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TORn chats with Conan Stevens

News from Bree

Oct 20 2013, 6:17am

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Over the last few weeks I've had the pleasure of chatting with the wonderful Conan Stevens (Bolg) about his life and career.

Kel: For those who might not know a lot about you, what's the Conan Stevens story in a nutshell?

Conan: A very skinny teenager I started in the gym after watching 'Conan The Destroyer' at the cinema with friends, these friends decided to become professional Bodybuilders and asked the 16 year old pre-Conan what he was going to do - the answer "I'm too tall to become a Professional Bodybuilderť", a 2 minute pause while I thought about it, though I subconsciously knew the answer already, “I want to become a Professional Wrestler, then use the fame to get into movies, like Hulk Hogan” remembering of course back then Pro-Wrestling and Hulk Hogan were prime time TV in the days of limited TV channels, and it was still called a sport.

27 years later I've almost achieved that skinny teenagers wild dreams that others, many others, laughed about.

The career path was a lot slower than I initially thought, and to be honest it has been a bit of a meandering course through life to this point. A lot of it has been fun, a lot of it was to do with maturing as a person, and learning about how life really works outside a safe urban environment in an economically and politically stable country of homogeneous population.

Kel: You've mentioned you read The Hobbit (book) as a young boy. What did you love about it that drew you more into the world of fantasy and myth?

Conan: You know I really cannot say. *After a week of thinking about it* I guess it was the romanticism of a nobody overcoming the unexpected and major challenges and succeeding to become a reluctant hero.

I mean wasn't it every young boys fantasy to be a knight of Camelot and travel about xenophobically slaying monsters and rescuing damsels in distress whilst living out moral dilemmas based on your strict code of conduct?

I suppose it just appealed to me overall. I really cannot pinpoint any particular theme. As a child when the grown ups asked "What do you want to be when you grow up?"ť I never had an answer. I used to play with plastic soldiers in the garden a lot, and I had watched a space launch on the old black and white TV so thought astronauts were cool, I also enjoyed the US made heroic and propaganderish WW2/Korean war movies so I suppose it was the whole idea of adventuring and living a life of thrills, trying your absolute best and winning through at the end.

Kel: It actually seems that The Hobbit is a catalyst of sorts for many young kids, opening ideas, interests and dreams that they then pursue throughout their lives. Why do you think this is so?

Conan: For me I was still to young to realise that adventuring isn't the way life usually goes. You know what, with reinforcement from all the other fantasy/sci fi/mythology I read, it probably set me up with what many would call “unrealistic expectations” from life, I guess it was lucky I did not listen to these sorts of people, in fact with my stubborn streak the more I was told I could not do it the more determined and defiant it made me - "because you won't do it doesn't mean I can't."

I also think that fantasy/sci fi/etc is an outlet from modern drudgery and the subtle oppression of individuality in todays Western society. There often seems very limited options in the modern western system, it certainly is presented that way at school. You fit in, get a job, get a loan for a car, get a wife then a mortgage and work the 40*40 plan (40hrs a week for 40 years) to retire to your "golden years" physically deteriorated with health care eating into your savings. This isn't bad, after all it is a system that works for society. It just did not appeal to me personally.

I think a growing number of people are deciding not to follow this life option. Fantasy books and games are a form of escapism, as can be seen in the previously “weirdo geek” conventions going mainstream - like ComicCon, and geek movies turning in wild box office successes like Star Trek and, of course, the LOTR trilogy.

Kel: What aspects of this universe appealed to you the most, and how did you realise that in your own life, in your goals and in your career?

Conan: One thing I do see in the LOTR universe is that there is an underlying moral lesson without hammering the point. I see this in a lot of Hindi movies too. Honour and truth triumph while deceit and lies (evil) are defeated.

