As was announced yesterday, actor Djimon Hounsou will both star in and produce a feature based on Robert E. Howard villain, Thulsa Doom.
While the character is known to a larger audience as a Conan antagonist (thanks to James Early Jones playing the character in 1982’s Conan the Barbarian), the rights to the character are currently with Red Sonja Corp., and he has most recently appeared in Dynamite Entertainment’s Red Sonja series and 2006’s Red Sonja vs. Thulsa Doom miniseries.
Along with Hounsou, the film will be produced by Red Sonja Corp.’s Arthur and Luke Liberman, as well as Dynamite’s Nick Barrucci.
Asked for his thoughts about the film which will tell the story of a notorious villain as its lead, Barrucci told Newsarama:
“Thulsa has a rich history which we plan on exploring and presenting. Some villains, like the Joker, are mainly created to be the flip side of their arch-nemesis, in the Joker’s case, the Batman (and as Joker says to Batman, he completes Joker's Evil). Some villains have many layers that make them who they are. This is the case of Thulsa Doom. Thulsa is closer to Darth Vader than to The Joker. There are many layers to Thulsa, and we will be revealing them in the film and in the comics to come. Djimon is the actor who gets it. He understands and is working hand in hand with how to develop Thulsa as not only a single feature, but if possible, a series of features. There¹s many stories to tell, and Djimon is the right person to take lead on these stories. This is a journey, and who knows, maybe the journey’s finale has not been written yet?”
And what of Thulsa himself? Newsarama spoke briefly with the actor and now, first time producer.
Newsarama: In a big-picture sense, Thulsa Doom is clearly very different from your more recent projects, and your larger body of work. What attracted you to it, and how did you become aware of it in the first place?
Djimon Hounsou: The people that hold the rights – Arthur Lieberman and Luke Lieberman approached me with the project some time ago, and I wasn’t quite sold on it. There were certain aspects of it that weren’t quite right, so we cultivated the idea, and we eventually came to the understanding that this will be a really amazing character to portray. From there, I looked at the original Conan film, and how James earl Jones portrayed that character – it was just amazing. My interest really grew from there.
NRAMA: From the original announcement, it seems that this will be something that digs into the choices the character makes, and have elements of a say, morality play in it as well as the fantasy story…
DH: Right. When you look at Third World countries, and I come from one, I find it fascinating when you see a country that just gains its independence trying to survive. Its leader will always try to rule with liberty and equality and all of that in the beginning, but the country just turns upside down and corruption in ever shape and form begins to rise up. So the leader, with his dreams for the country, is pulled left and right for the people and can soon find himself having to go to extremes in order to restore order.
There’s a line that I thought was amazing in Batman – “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to find yourself a villain.” I thought that was a very profound quote, and it’s very, very close to what we’re working on with Thulsa. That quote pretty much sums up the essence of where we’re going with the story.
NRAMA: Even though Thulsa is a fantasy character and based on Howard’s works, it sounds as if the film’s story will be more of a tragedy – watching someone make the wrong decisions for what he sees as the right reasons…
DH: Right, right. I always find it fascinating when you have someone who is really striving to do the right thing, but is then forced to go to such extremes to do it. Again, to draw the parallels between the story we’re telling and Thirds World countries, the good people always disappear very quickly because they can’t stay under the conditions as they exist. In order to stay good, you almost have to flirt with the bad. But then when you pull yourself out and away from the bad, you can easily get pulled right back in. This story will have many of the elements that I’ve always been fascinated by in the human condition.
NRAMA: Would you say that by setting this story in a fantasy setting, you’ll be able to make the statements about corruption and wrong choices for the right reasons in a stronger, broader way that you would if you were telling this kind of story say, in a modern, political setting?
DH: You may be right – because of the fantasy story and world the effects of decisions can be bigger and carry much more weight, and of course, there’s an unlimited resource of imagination that we can tap into.
NRAMA: To wrap things up, as a producer on the project, what’s your timeline looking like from here?
DH: Well, I really can’t speak of timelines, and certainly don’t want to give myself any specific timelines, as it’s such a huge undertaking. For now, we have a little luxury of time to make it the best movie we possibly can. Also, this is my first production, so I really don’t want to rush with it, and find myself backpedaling to correct mistakes. So I’ll take the time that it needs to make it, and make it well.