Red Sonja started off as a creation of Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith in 1973. Based partly on the Robert E. Howard character named Red Sonya, Red Sonja made her debut in issue #23 of the Marvel Comics series "Conan the Barbarian." Since then, she has teamed up with Spider-Man ("Marvel Team-Up" # 79), become Wolverine's mate ("What if?" Vol. 2, #16) and appeared on screen in a poorly received 1985 film with Brigitte Nielsen in the title role. Now, in her own popular series from Dynamite Entertainment, Red Sonja has become part of a reinvigorated return to the Hyborian Age. CBR News sat down with writer David N. White ("Special Forces") and director Douglas Aarniokoski ("Highlander: Endgame") to chat about Sonja's second chance at the big screen courtesy of producer Robert Rodriguez and actress Rose McGowan.
It's been over thirty years since her creation and over twenty since her failed attempt at cinematic dominance, but Red Sonja's back again. White attributes the longevity to the character to how compelling she is. "First of all, it's a really strong female character and I think that, despite the fact that there have been some really good ones, there's a dearth of that," the writer told CBR News, "I think the time is ripe to sort of see someone who's really, really strong. Also the Dynamite comic book series has been doing very, very well so clearly the popularity of Red Sonja, which has sort of waxed and waned over the years, is really on the rise again."
When Roy Thomas decided to turn "Shadow Of The Vulture," originally set in the 16th century, into a Conan story, the lead character of Red Sonya of Rogatino was removed and replaced with the Red Sonja today's fans are familiar with. The new movie shall have its own continuity separate from any previous comics or stories, but will this Sonja be the same as the one that appeared in the Marvel comics? "We're going to draw from various influences, not from the 1985 film whatsoever," White said. "But I think there are aspects from the comic book, both from the '70s and '80s Marvel series, as well as the Dynamite series. They're aspects people will recognize but the reality is we wanted to kind of reinvent Sonja, we wanted to create a Red Sonja 2009; something that comic book devotees can recognize and fall in love with but something that people who know nothing about her will immediately like as well."
Of course, any time a classic character is reinvented or retooled, the diehard fans get up in arms over it. "It's a balance," White said. "At the end of the day you're not going to please everyone but I do believe that the hardcore redheads, as they are called, are going to be pleasantly surprised. They're going to be much more pleased then perhaps then they even think they are going to be at this point."
The origins of how White and Aarniokoski got involved with the project are a lot simpler. "I know some of the producers at Millennium Films," White said. "I'd known they had been toying with an idea to do another Red Sonja for a while. They acquired the rights and producers Joe Gatta and Boaz Davidson called me in just to give them a take on it. I came up with a take, they liked it, so we went ahead and wrote a script and that was the beginning of my involvement."
Director Douglas Aarniokoski came in a bit later in the development. "I came in when Robert Rodriguez was brought in to produce," he said. "I've worked with Robert for many years and then he brought the script to me and said 'Look, I am going to produce this, what do you think? Do you like it? Are you interested in directing it?' We talked about it and he said Rose [McGowan] is going be playing Red Sonja and at that point I was like, 'Yeah I'm in, I'm hooked, let's go.'"
Part of the audience's expectations is for movies of this kind is that the fantastical environments and characters look real, which always leads to the great debate about using practical effects versus that of CGI. On "Red Sonja" though, the plan will be to use a little of both. "It's the kind of world you can't do justice by just throwing a green screen up and shoot the actors in front of it," Aarniokoski explained. "You really need to have the grittiness. You got to have the rawness of blade hitting skin, hoofs hitting dirt so we are going to have a sort of combination of the two. We are going meld the CG world with the practical world.
"The script is great, the character is fantastic, [and] it's a great world," Aarniokoski continued. "I think just keeping the audience visually stimulated, you know they expect so much these days, we just want to make sure we take them for a ride and a ride that they really truly enjoyed."
After the team wrapped things up at Comic-Con International in San Diego last month, it was straight back to work. "We just finished scouting locations all around the U.S.," Aarniokoski said. "Right after this we're literally are flying out and going into pre-production."
But before they got back to the film, White wanted to leave a few words for the fans. "I just think fans of the comic book are really going to be into it," he said. "I think they are going to be really surprised. it's really kick ass, it's really true to the Sonja spirit, and at the same time it's going to be something new. Just wait for the movie."
For fans taking White's words to heart, they might just have to wait a while as the warrior woman won't be making it to a theater near you untill 2009.
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