Though there are two sides to every story and I would highly recommend all Tolkien fans to read the free ebook 'The Last Ring Bearer' from the Russian palaeontologist Dr. Kirill Yeskov (available here http://ymarkov.livejournal.com/270570.html). Keep in mind it is not going to be true to Tolkiens style or works but is an interesting paradigm shift from the Orcs point of view and reminds us that history is written by the victors. A brief excerpt to whet the appetite:
...that amazing city of alchemists and poets, mechanics and astronomers, philosophers and physicians, the heart of the only civilization in Middle-earth to bet on rational knowledge and bravely pitch its barely adolescent technology against ancient magic. The shining tower of the Barad-dur citadel rose over the plains of Mordor almost as high as Orodruin like a monument to Man – free Man who had politely but firmly declined the guardianship of the Dwellers on High and started living by his own reason.

The second part of this question is harder, but I think it is that the journey and overcoming obstacles, achieving goals, having the adventure, that is more important to me than the "win at any costs"ť approach I see so much of these days.

In a more practical sense I learned from Amway: what is the point in success if you do not have the ability to control and keep that success? A ridiculous percentage of big lottery winners end up in worse financial shape than from where they started from in just a few short years because they do not have the financial education to know how to control the money. The same goes for fame. So becoming a successful actor has a double whammy awaiting the unprepared and unwary with lots of litigious sharks, financial pitfalls and your private life being thrown into the spotlight.

I heard a song full of anger by Eminem last year about him hating the way his life is now a public spectacle with everything he does being criticised by someone. The DVD cover was of his living room being a glass cage in a public square. Being famous is not the life you expect when you start out.

Kel: You indicated that reading The Hobbit, via a long chain of events, actually lead back to working in The Hobbit movie itself. Can you tell us a little more about how this occurred?

Conan: Maybe a simple table will be best to summarise this process:
Read 'The Hobbit.' Read everything by Tolkien then mythology then Asimov available at local libraries, involved in Role Playing Games (RPG's), egotistical DM made us dress up in blanket cloaks and cooking pot helms and actually act out meeting with kings and gods (played by himself), started watching sword & sandal, sword & sorcery and martial arts movies, saw Arnold Schwarzenegger in a movie, went to the gym, made a non-standard career choice of Pro-Wrestling even though none existed anywhere I knew, went to the gym religiously, bodyweight went from 70kg to 150kg (154lbs to 330lbs),’ approached by Pro-Wrestling in Sydney the same time I was contracted by Sydney Dance Company,’ moved to Sydney to follow dreams, became Australian Pro-Wrestling Heavy Weight Champion, got some TV commercial work then acted as Marvel Comics Man-Thing in the movie of that name, got a nerve injury, spent 5 years working in/on my IT business until I hated it, moved to Thailand for 3 days stunt work in a kids movie, stayed, made a name, did some big movies in India and China too, made it into Game of Thrones with a lot of help from the fans, contacted 'The Hobbit' casting mentioning my role in GoT, got an audition, after three stressful months of waiting was offered a role in 'The Hobbit'

So 27 years after the book "ruined" my life whereby I played the "devils game" (D&D) and listened to the "devils music" (Black Sabbath) I somehow resisted the urge to commit suicide (lol, those were the sensationalist headlines for both D&D and for Metal in those days) and finally managed to complete the journey to actually play in the movie, but now being congratulated for it rather than bullied for it.

Strange circle of events.

Kel: What sort of obstacles did you need to overcome on the way? And did over coming each step just seem a natural thing for you at the time?

Conan: I could write an entire book on this question alone.

The first obstacle was injuring my knee as I was trying out for the feeder team for professional basketball. End of basketball career and potential financial gains, and the time I had already spent training. Start again.

15 years of bodybuilding to achieve my then goal of being "The biggest Wrestler the world had ever seen" then sustaining a nerve injury a week before my booked flight to go door knocking in the US a second time, this time with the physique I was told to get. End of big time wrestling career. Start again.

Bootstrapped my way up in a computer business, just as I opened my retail shop I got caught in the middle of a price war between the big guys, which destroyed me financially. Start again.

Had enough of computers, sold everything went on a cheap backpacking holiday lasting 4 months arriving in Thailand, then going to visit friends in Europe, then to Eastern Europe, back to Thailand then home to Australia. I got back to later discover I'd missed several big auditions, The Protector was cast in Thailand while I was in Europe and LOTR had been casting for tall people while I was away from acting. Bugger.

