard of it.
IT SUPPOSEDLY WAS ABOUT CONAN AS A
PIRATE, SO I PRESUME IT WOULD HAVE DRAWN FROM "QUEEN OF THE
BLACK COAST," "POOL OF THE BLACK ONE," ETC.
That was another thing I liked bringing
in, was the pirates and part of that is in THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON,
I immersed myself in all of this stuff
and for about six months; just read everything and it evolved this
storyline, with the help of Raffaella. She and I discussed the
story, particularly the mythology with Korsala and the Breath of
Valka. We really liked the idea of having a device which wasn't a
rock or a jewel when we were looking for that magic device that we
could use. So it was a much more interesting device, this Breath
of Valka, where you have to take the breath in.
WHEN YOU CHANGED CONAN III TO KULL, DID
YOU BASICALLY JUST CHANGE THE NAMES OF CHARACTERS OR DID YOU HAVE
TO REWORK IT?
I had to rework it slightly, but the
first Kull draft was actually very much like the Conan draft.
THE FIRST KULL DRAFT OF YOURS I READ
WAS A 1993 DRAFT.
The first Conan I turned in was in
February '92. We had to change some of it eventually. What
happened was that in the Spring of '93, Rob Cohen came on to
direct for awhile, and that's when we did a lot of restructuring
on the script, which was fine because it actually made it more
Kull than Conan after that. We found a new way into it. In the
original Conan script, Conan was already king and what happened
with the wizard was already backstory. So we actually changed it
to where you saw Kull become king and how he became king, which we
didn't see in the Conan version. It kept the story in a forward
progression as opposed to dealing with some back story and just
made it more of a different character.
Rob was on it for just a few months and
the script got a little unwieldy because he kept wanting to put
stuff in, and then at the time we thought we were going to shoot
it in Malta, but Rob didn't want to go to Malta and so he backed
out of it, which was a blessing given my experiences with him on
At that point Universal came back on
and said, "We think this script is too unwieldy. Would you go
back to more of the original form?" So we went back and cut
some of the stuff out, and kept some of the stuff we liked. It had
gotten too big and too expensive and so we winnowed it back down
to what is I think the first script you read, the '93 script. That
script stayed intact until January '95.
In the meantime another director came
on, and that was Kevin Hooks. This guy was great. He was a
terrific director. He really understood the piece. He told me that
when he first read it, he saw it on his night stand and he kept
avoiding it because he thought it was just another one of these
sword and sorcery things. But when he read it he said, "Oh,
this is really about much more. This is deep and it's got real
characters you can sink your teeth into." He really took to
the script and liked the blend of action and the depth of
character married to the action, which is something you don't see
in these things very often.
So he came on as director and we
started testing actors. We saw a lot of good actors. It was a
wonderful experience for me because a lot of people didn't know
how this was going to work because the language and everything in
the piece. And when these actors came in they were falling all
over themselves anxious to get in there and read because they
loved the script so much and you heard the dialogue rolling off
their tongue and it really worked. Everybody got very excited
because they realized the script worked really well. Even bad
actors were giving good readings!
We saw some wonderful actors. Lou
Diamond Phillips came in and read once and if it had been up to me
I would have cast him on the spot. He gave a brilliant reading.
You would not believe how brilliant a reading it was. It hit every
nuance of the script.
But the best thing was Kevin. He really
understood the piece and understood how it played. We both are
actors and both have theater in our background (I've always
considered myself an actor's writer) which improved the script.
Kevin and I spoke the same language and were geared toward
performance; we understood performance and how things played. And
to watch this guy with actors was just an amazing thing because he
could work with actors twenty minutes and get colors out of them
and just every nuance, every subtlety of the script was suddenly
there. He really understood the playing of the piece. It was a
nice thing because at the same time I was in note sessions with
Rob [Cohen] on DRAGONHEART. To be working with a guy who was
secure and smart and had no ego and wanted you there as a
collaborator was quite different from working with Rob who was the
exact opposite. Kevin kept me in the mix all the time, asking my
opinion, allowed me in all the auditions, wanted me there when
they did screenings. It was truly a collaboration.
