“Amazon is developing drama series Conan, based on the books by Robert E. Howard, Deadline has learned. The project hails from Colony co-creator Ryan Condal, Game of Thrones director Miguel Sapochnik, Fargo and The Handmaid’s Tale executive producer Warren Littlefield, Pathfinder Media and Endeavor Content.
Created and written by Condal, Conan retells the classic character’s story via a return to his literary origins. Driven out of his tribal homelands, Conan wanders the mysterious and treacherous world of civilization where he searches for purpose in a place that rejects him as a mindless savage.
Condal executive produces with Sapochnik, who will direct, and Littlefield. Fredrik Malmberg and Mark Wheeler will also executive produce via their Pathfinder Media banner with Endeavor Content as the studio.
The project falls into Amazon’s push into big, fantasy/genre drama series with broad appeal in the mold of Game of Thrones, which is exemplified by the company’s recent big bet on a Lord of the Rings TV series.
Condal admits to having a personal obsession with the material, which Sapochnik also has been a longtime fan of, leading to their collaboration on the project with the creative goal to return to the original Howard literary works and produce a series that is faithful to the spirit of his Conan character. Conan the Barbarian, aka Conan the Cimmerian, was created by Howard in 1932 in a series of fantasy stories published in Weird Tales magazine.
The character has been the subject of a number of screen adaptations, most famously played by Arnold Schwarzenegger on the big screen. There have been two animated TV series and a short-lived 1997 syndicated action-adventure series, Conan the Adventurer, toplined by Ralf Möller.
Condal is the co-creator, executive producer and showrunner of USA’s drama series Colony, currently in its third season. On the film side, he is currently adapting Logan’s Run for Warner Bros and previously wrote a movie about another muscled hero, Hercules, starring Dwayne Johnson.
Sapochnik won an Emmy and DGA Award for outstanding directing for the Game of Thrones episode “Battle of the Bastards.” Most recently, he directed the opening episode for Netflix’s Altered Carbon, and is set to direct Bios for Amblin Entertainment, starring Tom Hanks, with Robert Zemeckis and Kevin Misher producing.
Littlefield serves as an executive producer for FX’s Fargo and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, both of which have earned him Emmys — outstanding limited series for Fargo and outstanding drama series for The Handmaid’s Tale.
Endeavor Content, which brought together WME Global and IMG’s entertainment sales groups in October, recently set up two series at Apple via its new scripted drama venture with Chernin Entertainment: Are You Sleeping, starring Octavia Spencer, which is in development, and See, written by Steven Knight, which has been greenlighted. Additional upcoming series include Damien Chazelle’s The Eddy for Netflix and Beau Willimon’s The First for Hulu.
Wheeler and Malmberg recently produced Syfy’s Blood Drive, and through their newly formed Pathfinder Media are set to finance and produce the series Dark Agnes and The Syndicate later this year.
Condal is repped by WME, Grandview and McKuin Frankel. Sapochnik is repped by WME, Casarotto and Sloane Offer. Littlefield is with WME and Tom Hoberman. Wheeler and Malmberg are repped by David Tenzer.
Pathfinder Media represents the Robert E. Howard Library.”
Amazon seems to be going for fantasy in a big way. They’ve already announced development of a Middle-Earth series and now they are going to develop Robert E. Howard’s most famous character, Conan.
Some people may see this as spreading themselves too thin or saturating the market beyond what it can endure, but I see this as a good thing for both properties.
There have been some concerns that Amazon would attempt to turn the Middle-Earth series into a Tolkien version of Game of Thrones, me included. However, by developing a more visceral series like Conan in tandem with a Middle-Earth series it allows Amazon to remain true to the spirit of both properties.
Middle-Earth, while adventurous in spirit, was never an overtly graphic story. The violence has been show only a little, with the worst of it only implied. Conan, however, is far more graphic, and allows producers to compete with Game of Thrones on a more direct basis. Producing both series at the same time will almost certainly have cross over appeal with fans of both worlds. I know I enjoy both Tolkien and Howard, each for their own styles and points of view. I know other fantasy fans will too.
I’m extremely excited by this announcement and if Amazon can produce a show that stays true the writing of both authors, they will have two raging successes I’m sure.