Got involved with a legitimate Internet Advertising company (organising Joint Ventures and ad tracking, not spam). The CEO became successful and moved from Sydney to Manhattan, and massively raised his company fees which completely ruined a year of work and deals I had been negotiating. Start again.

Being kicked out of my $80/month Spartan style "studio apartment" in Bangkok because Google changed the Adsense pay dates without notifying us webmasters was another nice challenge. I was living month to month on the earnings from my website at that time, with my few remaining assets tied up in the Australian sharemarket, so now you know why my site looks like "an ad executives briefcase exploded over the site" as one reader eloquently put it.

Of course these were just the basic ones, there are tonnes of obstacles to get over in this business, it's not an easy nor a glamorous career path. In fact, all my friends in Australia either working for a company or in their own businesses are doing a lot better than me by conventional standards and no one else I know even lived in a $80/month room, let alone got kicked out of one.

But it has been fun, I laugh about it now and one day I'll write an interesting autobiography detailing some of the other "fun" things that happened living in the third world and put in a photo of this "apartmentť".

Kel: I know that you experienced a serious nerve injury at one point that put paid to a promising wrestling career. That must have been especially hard. How did you find the will to make such a long, hard comeback?

Conan: Yeah, that has been a great challenge. I'm still not over it completely, not even close. Though I look good physically, for the effort I have put in I should look like a perfectly formed '70's bodybuilder.

A lot of my pay from 'The Hobbit' was spent on trying various therapies, organic foods, every supplement and herb under the sun and alternative treatments. I watched hours and weeks and months of lectures from the UCLA medical centre and alternative healing centres trying to put the pieces together to understand what was wrong and how it fix it. Without going into great detail, your gut bacteria are so very important to your body's ability to heal - and my favourite, most preferred supplement to take is homemade Sauerkraut it's 10 to 100 times stronger than Greek/natural yoghurt as a probiotic and its cost is only a cabbage and a tablespoon of sea salt - negligible, and has a host of other benefits. Most of the West's common non-communicable diseases can be alleviated or fixed by fixing your gut bacteria.
Look into it if you are not 100% healthy and cannot get any answers from your Doctor, especially if you are suffering from the 'mysterious' metabolic syndrome, have troubles thinking clearly, or just can't seem to feel well and energetic on a daily basis. There is a lot more information available now than 3 years ago. In short I had hepatic-colonic recirculation (leaky gut syndrome (with celiac disease a subset of this)), chronic fatigue, mental fog, fibromyalgia, thyroid fatigue, pre-diabetes, and something else I am just trying to figure out and fix now where the inside of my muscles are all stuck together and do not function properly, making it impossible to grow - it seems to be due to my previously terribly overloaded lymphatic system. Though I beat the usual accompanying obesity by stopping most sugars and junk food and exercising 4 to 6 hours a day, though I have since dropped 3-4 inches off my waist even though I had visible abs the whole time!

This all stems from faeces and undigested food leaking though the damaged gut walls into your bloodstream, your liver working overtime to clean the blood then dumps the wastes back into the colon, yes you guessed it, where it leaks back through the walls into the blood. It makes you very sick over time, and leaving your immune system compromised. I tried worked on fixing the symptoms one by one until I worked my knowledge back to the root cause.

So the mental fog is because I was literally a sh*t head, well sh*t for brains, along with all my other organs from my contaminated blood.

To the readers: write to me personally with your details and problems for more information if you think I might be able to help you find the information you might need to deal and defeat any of these problems. For a bandaid of relief you could try a week or two of double dosing a standard magnesium supplement, many people will find this gives them a noticeable boost within 2-3 days for reasons I won't go into here.Â

After the nerve injury wiped out the nerves from my spine through to my right hand and all the muscles between I was left with the use of the inner bicep, the first two fingers and my thumb. My outer bicep head, triceps, chest and right side of my back stopped receiving electrical signals from my now disappeared nervous system. I could still move my limbs but the muscular imbalance caused a great deal of pain so I stopped training and starved myself to lose muscle as fast as I could. Over time my body compensated for the injury which in turn caused more injuries though unnatural movements and adhesions in the fascia and within the muscles to make them rubber band like to allow them to be usable. The body is a wondrous thing.