It was such a difference between going
from Kevin, who was the soul of serenity and professionalism, to
Rob Cohen who was this neurotic, emotionally frightened man who if
he couldn't usurp your talent, or take credit for it, would try to
destroy it; and just the anxiety that you had in meetings with him
and his spewing and his venom and his nastiness. I was really glad
to see him go [from KULL]. I remember once we were doing a note
session on KULL and he came in with his reader's notes. He may
have read the script once or twice, but he hadn't really read it
carefully or studied it, and he was basing all his notes on his
reader's notes and we got to a whole section in the script which
is on the Breath of Valka. There was a scene in the middle of the
script where it talks about the Breath of Valka and it gives the
whole origin and mythology, and he wanted to cut the scene! It was
obvious that he hadn't read it and Raffaella and I are sitting
there telling him, "Rob, you can't cut that scene. The whole
second half of the movie depends on that scene! If you don't set
that stuff up, no one's going to understand what you're talking
about." He just really couldn't get it and ultimately he got
very vehement and nasty with Raffaella's development person
because he said, "Do you understand this?" And she said,
well yes, of course. And he blew up and said, "Well if she
understands it. . !" and he started to denigrate this girl
who had more knowledge of literature and drama than he could ever
hope to have, and he stormed out of the room, and it was basically
because he had gotten caught. He hadn't done his homework and he
had gotten caught. He looked like a fool in front of all of us and
so he broke up the meeting.
So dealing with that with Rob, and then
dealing with Kevin who knew the script inside out and knew the
characters inside out. He got the movie. He really got the movie.
It was gonna' be a fun movie and eventually we found an actor who
we decided we wanted to test named Thomas Ian Griffith. Kevin
directed a test with him and it was superb. He did a brilliant job
on this test. When I saw this test I wanted to go out and write
KULL II because I was so stoked on this test. Raffaella and Kevin
and I were ready to go. We said this is the guy. This is it. Let's
go shoot the movie, but we couldn't get him past the brass. They
didn't know what they wanted but it wasn't him for some reason. I
think they wanted somebody who they thought would be a franchise
actor. We thought this guy could be a franchise actor. He was just
a really nice guy.
IT SEEMS THAT THESE DAYS THEY WANT TO
GO FOR SOME KNOWN QUANTITY, AND YET IF YOU LOOK AT THE MOVIES THAT
HAVE TAKEN OFF THAT STARRED UNKNOWNS, THEY WORKED FINE. NOBODY HAD
HEARD OF CHRISTOPHER REEVE BEFORE SUPERMAN.
That was my thinking, and that's why I
kept telling them that the movie is the star here. In this kind of
genre you publicize this like a Conan movie and that's your star.
And the other thing is that you want an unknown so that you can
get him for a string of movies. You're not going to get a name
player to sign up for a string of these movies.
So we were really disheartened and the
studio [Universal] said look, give us two weeks to find a name
personality and then you can go back to this guy. Well that never
happened. Two weeks became three, four and then five months, and
everything just dwindled away, and by that time we were off
shooting DRAGONHEART. And they kept Kevin hanging there, which is
a shame because he had worked so hard and really deserved it, and
he was looking at new actors, and there was a whole list. They
were looking at Adrian Paul from HIGHLANDER. Kevin Sorbo's name
had come up at this time, and then was dropped and came up again.
We had people sending in tapes from all over Europe, the United
States and Australia. They were just coming in from everywhere,
and we kept saying, "We've got the guy! Let us go do the
movie! This is the guy."
In the meantime, when we were in
Slovakia, Raffaella said, "I can piggyback these two movies.
We can go right from DRAGONHEART into KULL because we've got all
the swords now, all the weaponry. We've got great locations here;
the sets. We can do this movie here." The game plan was to go
from DRAGONHEART right into KULL. But Universal just kept dragging
their heels on getting an actor.
