15 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Conan the Destroyer

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures / Universal Pictures

Here’s everything you need to know to fully enjoy Arnold and his sword’s triumphant return.

1. The director inspired his way.

Director John Milius drew major inspiration for the first Conan movie, Conan the Barbarian, from 1958’s The Vikings. When Milius was unavailable to direct the Conan sequel, Conan the Destroyer, producer Dino De Laurentiis went to the original source by hiring The Vikings director Richard Fleischer.

2. The script required some tinkering.

The film was originally titled “Conan, King of Thieves” from the initial screenplay by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway. The script was then heavily rewritten by screenwriter Stanley Mann and retitled Conan the Destroyer . Thomas and Conway received a “Story By” credit on the finished film.

3. But the original script lived on.

Because the finished product was so radically changed from their screenplay, Thomas and Conway went on to create a graphic novel based on their story idea called “Conan the Barbarian: The Horn of Azoth.” To distance themselves from the movie, they changed the names of most of the characters: Jehnna was changed to “Natari,” Bombaata was changed to “Strabo,” Toth-Amon was changed to “Rammon,” Zula was changed to “Shumballa,” and Dagoth became “Azoth.”

4. The film had a real bond with Dune.

The film was shot in Mexico City as a cost-cutting measure. Conan the Destroyer used the same crew and some of the same locations as another Dino De Laurentiis production, director David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of Dune, which was shooting in Mexico at the same time.

5. The Princess was a rookie.

Princess Jehnna was actress Olivia d’Abo’s first acting role. She was 13 years old when filming began.

6. Jehnna’s bodyguard knew how to score.

Basketball fans may recognize Jehnna’s bodyguard, Bombaata, as basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain. Conan the Destroyer was Chamberlain’s only credited onscreen role, although he made an uncredited appearance as himself in 1999’s Any Given Sunday .

7. The film helped make Schwarzenegger an American.

Arnold Schwarzenegger gained U.S. citizenship during the filming of Conan the Destroyer . He retains dual Austrian and U.S. citizenship to this day.

8. Sven Ole-Thorsen appeared in both Conan movies.

But he played different characters. He played Thorgrim, Thulsa Doom’s evil henchman, in Conan the Barbarian, and plays Togra, the member of the Queen’s guard who tries to kidnap princess Jehnna, in Conan the Destroyer .

9. One actor pulled an even bigger double duty.

Pat Roach plays two roles in the film—the one-eyed ice wizard Toth-Amon, and his Ape-man mirror monster whom Conan kills. Cinephiles may recognize him from Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark as the Nazi mechanic that is knocked into a plane propeller, or as the Thugee slavemaster who is pulled into a rock crusher in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom .

10. This was the family-friendly version of Conan.

Conan the Destroyer initially received an R rating from the MPAA like its similarly violent predecessor Conan the Barbarian, but it was recut and given a PG rating because the filmmakers thought the movie would make more money if it catered to a broader audience.

11. Andre the Giant makes a very subtle cameo.

Who was the actor underneath the rubber suit created for the monstrous deity Dagoth? None other than André René Roussimoff, better known as the wrestler André the Giant.

12. The monster was a distant cousin of E.T.

Special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi crafted the creature design of Dagoth. Rambaldi had previously designed E.T. and the head effects of the xenomorph in Alien .

13. Predator foiled a sequel.

A third film called Conan the Conqueror was planned for a 1987 release, but Schwarzenegger was unable to appear because he was shooting Predator .

14. So Kevin Sorbo stepped in.

Eventually, Schwarzenegger’s three-movie Conan contract expired and the idea was later refashioned into 1997’s Kull the Conqueror starring Kevin Sorbo. Kull happened to be a character based on another pulp fiction series by Conan creator Robert E. Howard.

15. And then politics scrapped another sequel.

Original director John Milius came close to making a third Conan movie with Schwarzenegger in 2002. His script, entitled “King Conan: Crown of Iron,” was to be directed by The Matrix’s Andy and Lana Wachowski, but was scrapped after Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California.