Now that the nerves have grown back I am in the process of breaking up these compensations and relearning to use the muscle.

To put this in perspective. Prior to the injury I was using an 80lbs dumbbell in one hand for an exercise. After the injury on the same exercise I could not even move my arm while holding a pint of milk. 13 years later I was able do 30lbs in that exercise just last week.

At least I'm lifting heavier than the grandmothers in the gym now. My next personal weight training goal is to outlift the 65 year old gay guy in the terrible spandex.

How do I get the willpower? I've already put in a LOT of effort into my two previous physical career choices and got comparatively nothing in return, the acting was always my end goal and I have always been lucky enough to have had a measure of success, mainly though turning myself into a Giant Freak. So amazingly I get the Giant Freak parts whenever they are casting for it and am lucky that fantasy/Sci Fi, which most call for Giant Freaks, are now popular. Though it has taken longer than I expected it has been a journey that has mostly had a distant light at the end of the tunnel.

There have been times when I really sat down and thought what am I doing? How I am going to stop myself ending up like 'The Wrestler' (that movie is far too realistic - I personally know guys who are exactly like the main character and have died along the same lines). At these times I got a piece of paper out and written down all available options and weighed them up, as an unskilled, uneducated (I did not finish my University degree) and with no work place records for over 10 years my ability to get back into the Western workforce would entail an entry level computer job at a help desk and working my way up again. Ahhhhh! Not starting again.

Also to note in this industry, like all creative and sporting careers you do a lot of unpaid work as you go along building relationships, learning how it all works, building grass roots support (it helps if you are a fan yourself), learning to market yourself, sell yourself, build yourself as a product, etc, etc.

There is no breakthrough role, the magical moment you become a star is only after you have done the work, everything builds upon your previous work - so in all, this was my driving force. I knew I was on a long slow upward crawl until you hit the explosive point and your career goes exponential.

I'm still waiting for that point, but it is a lot closer now and I am a lot better prepared for it, meaning I hope I will be prepared enough not to blow it when it arrives - and I have a few tactics planned to help counter any possible issues, foremost being, especially when I am in character, that I can be rather blunt at times when tactful would be a better option.

It's a game, a big game, but not a gamble. In the end I believe I can 'win' and get the same things that my working friends have - normal stuff like a house, a car, some sort of financial stability, savings, a retirement fund even, basically an apartment better than $80/month and more than a single 20kg backpack of belongings plus carry on (restricted by airlines baggage allowance).

There is a quote from Jim Rohn that I live by "Don't wish life were easier, wish that you were better." This ticks in my head every time I hit difficulties, if I have difficulties it just means I need to learn to get around them, once I learn that it'll be easier next time.

Lastly it helps that I read a lot of autobiographies of successful people and the mistakes and early crashes they had in their lives, to know others have experienced similar and yet made it back fortified my resolve along the way too.

Kel: Your career has taken some interesting twists along the way, too. You've been a small-business owner, a professional wrestling champ, a ballet performer and a stuntman. You're also a scriptwriter, a webmaster and computer geek, a self-published author and an actor. What have you enjoyed the most? And what do you miss about those things you no longer do?

Conan: I do miss the Professional Wrestling, I don't miss the pain nor the injuries but I do miss the fun of live improvisational theatre (because that is what wrestling really is), 'working the crowd' and the camaraderie and of course everyone dreaming they'll make it big.

What I enjoyed most is more difficult. What I did not enjoy was writing, and so far, twice editing the bodybuilding books and fat loss book that I have written, I find it very boring, after 27 years of training I no longer want to talk about the gym, but I wrote them as I have experience and no research was needed. Finishing the Big Book of Bodybuilding with John Hill was an accomplishment for both of us and the first sale was even more thrilling. I do plan on writing more books later, but the time is not right yet. Writing those was a good experience and the first time you do anything is often the most difficult so best to get it over and done with.

I also no longer enjoy the technical aspects of computers anymore, especially when I recently went to do a simple task, that worked in a popular operating system (OS) since the mid 90's, that has suddenly and without explanation stopped working in the latest version of the same OS, took me 2 full days to figure out that no one, even the authors of the software had an answer and everything I tried did not get the simple result I wanted would not work. Corporations spending time prettifying things and ignoring functionality is a pet peeve and wasting time on someone else's incompetency is no longer interesting.

