Conan The Barbarian Screenwriter Reveals What It's Like To See Your Movie Flop

By Katey Rich 2011-08-24 10:02:50discussion comments
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Conan the Barbarian was such a stunning flop when it opened to just $10 million last weekend that there wasn't even the usual round of Hollywood blame game-- everyone involved, from Lionsgate to Jason Momoa on down, seemed anxious to just stick their heads in the sand and forget the whole thing. Even Deadline, in their snarky "autopsy report" on the movie, could only decide that "the execution was just poor, poor, poor." Essentially, everyone had to bear the weight of this stinker.

Including, as it turns out, one of the three credited screenwriters, Sean Hood, who has weathered other critical misfires like Halloween: Resurrection and Cube: Hypercube. This time, though, Hood took to the Internet to describe what it feels like to watch your movie tank, in a long and very thoughtful post at Quora. In some ways he's got some necessary distance from the process-- he argues, as many screenwriters on big films do, that "much of the work I did on story and character never made it to the screen," and "I made vast improvements on the draft that came before me." But he's also very frank about what it's like to see your project, even one was big as openly dumb as Conan, fall on its face.
You make light of it, of course. You joke and shrug. But the blow to your ego and reputation can't be brushed off. Reviewers, even when they were positive, mocked Conan The Barbarian for its lack of story, lack of characterization, and lack of wit. This doesn't speak well of the screenwriting - and any filmmaker who tells you s/he "doesn't read reviews" just doesn't want to admit how much they sting.
He also lays out a pretty fitting metaphor for a movie production as being like a political campaign, right down to the moment where you realize all is lost but still put a brave face on anyway. None of this changes the fact that Conan is a bad miss for Hood and everyone else who made the movie, but his essay gives a lot of insight into how difficult and frustrating it must be to be a writer, one of the most important but least respected positions in the Hollywood system. It's always fascinating when someone like Hood lets us peek behind that curtain.
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