Then in the interim Raffaella and I had
a falling out on DRAGONHEART.
I KNOW YOU DON'T WANT TO GO INTO A LOT
OF DETAIL, BUT WHY WOULD SHE ULTIMATELY SIDE WITH ROB COHEN WHEN
HE HAD SHOWN HIS TRUE COLORS IN OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES THAT SHE HAD
You tell me and we'll both know!
I think that people sometimes. . . she
had a modestly successful movie with Rob, this DRAGON: THE BRUCE
LEE STORY. Its success was never properly analyzed. The reason it
was a success, number one, is that it was made for 15 million
dollars. So when it made 40 million domestically, it couldn't help
but go into profit. Secondly, you had a very charismatic actor,
Jason Scott Lee, who is quite brilliant in the role. And thirdly
you had the mythos of Bruce Lee behind it, and that's why that
movie was a hit. It had nothing to do with Rob's talent, for
better or worse. And she was telling me all through DRAGONHEART,
every night we'd have dinner together and she'd sit there and tell
me things. One time she said, "You know the reason Rob pisses
all over the script is because he's afraid of your talent and he's
jealous of you." At one point she told me that she had told
him he'd butchered the script. (Rob even told me this story) But
somehow little of that butchering came out - it stayed in. And she
kept letting him do it. But most of it happened in post
[production]. That is where it really fell apart.
But she had this success with THE BRUCE
LEE STORY, and then Rob brought her in on this TV series, RISING
SON, which came and went fairly fast, but she made some money on
it, and I think she felt that she owed him. And again, that's
speculation. She knew she had a great script [in DRAGONHEART] and
she knew she had a mediocre director, and whenever you protect a
mediocre mechanic over a great script, it's gonna' hurt the
script. But as Raffaella always used to tell me, 'It's the
process. It's the process.' But if the process defies common
sense, then it's wrong.
Some people, sometimes, are afraid to
do what they have to do to strive for greatness. It's easier not
to confront people on their shit. It's easier. . . how can I put
this diplomatically. . . Let's just say collaboration got confused
with capitulation, and I was the guy that ended up having to do
all the capitulating. And I think she really felt right until
DRAGONHEART came out that it was going to be a hit. I really think
that she thought that she had a hit movie, and then when the
critics came out and echoed everything that I had been telling
her, for so many years, it was kind of a shock to her. It wasn't
until then that she realized. . . I don't know what she realized.
I can't crawl in her head and tell you. All I know is that she
always used to tell me, "You're a great writer, Chuck. You
can write anything." And I'd say, "No, no, no. I'm a
great writer because I don't write anything." You
cannot keep taking bad notes and bad ideas and trying to shoehorn
them into something that had a structure. And it was a script that
we'd worked very hard on. We had honed this to perfection. She
told my agent, and she told other people, that she had done the
"best work ever" with me. But when you allow a mediocre
talent to tamper with the best work you've ever done, it's not
going to stay the best work.
Anyway, we had our big falling out. . .
Ultimately I don't know why. I can only speculate and I probably
shouldn't do that on tape here.
SO YOU'VE HAD NO CONTACT WITH HER?
I left DRAGONHEART in October 1994 and
at the time I still had two scripts to do with her. We had KULL to
do and we had THE UNINVITED to do. I have not spoken to her,
personally, since October of '94. I have communicated with her by
Fax (though she never answered), and through second hand minions,
but there has been no personal communication, and at this point
there's not going to be. It's pretty much a dead issue.
I don't understand why you take
something where you're calling somebody a genius, you're saying
that they've written you a masterpiece, and I don't think I'm a
genius, and I don't think that I've written a masterpiece, but I
think I'm a very good writer who wrote a very good script, and I
don't think you tamper with very good work to appease mediocre
talent and delicate egos.