In 'Berlin' with the Sydney Dance Company

Kel: On your website you talk about dancing with the Sydney Dance Company. I must admit I was surprised, knowing how tall you are. Was it difficult to become accomplished and fill the role? And what did you take away from the experience?

Conan: No, it was surprisingly easy to fill the role but let me give you some background.

I met Graeme Murphy the famous dance choreographer and head of the SDC at the time at a famous Sydney beachside pub one Saturday night. We spoke and over the course of the night he revealed who he was and that when he first saw me he had this vision of me in Nazi regalia and platform jack boots wading through a sea of animated corpses, portraying the horrors of war - to counter balance his last piece based on Greek mythology that was widely criticised by church groups in Australia as being pornographic. He wanted to show that theatre is art and they were missing the bigger picture by focusing in on some of the individual scenes, he thought that by doing a diametrically opposite theme he could get the message across succinctly.

So the project titled "Berlin" was actually based around that concept. It, and I, went on to do 7 seasons at Sydney Opera House and I was invited back to a 12 year anniversary special repeat performance at the Theatre Royale in Sydney.

Conan with Julian Cleary

The sound track of the show by Iva Davies of Icehouse went on to have two songs in the Australian pop charts top 10 and another in the top 40. It was a huge success.

The album went platinum in Australia and Germany, we toured Australia and New Zealand and only the costs of transporting the large set to Europe stopped an additional tour. I must say that I think I am the only professional ballet performer ever to also concurrently hold the Professional Wrestling heavyweight championship belt.

What did I take away? Confidence. This was my second professional acting gig, my first was a 3 day stint in Julian Cleary's stage show because my friends refused the job because he is gay. 'Berlin' went for about 3 years in total. It really helped bolster my confidence about my future as an actor, unrealistically so it turns out, but it provided the impetus to continue at that time. Like all inexperienced actors I thought I was close to being a national Star at that time.

On location for Chandni Chowk to China

Kel: Can you tell us, without breaking any NDA, what personal insight working on The Hobbit has given you?

Conan: It was a massive learning experience. Even though I had worked in a studio film before, Warner Brothers first Hindi film 'Chandni Chowk to China', I had never worked on anything so big or so complex as 'The Hobbit'. Put it this way, I could write and shoot an entire low budget movie on just one set from one scene from 'The Hobbit'.

Nor have I had the chance to work with and see so many famous and truly experienced actors work on set before.

I watched and learned every day. There is a saying along the lines of you don't know how much you don't know... well I now have a clue as to how much I don't know and it's a lot. I have a lot of work to do to be the quality of actor that I would like to be, Ian McKellen is truly amazing for example, but in the meantime I do the best that I can.

Kel: How did the auditioning process work? What approach did you take, and did you employ any special tactics like you did to get the role for Sir Gregor Clegane in the Game of Thrones TV series?

Conan: Actually I used the role of Ser Gregor Clegane to get my foot in the audition door for 'The Hobbit'. I read an outdated notice that the audition process for 'The Hobbit' had started, somewhat panicked I re-read the book and through some luck had an associate who knew one of the Casting Directors. Game of Thrones was already known to be a hit by that time so the name of the show and the description of Ser Gregor Clegane were heavily emphasised in the approach to 'The Hobbit' Casting Director.

Similarly as soon as Peter Jackson made the official announcement that I was to be in 'The Hobbit' I called the casting people for the Spartacus TV series (again) and first thing out of my mouth after my name was 'The Hobbit' and 'Game of Thrones' then would you have any possible parts coming up?

Again I think the mention of these two was enough to get me a look in, and following up with an email with full CV, links to PJ's announcement as well as my showreel was enough to get me into an audition which I then passed.

