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The film — helmed by Platinum Dunes standby, Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th) — tanked both critically and financially with $63 million worldwide (against a budget of almost $100 million) and a rough 25 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Momoa's hopes of becoming a leading man might have ended right then and there, had a little fantasy show called Game of Thrones not premiered on HBO several months beforehand. The actor's turn as the rugged and taciturn Dothraki chieftain Khal Drogo made him a household name and ultimately helped him nab the coveted role of Arthur Curry/Aquaman in the DC Extended Universe at Warner Bros.
Looking back on Conan during a recent interview with British GQ, Momoa didn't hold back on what he thinks of the failed movie. "I’ve been a part of a lot of things that really sucked, and movies where it’s out of your hands,” he said. “Conan [the Barbarian] was one of them. It’s one of the best experiences I had and it [was] taken over and turned into a big pile of sh**."
Nispel agreed with Momoa in a statement given to People: "As a filmmaker in this system you are a dog on many leashes. Trying to get Conan done under those circumstances was the worst experience that I had and I was as unhappy with the result. I am happy, though, that none of this got in the way of Jason's career path…I always stood by the decision to make Conan with him."
The director also shared some sage advice he received from John Milius, who helmed the beloved 1982 Conan movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. "My friend John Milius once said: 'There is always a sense of defeat in every victory,'" Nispel continued. "In regards to having had the pleasure and privilege of having given Jason his first leading part, I say: 'There can also be a sense of victory in a defeat.'"
In 2018, Amazon announced a Conan television series from the trio of Ryan Condal, Miguel Sapochnik, and Warren Littlefield. As we now know, Condal and Sapochnik moved on to a different fantasy project with the forthcoming Game of Thrones prequel: House of the Dragon (arriving on HBO and HBO Max later this month). The small screen take on Conan eventually moved to Netflix two years later in late 2020, with producers Fredrik Malmberg and Mark Wheeler guiding the show along under their Pathfinder Media banner.
Momoa returns to Atlantis next March in director James Wan's Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, but if you want to see him in action much sooner than that, you can check out his third and final season of See, which hits Apple TV+ Friday, Aug. 26.
“It’s been hard because people always think I’m just this dude who plays [macho characters],” Momoa explained to GQ. “But I want to be moved, I want something new. Things are changing, and even the villain roles I’m playing now are eccentric." That eccentricity will come through next summer in Universal Pictures' Fast X. "I’m a peacock at the highest level and I’m having the time of my life," Momoa said of his high-octane baddie.
We can't wait to buckle up for the ride.
Looking for some fantasy content? Click here for our list of the best fantasy films available on Peacock.