A brand-new Conan the Barbarian for a new generation intends to crush its enemies at the box office this weekend. In that spirit, we've got vintage footage of the original Conan himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, talking up both of his Conan entries and the trials and travails he endured to bring Robert E. Howard's mythic Cimmerian to life.
"I think I was kind of meant for playing Conan, you know? I think that I felt very comfortable playing that character, playing that barbaric role, doing all the sword fighting, and it was a very physical film," Arnold told ET back in the early '80s. "This is the great thing about doing films. First of all, you learn new things -- sword-fighting or horseback riding and all those things -- and at the same time you play like a little child, you can play like cowboy and Indian type of things, you know, looking for the enemy and crushing them and knocking them down."
Known primarily as a world-champion body builder at the time, Arnold's big break to prove himself as a big-screen action hero first came with 1982's Conan the Barbarian, directed by John Milius and co-written by Oliver Stone. The film, with its epic scope and lush score by Basil Poledouris, was an unexpected hit, but Schwarzenegger found himself defending the treatment of animals on the set against the Humane Society, who planned a protest at the Conan premiere.
"I would hate to see an animal being treated badly because I grew up on a farm in Austria," responded Arnold. "The actors and the stunt people in the movie were treated worse than the animals." Arnold went on to describe how, in a scene where he is crucified to a tree, the vultures would be rotated out every hour to protect from sun exposure while he baked all day hanging on the gnarled stump.
He went on to catalog his various injuries: "I myself got stitches on my back because I was attacked by wolves … I was kicked one time by a camel in my knee and tore my ligaments in my knee. I was bitten by a camel in my head and had to get shots because they carry a lot of illnesses and stuff like that."
He chalked it all up to the overall Barbarian experience, however, quoting director Milius as saying, "Just remember that pain is temporary, but this great movie is permanent."
Arnold followed the success of Conan the Barbarian two years later with Conan the Destroyer, a lighter cinematic exercise that tapped more into the character's pulp roots. Stick 'til the end of the video rewind for a look at the 1984 Destroyer premiere, complete with muscle-bound barbarians clashing on the red carpet for the crowd's entertainment.