At the time I told my executive at
Universal, and I made it very clear to Raffaella by Faxes and
memos that whatever differences we have on DRAGONHEART we still
have a movie to do and let's not sacrifice this very good movie
because of personal petty reasons. Let's try to maintain some sort
of professionalism on it. And I thought that it would go on. It
gave every indication. I know that in the Summer of '95 she,
through minions, asked me to find out what was going on with the
negotiations with Kevin Sorbo at ICM because we both had the same
agent, and I found out; troubleshot for her there, and got back
with her on answers. Then in December of '95 they finally made the
deal with him.
In the meantime, because they'd wasted
so much time trying to make their deal with Kevin Sorbo, she went
off and did this DAYLIGHT, this other flop with Rob Cohen. We
should have gone into KULL right after DRAGONHEART.
DAYLIGHT LOOKED TO ME LIKE A MOVIE
PEOPLE DID BECAUSE IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD CAREER MOVE. SYLVESTER
STALLONE AS THE STAR IN A BIG-BUDGET ACTION FILM.
I don't know. I wasn't privy to any of
that. All I could tell is it just smelled from the get-go.
[Laughing] That's a bad idea.
THE SCRIPT WAS VERY WEAK.
I don't think originally it was that
weak. I think it got weaker in the hands of Rob Cohen, from all
reports I've heard and from my friends who worked on it. A lot of
the same DRAGONHEART people worked on it. On DRAGONHEART Rob was
easily the most despised man among cast and crew. I never worked
with a director who was so despised.
I remember at one point one of the lead
technicians on DRAGONHEART, a very talented man, came up to me and
said, "Rob has assembled a really great crew here. Rob is
ruining it for her."
But we lost Kevin [Hooks] because of
all this frittering away, and I don't know what happened with
Kevin; why we lost him. They treated him badly and were trying to
keep him hanging on for no money. They wouldn't make him
pay-or-play, and I think the biggest loss KULL sustained was
losing Kevin Hooks, because Kevin would have been a superb
director. I can't emphasize this enough. He would have been a
brilliant director for it. He would have given them a great movie
with anybody in the lead role. If I had the power to pick any
director I could work with, he is one of two directors I would
pick. The two guys who didn't direct my movies are the guys who
should have directed them. Patrick Read Johnson is the guy who
should have directed DRAGONHEART, and Kevin Hooks who should have
directed KULL. I'd work with these guys any time because they're
talented men, and Kevin really got into the world of Howard and
understood that world and understood the depth and how to make
this a multifaceted movie and still give you plenty of action and
plenty of blood and thunder, with lots of character depth. I
lamented and mourned that loss more than anything else on the
movie, with the exception of me getting thrown off the film, which
is the next horror story.
So in January '96, when they finally
made this deal, we now had no director. I got a call from my
executive there who said, "Hal Lieberman wants to know if you
still want to be on the movie?" I said "Of course, I've
been telling them that for the last year and a half! Just because
I've had a falling out with Raffaella on DRAGONHEART does not mean
that I don't want to do everything I can for KULL because I think
that this is a great movie." And so I said, yes, of course I
want to do it.
At this point they told me that they'd
had a meeting with Kevin Sorbo, that I had not been invited to,
where he had some notes, which kind of ticked me off. They're in a
story meeting without the writer. That's sort of a silly thing,
but I bit my tongue and let that go by.
Then I was given a draft that I was
told was a "budget edited draft," where Raffaella had
gone through it and actually done some cutting. It had been done a
year ago and I had not known about it, but I read that and editing
is the best thing that Raffaella does. She's a person who can cut
ten pages out of a script and you'd never miss it. I looked
through it and said, okay, there's a few minor things that I have
to fix but other than that it is not disastrous. And I said, yeah,
I'm ready to go write, and they told me the notes and I said,
"I don't have any problem with these notes intrinsically. I
think I can do them." But I told Hal, "Raffaella's got
to talk to me. We have to communicate to do the work that we do.
