Djimon Hounsou: Thulsa Doom Speaks

Variety announced this week the news of actor Djimon Hounsou's ("Amistad," "Gladiator") involvement with a motion picture based on the Robert E. Howard character, Thulsa Doom. Originally seen in a Kull the Conquer story, the character of Doom became an adversary to most of Howard's heroes. Already a powerful sorcerer, Doom's prominence grew in the pages of Kull comic books, where the two characters squared off for many years. In these appearances, Thulsa Doom had a skull face that later inspired Skeletor of "He-Man" fame. The character became known world-wide with the release of John Milius's "Conan: the Barbarian" in 1982. In that film, with a human face (and an occasional snake body), Thulsa Doom was the leader of a Snake Cult. His powers mostly came from his ability to lead throngs of people to their deaths. In any guise, he is a formidable presence.

The film is being produced in conjunction with a new comic book series from Dynamite Entertainment, whose president Nick Barucci told CBR News, "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 Joker¹s case, the Batman (as the Joker stated in the movie, Batman completes him). Some villains, have many layers to see the road traveled to make them what 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?"

To learn more about the character of Thulsa Doom, the new film and the new comic book title from Dynamite Entertainment, CBR News spoke with Djimon Hounsou earlier this week.


CBR: When were you first approached for the role of Thulsa Doom?

Djimon Hounsou: At least three of four years [ago]. It took me a really long time to get my mind around what I wanted to do with the story. I wanted to get the essence of the story beforehand. It took me quite of bit of time to decide what I want to do with it. You have to have a clear vision of it before you venture into it. That was my take on it.

How will you approach the character?

[Producers] Arthur Lieberman and Luke Lieberman had the idea of Thulsa [as flawed hero] and came to me with it. So I thought about it, and wasn't quite sure how to approach it; what the [arc] in the story was going to be. It took me quite a bit of time to get my head around it, but that time was quite busy [for me]. So I wanted to see want they would do it. So essentially, without moving any faster, it came to [where] I want to partner with them and take it to the next level.

Thulsa Doom is a rather distinctive character, visually. Are you going to be appearing with a skull for a face?

I'm not quite sure yet. We're all working around the ideas and how best to make [the character look], but one way or another, it'll be quite interesting.

Have you the chance to read the Robert E. Howard stories or to watch James Earl Jones's take on the character in 1982's "Conan the Barbarian?"

I've read some of [the stories] and seen Conan with James Earl Jones. Obviously, that's where my passion for the story came from. I always think it's quite exciting to see somebody who is trying to do good and finds himself turned so evil for the sake of that. Because of a few corrupt people around [him], it would force one to turn evil. I always find that quite intriguing.

Will Thulsa Doom be more of a sorcerer or a cult leader, like in the Conan film?

It will be a combination of both. That's really what defines Thulsa is the combination of those and making it become a cult eventually. What will really develop is having both those themes quite strong in the story.

When does filming begin?

[Laughs] We're still putting the pieces together. We want to get a couple issue of [the comic] out to begin with. [Filming] is in the near future. This is my first time developing a project like this and I have to be quite careful and this is a huge undertaking. This is a period piece. We're talking about a story like "Braveheart" meets "Gladiator." If you could imagine the period of "Gladiator" with a story like "Braveheart." That's what we're looking at. It takes quite a bit of work.

The Sword and Sorcery genre was quite big in the '80s, after the "Conan" film. Do you think this is beginning of another period for these sorts of films?

Certainly mine will be. Obviously those are the attributes that define Thulsa. We definitely have to cultivate the sorcerer aspect of it and also the cult aspect of it. It'll be fun.

Ready for green screen?

[Laughs] Yeah, right! We are ready. After "300," with the success they had making that film, it was pretty inspiring. Definitely, we're ready for that.

What else do you have coming up?

I have film called "Push" that's coming out and they're announcing it at Comic-Con. I have other films I'm working on while developing "Thulsa." It is a really big project for me in ever aspect. It's humongous. It's an epic.

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