For Vikingdom, a movie that was described as like '300' and 'Spartacus'. I contacted one of the Producers at a very opportune time and mentioning 'The Hobbit', 'Game of Thrones', 'Spartacus', as you can imagine, swung the door wide open and I was able to land a starring role as the primary antagonist, a fantastically red headed and very angry Thor battling to keep the faith of his followers in the face of the intrusions of the White Christ, available from Amazon.com's Watch Now video on demand service and released in cinemas by Universal Pictures on 16th Dec in UK, Australia, NZ, Japan, Brazil, South Africa and the Nordic countries. Other cinema releases are confirmed for Germany and the Ukraine but no date is yet given, it's already been released theatrically in the US, Malaysia/Borneo and Thailand.

Kel: Without going into any detail about The Hobbit, can you tell us how you heard that you'd been cast in The Hobbit? How soon did you get the call and what sort of feedback did you receive?

Conan: I was doing my random web crawling and found a relatively old article on one of the entertainment sites that 'The Hobbit' had started the audition process, I panicked somewhat, this is a movie I was sure I was suitable for.

I had been given a copy of 'The Hobbit' as a 12 year old, and had read all of Tolkien works after that starting with LOTR, then the Silmarillion, then the Adventures of Tom Bombadil and lesser works, even Unfinished Tales, pretty heavy reading for a pre-teen. This was the start of my interest in mythology, fantasy and sci-fi genres and of course the natural follow on was Dungeons & Dragons (original then basic edition, followed by AD&D, Gamma World, Aftermath, Middle Earth Fantasy Role Playing and Warhammer (original and FRP)). In short 'The Hobbit' screwed up my mothers ambitions for me to be a good boy to study hard and get a "good" job.

Immediately upon reading the casting news I went out and found a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's book to reread and found two characters I thought I would be suitable for.

Beorn, described as the biggest man Bilbo had ever seen, sounded appropriate or failing that one of the Trolls would be right up my alley experience wise - heavy prosthetics, tall and big enough to carry the weight and a working class English accent, which was not so far removed for the coal mining/steel working Australian town I grew up in.

As luck would have it (finally some luck!), and after a brief "discussion" with a fellow who was acting as my agent at the time, he agreed to contact 'The Hobbit' on my behalf. Looking on IMDB-Pro it turns out his employer had worked with one of the

Casting Directors before, so he contacted her, we sent some photos and my CV and much to his surprise Peter Jackson asked that I audition for a part I had not considered - Azog.

Again I read The Hobbit book, so as to get as clear an idea as I could whom Azog should be. (As clarification anyone who has watched the production process will note that while originally published as playing Azog my character was changed to Bolg at a later date, in the book Bolg is Azog's son).

The night before the audition I became incredibly sick from food poisoning, so I put it off one day, then feeling like crap I went in and did a few takes with a borrowed camera in a borrowed office on the weekend. Some confusion ensured and the best takes were accidentally deleted leaving us with the worst takes. Happy I was.

Next morning I awoke feeling much healthier and took my trusty Nokia N8 phone, which at the time was the only phone on the market capable of producing acceptable video (now since replaced with the Nokia 808 with it's 41Mp camera (yes forty one)), and got good lighting by filming with the the morning sunlight shining into my tiny studio apartment. I did a few more takes and uploaded these to my server and emailed the download links off for Production to view.

A few days later I heard that I had entered into the audition process very late, there was already a top 3 short list but that I would be considered. A decision was expected within 2 weeks, after two weeks we were informed that due to so much going on Peter had yet to make a decision. After 2 more weeks we were told that the decision would be made after the Christmas break.

All in all I had to wait almost 3 months for the answer. You know when you were a kid and someone told you Christmas was 3 months away? That's how long those 3 months were.

When it came back a yes I was thrilled to say the least, again the shift workers downstairs were less than thrilled with the foreign Giant Freak jumping for joy.

Kel: How did you enjoy your time in Wellington? Did you have much time to just take in the sights? Is there anything you’re particularly going to miss?

Conan: I enjoyed it but mostly the reasons are geo-political. NZ is a great country, and the people are still themselves if that makes sense? NZ is firmly on my shortlist of places I might eventually settle in.