You know how we work on script." We would sit down for two or
three weeks with each draft and we'd hone and polish and discuss
it and go through page by page, line by line, sometimes word by
word, and it was really a brilliant collaboration. Everybody
recognized it and knew it was a good collaboration and that was
how we got these really great scripts, which unfortunately were
never sustained once they got into production.
But I said she's got to talk to me, and
I wrote her a very conciliatory Fax. "We have differences of
opinion but you've said you've done your best work ever with me.
Blah, blah, blah." That sort of thing. She once told me that
her favorite thing to do was to sit with me and work script. So I
said, let's do script.
She never answered my letter. She never
answered my Faxes. I had lots of questions about things that
needed answers. She would send sort of cursory answers through the
executive, sometimes, but not all the time. And the executive was
tearing her hair out because she didn't know what to do, and I
kept Faxing Raffaella and faxing everybody at Universal so that
they knew where I was going with it. Sometimes my Faxes were
cajoling, they were pleading, they were just pragmatic things.
So I wrote this whole draft with no
answers or feedback at all from my producer, or from my star. I
was not given access to these people. There was no director on it.
But I turned this draft in and I thought I had done a pretty good
job, and my executive thought I had done a pretty good job.
Two weeks later it came through the
executive that it had been rejected. I had some fears before that
maybe this whole rewrite had been designed to throw me off. It was
like give me impossible notes and then not give me help with it.
So upon my dismissal from the project against my will, I wrote a
letter Hal Lieberman which basically said:
"It didn't take a seer to predict
this eventuality. The plot to engineer me off of KULL wasn't
subtle, and the plot was aided and abetted by the fact that I
received absolutely no help or input from my producer. A year ago
the studio green-lit this script. Both you and my producer called
it brilliant and multi-leveled and deep. You know as well as I
this has nothing to do with artistry or talent or merit or what is
And it didn't. Sadly enough you had
someone who was willing to cut their own throat to get revenge on
me and diminish their script.
People get very angry at themselves for
their mistakes and then because they can't confront their anger at
themselves they find a scapegoat and it's usually the person that
was trying to help them at the time, or warning them at the time.
WHO DOES UNIVERSAL BLAME FOR WHAT
HAPPENED TO DRAGONHEART?
Universal knows - it was Rob Cohen.
I've had several discussions with Hal since. Eventually it'll make
money, but they can't blame me because they knew they had a great
script and everybody from Tom Pollack on down praised it. For six
years before the movie came out it was all over town and everybody
knew it was a great script. They knew it was one of the best
scripts in town. Tom Pollack, the very first meeting we had,
crashed the meeting and the first words out of his mouth were,
"Who's Chuck Pogue?" he was so impressed with it. That's
why I made a deal for Conan so fast. They know who ruined the
What culpability Raffaella has in that,
I don't know. I don't know whether they look at it and say
Raffaella shouldn't have let him [Rob] do this. But I think
Universal has culpability, too, because they let him do it.
The scariest story I will tell you. . . when I came back from
Bratislava the second time, I was having a meeting with one of the
executives overseeing the movie, and he asked, "What do you
think is happening to DRAGONHEART?"
And I said, "It's losing its
power, its panache, its poetry, its passion, and its wit."
And he said, "I think so, too, but
if you tell anybody I think so, I'll swear you're a liar."
Now that's kind of an amazing
confession for an executive responsible for a movie to say.
"I'm responsible for this movie and I know it's going awry
but I'm not going to do anything about it."
I think they all thought it didn't
matter, that they had such a great gimmick. But you're dealing
with a studio mentality, and again I'm speculating here. I don't
know because I wasn't in the loop any more. I don't know what
people were thinking. But I think there are a lot of people now
who will sit back, and they're looking at things. If people
contemplate their sins or their mistakes, I think there's a lot of
that going on now over there. I don't think a lot of studio people
who contemplate their sins or wring their hands over it, I think
they just try to find someone else to blame. What Raffaella
thinks, I don't know. All I know is that she now knows that it is
not a hit, and she knows that every respectable critic out there
echoed remarks and critiques that I had made two years before
that. I wrote an eleven page letter when I saw the first cut and
every comment I had about the movie was echoed by all the
As for KULL, they brought in another
writer. You read the script. I think we went from a multifaceted,
multidimensional script to a one-dimensional, simplified version
of what had been a very mature piece of work.
THEY DID THINGS IN THE REWRITE THAT
SEEMED TO WEAKEN KULL'S CHARACTER. THEY TRUNCATE THE ENTIRE
CONCEPT OF KULL FREEING ALL THE SLAVES. HE FREES THE SLAVES AND
THEY SAY, NO, YOU CAN'T DO THAT BECAUSE OF THIS, AND HE GOES, OH,
And one of the edicts was [that] they
wanted to build his character up. They thought originally that he
was caught between the two women, and I said, but that's the
dilemma. The fact that you have two strong women here makes him a
Yes, I think the character was
weakened. I agree with you there. I think there's a lot of things
that are no longer logical and make sense. There's a whole thing
where they weakened the villains around him as well. The sorcerer,
Enaros - originally Kull was the reason the citadel blew up
[maiming Enaros] and Enaros had a vendetta. Now Enaros just
appears and he has no agenda against Kull. He's just thrown into
the mix and you don't know why he's thrown into the mix.
It's the same with
witnessed this guy killing Borna in the beginning and was amazed.
She watched him in action, but now she just comes in as a plot
device and in effect has never met him. But she wants to
meet him - she wants to mix with this guy. She wants
to find out what he's about and see if she can control him.
It just becomes straight on line and
one-dimensional. Also I think the two things that really
diminished it, and I think this was probably at Kevin Sorbo's
behest, but I don't know, was they cut out the sex and the
violence. Kevin Sorbo wanted this movie to be PG-13 because they
want his 9 year old to 13 year old demographic. Well, you can't do
Howard without violence and sex, and I'm not talking about
violence and sex in any kind of gratuitous way. I'm just talking
about mature themes.
Raffaella told me she knew CONAN was a
hit the first time she went to a sneak preview and the line was
around the corner and it was full of bikers and hippies and comic
book guys. And she's forgotten that audience. That's her core
Now, can you get Kevin Sorbo's audience
and bring them into the Kull audience? I don't know. I think you
may get Kevin Sorbo's audience and lose the Kull audience because
you don't have the essence of what Kull is, just like they lost it
on the second Conan movie. I don't know, I've seen so many things
make money that I don't understand why they make money. If someone
will explain TWISTER to me I would be eternally grateful because
it's got to be the worst movie I've ever seen and it made $300
million domestically. So what do I know?
And again, it doesn't mean that just
because it made money that it'll be a great movie. I don't know
what kind of movie it will be. I just know that I was very
disappointed when I read the rewritten script. I thought it became
this one-dimensional story that had been multidimensional.
WHAT I ALSO NOTICED IS THAT MANCINI
DOESN'T HAVE MUCH OF AN EAR FOR DIALOGUE BECAUSE HIS NEW DIALOGUE
IS VERY FLAT. PLUS THERE'S A LINE IN THERE THAT HE ADDED WHICH HE
STOLE FROM "THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK." THE ONE THING THAT
BOTHERS ME ABOUT A LOT OF MOVIES IS WHEN THEY USE DIALOGUE WHICH
IS VERY SIMILAR TO SOMETHING THEY'VE HEARD BEFORE, BUT IT'S NOT
That's another thing. People were
really scared of [my] dialogue. People don't understand that words
to be spoken are different from words to be read. My edict was
Robert Howard and I wanted panache dialogue. I want dialogue that
rolls off the tongue.
AND A LOT OF MOVIES DON'T HAVE THAT. A
LOT OF MOVIES HAVE DIALOGUE THAT GETS YOU FROM THIS SCENE TO THAT
SCENE, BUT IT'S NOT INTERESTING.