As to seeing the sights I was on call every day I was there so unless I obtained special permission to pop off for a bit, like when I jumped on a leisurely 42 hour flight to North Africa to film for 4 days on History Channel's 'The Bible' in Morocco, followed by a slightly more leisurely 44 hour return trip. So I kept myself available the rest of the time since 'The Hobbit' production team were nice enough to give me time off at short notice at important (to me) times like this.

On top of that I was not contractually allowed to do anything considered risky - so skiing, climbing glaciers, visiting earthquake ruined towns and the like were out of the question until my contract finished.

You're very well-known (and appreciated) for your work as Sir Gregor Clegane in the Game of Thrones TV series. Were there any aspects of that character -- such as the mindset -- that you were also able to apply to Bolg? Or did you just have to start over?

Conan: Besides the obvious connection of both being big and powerful there was little else to connect the characters. Very different backgrounds, very different cultures, very different loyalties (what is the Orcs/Goblins political system?). Middle-earth had set and mostly unchanging loyalties, whereas in GoT loyalties seem to shift and change fairly often.

Gregor being a knight would have a certain code of conduct that he lived by, it obviously was not the code that those who live in a Christian culture typically imagine a knight to live by, but he had a code and was unfailingly loyal to his liege lord, whereas, and I may be wrong in this, but I would think the Orcs would be a little different with leadership being determined by personal strength, fighting skill, and cunning to a large degree.

So yes, I had to start over as I could not really see a connection between the two characters.

Conan in Drona

Kel: What was the experience of working under heavy prosthetic make-up like? Had you ever done anything like it before? How long did the make-up/prosthetic process take each day, and how exhausting was that before you even had to go out and get on set?

Conan: I have worked under prosthetics before, I think it was one of the reasons that I had been offered the role to be honest. Some people find they get claustrophobic in a mask, or full suit. The worst thing is when someone is ok for a few weeks then they get claustrophobic, that can really mess up production if they need to be replaced. I have never seen it happen personally but there are stories floating about in the SFX departments.

The first movie I did was full a full prosthetic suit as Marvel's 'Man-Thing', I also worked with a full head cast in the Hindi film 'Drona', and have done minor prosthetic work a few times. As to 'The Hobbit' this is something I still cannot talk about much but when one of the drivers was talking about the Dwarves and how much makeup they had each day he asked me did I have much? I truthfully answered I have more than anyone. In fact it took 3hrs a day to do makeup and get in costume and an hour to remove everything. So pretty heavy costume all up.

As to how it is sitting in the makeup chair so long having plastics glued all over your head and neck one of the make up artists asked me "Don't you get bored sitting in the chair everyday?"ť My response was "Given the choice of sitting at home staring at the wall wondering where my next job is coming from, or sitting here staring at the wall and getting paid for it - I prefer it here."

Kel: What does it feel like being the world's biggest action hero?

Conan: Ha, a little bit cheatful actually, but legally and technically it is true.

I got this idea from a successful entrepreneurial friend when I used to have a computer store, he said to me you should advertise as Australia's largest computer seller. People will think you mean you shift more stock than anyone and that will get people in the door. If they ask how you sell more than anyone you point out that the wording is 'biggest computer seller', and then ask if they know a computer seller larger than 7ft tall and 300lbs? At the time I was moving out of computer sales (7% margin and responsibility for warranty and transport with stock that drops about 10% value a month) and going into repairs of mainly laptops and the popular misbehaving operating system - work with the system, not against it.

Anyway back to the point.

So now I can say "Name a physically bigger action movie hero?" I know there are some other guys about the same size but they are yet to play a hero role in an action movie as I did in Bangkok Adrenaline but then you'd have a starring role in a movie if you wrote it and helped in pre-production too (hint hint - I got the idea from Stallone by the way and too much like Stallone we had an offer to buy the script before we started filming too, we also declined as it was not money we wanted from the film, it's about there that the similarities between Bangkok Adrenaline and Rocky finish though).

It is also a bit about branding and identifying my acting niche. If someone reads “worlds biggest action hero” that they have an idea straight away of what roles I can do and where my skills will be at. It's sort of like a advertising slogan that gets the message across quickly.