Exactly, and I fought this fight in
DRAGONHEART where Rob Cohen kept banalizing dialogue right and
left. You're in a time period that has to have some flavor of the
time period that you're in, but it also has to have some bite and
some chew. Let them speak better than real life. This is drama.
Everything is more accentuated. And if nothing proved it, it
should have been proven well beyond a shadow of a doubt during the
auditions where they had great auditions and actors were just
drooling over this language, saying "We never get words like
this. We never get dialogue like this."
So, yeah, I think it's a real shame,
but it seems to be what happens to movies. "Let's make
everything for the lowest common denominator so that hopefully we
can get the widest audience." Sometimes that works. Sometimes
that doesn't. I think in these kind of pieces you have to be very
true to the core of the piece, and again my guide was Robert
Howard. As I started out I wanted the definitive Robert Howard
movie. That's what I was after. I wanted that moody blood and
thunder prose, and colors and depths. And get into that these
people have more than one facet, more than one agenda. People with
contradictions. I wanted real life characters and that's what
spoke to Kevin Hooks on it, and that's what originally spoke to
Raffaella on it. That's what spoke to all the people at Universal
when they were reading it and calling it a masterpiece. That's
what got them hooked on it. They knew they had an original,
The fear is, have they turned it into
just your basic generic pabulum? I don't know. I wanted KULL by
way of SPARTACUS. I hope to Hell we haven't gotten KULL by way of
RED SONYA. I don't know.
I also must tell you, I got a lovely
letter from Kevin Sorbo, after it was all over, and he was very
nice and he thanked me for the character and thought I'd like the
movie. I wrote him a three page letter back and said I've kept my
distance from this and here's why, and I told him the whole sad
story. I also told him, look, this has nothing to do with you. It
is old, bad business between me and Raffaella on DRAGONHEART.
But it's really a shame that all this
pettiness had to get in the way of a great project. That
professionalism couldn't be maintained and had to get into
unprofessional vindictiveness, and that people would undermine
their own best interests to try to punish someone who told them
I would have done anything for
Raffaella except the two things she asked me to do, which were to
compromise my integrity and compromise my writing, and it's a
shame because it's the first time she ever had first class
material since she's been on her own, away from her father. The
two best scripts I ever wrote are DRAGONHEART and KULL and it's
seven years out of my life by the time KULL comes out.
Any other holes I can fill in?
UNIVERSAL DIDN'T WANT TO DO A CONAN
MOVIE WITHOUT ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, BUT THEN WHY IS THERE A CONAN
TV SERIES GOING ON NOW WHICH IS GOING TO ESTABLISH A NEW VERSION
OF CONAN IN THE PUBLIC MIND?
Universal dropped the rights and it's
been picked up by Keller. But at one point what Raffaella and I
wanted to do is do KULL and revive the genre and then do a Conan
TV series, which I was going to write, and she was going to
produce and Universal was all for it. But once the great schism
happened it went away along with everything else. And the guy they
hired for Conan, Rolf Mueller, is a guy that we read for Kull. He
originally didn't want to do Conan. He wanted to do a new
character. Everyone's jumped on the HERCULES bandwagon and are
trying to imitate it.
I mean, let's get some dialogue up
there - some real character in these things. I grew up watching
THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD and THE SEA HAWK and THE VIKINGS,
GUNGA DIN. Even though GUNGA DIN is hysterically funny, there's
some real character and depth there and great, great dialogue.
They used to make adventure movies for adults and that's what I
wanted. I wanted KULL to be an adventure movie for adults that
kids could come to, which is what I wanted for DRAGONHEART, which
is a swashbuckler for adults but it got turned into a kids movie
because everybody's after the big hundred million dollar movie.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Thomas Ian Griffith,
the actor who both Chuck Pogue and Kevin Hooks wanted to be Kull,
ultimately was cast in the film but in the supporting role of
Taligaro, the head of the Dragon Legion, the elite guard whom
Akivasha uses to try to undermine Kull's quest for the Breath of