Thinking about it, it might be time to change it to The Ultimate Bad Guy for your next movie, that'd be more fitting to be honest - I'll look into it. I'll eventually be able to play more Hero roles in DVD/VOD releases (especially if I write them) Â but I think the big studios will look at me as a bad guy and that is where the majority of my acting abilities lay to be honest.

Kel: And finally, can you tell us about what you're doing next?

Conan: Next is more waiting, writing, emailing, researching, trying to find and get the next job. The not fun part of being an actor.

But theatrically as previously mentioned Vikingdom has just been made available in the US via video on demand (VOD) through Amazon.com. And Universal Pictures is releasing Vikingdom in cinemas in the following countries on 16th Dec in UK, Australia, NZ, Japan, Brazil, South Africa and the Nordic countries. Other cinema releases are confirmed for Germany and the Ukraine but no date is yet given. After that 'A Man Will Rise' starring Tony Jaa and Dolph Lundgren is waiting on Tony to arrive back from Fast and Furious 7 where I finish my fight scenes with him so it can go into final post production.

A few others things are open as possibilities including a straight acting role (no fighting I think) in a US film, I was considered but passed over for two major studio films, I have signed a Letter Of Intent for a movie scheduled for mid next year (basically says I am currently interested in working in the film), a few smaller budget movies could come through and there is a chance to do a few weeks stunt show in China with some friends - that'll be a fun paid holiday in reality so I' looking forward to it.

And there is also always the chance I'll go back to Bangkok to write another movie with Raimund Huber, with all the additional experience we have accumulated since Bangkok Adrenaline.

So for now look for Vikingdom, a heavy CGI action/fantasy that is punching well above it's budget. I play a very red headed and angry Thor, much different to Marvels interpretation, and I get to kill lots of people in lots of fun CGI enhanced ways, there is even a fair bit of unintentional comedy, the kind where you go no, stop, rewind that bit, you're kidding! Have a look at that, lol. It has some shortcomings but overall I think it is a good Saturday night beer and pizza movie, as a teenager I would have loved this movie, but then I was a big Roger Corman fan as a teenager.

My favourite review is from http://www.ocweekly.com and reads as such:
Vikingdom Ain't Smart, But It's Sure Fun

Imagine an old Hollywood mead-and-beard epic like The Long Ships....directed by an acolyte of young Peter Jackson - rococo violence! that restless camera! charming, cheap-o monsters!- who is determined,

budget be damned, to stuff the movie with the pomp and grandeur of mid-career Jackson - snowy vistas! besieged castles! a portentous prologue! a reluctant king on the eve of battle, subjecting his outmatched army to his shaky poetry!

And then imagine that every 10 minutes or so, like any good Malaysian action movie, town-destroying fights break out, all sharply choreographed, full of brawling stuntwork, medieval weaponry, and a refreshing mixture of battle styles—you've got your pug-ugly WWE-looking lugs and bruisers hacking gamely at their foes, plus a couple lithe wire-fu ringers twirling their spears and bending space and time to go into slow-mo whenever it would look the most awesome. Can I call it "axe-socky"?

Finally, if you have imagination left to spare, please try this: Imagine that the whole goofy, bloody shebang somehow works. Vikingdom trembles with great dumb joy even before we meet the apparently handcrafted hell-dragon that looks like a set of windup chattering teeth combined with a homecoming float.

As I said it does have it's shortcomings but then again it is about $55 million short on budget of a big studio film so for many to compare the two is rather a compliment to the production team.

Anyway that's it, thanks for reading, it's a long read I know, hopefully you enjoyed it or like Vikingdom at least parts of it made it overall enjoyable. (I hope the Producers don't think that is me being too blunt and honest again?)

(This post was edited by Altaira on Oct 20 2013, 3:23pm)

The Grey Elf
Grey Havens

Oct 21 2013, 2:54pm

Post #2 of 2 (2145 views)
Thanks for another great interview, Kel [In reply to] Can't Post

And, wow, did CS have a lot to say, LOL! It's always a pleasure to read other's take on The Hobbit and Middle-earth and how it influenced them. Though I wish I knew why he's no longer playing Clegane on GoT. He was the best of the actors who've taken on that role.

Welcome more children to Middle Earth. Support The S.H.I.R.E. Project!


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