Highlander - Ryan Condal Interivew

On the feature side, you’re writing or have written the Highlander remake. Do you get to revamp that mythology that got rather convoluted in four sequels and a TV series?

I can’t say much about Highlander but I definitely grew up a fan of the original movie. I admittedly missed the TV series when it was around. It was definitely fun getting to play in that sandbox. I will say that Chad Stahelski, the director on the film, I came into that world as a hired hand, so Chad had already been working on the film for months and months. He had designs and even had maquettes built for sets because he likes to visualize things in the 3D environment. So he had a lot of things already worked out in his head, and he’s also a huge fan of the original. Chad is a world class martial artist, and I think his love of Highlander was probably instilled at a very early age because of his athletic interest. He is coming to it with a great passion for the material and what it is. That’s where we really hit. Both of us really like the original film but we saw the flaws in it and saw real opportunities to re-present the story to a modern audience in a way that I think gives you everything you like about the original thing but also presents a lot of new spins on the material.

I always asked questions like what if an immortal was sliced right down the middle? Would each half of him stay immortal until the necks were severed?

That’s a very good question.

If Chad had all these plans, is he making the John Wick of swordfights?

He has not said those exact words, but that is my hope as a huge fan of Chad’s and John Wick. Look, Chad has an incredible vision for this movie. Right now he is actually shooting John Wick 3, so I do not hear from him very regularly. The work on Highlander is done until he’s actually able to start prepping the movie, which hopefully will happen immediately after Wick 3 wraps. He has an incredibly specific vision for the movie. His company, 87eleven does, not just for Chad and David Leitch’s movies, they go out and do action design. They provide stunt coordination but they also go in and help filmmakers and help movies and studios design the action for specific kinds of movies. So he has a very specific visions for how the action in Highlander will work. How does an immortal fight and how is that different from a human? It’s fascinating. It’s intoxicating. He’s such an incredible creative mind and thinks so visually. You sit with him and it inspires me. I love to write action, visual action on the page that is fun to write in your warm comfortable studio and then pass off to a director who has to go out and execute it. When he talked to me, he very much inspired the way I wrote the action in Highlander. I think if Lionsgate decides to make the movie, I think fans are in for a real treat.

Is your Conan series completely separate from the King Conan movie Arnold Schwarzenegger is still trying to do?

I’ve written a couple of Conan scripts. I wrote a pilot and secured the rights to the series from the rights holder, Pathfinder Entertainment, who’s held the rights to the Robert E. Howard library for many, many years. Lovely guys. I got to know them well. I professionally stalked them for a few years because of my obsession with the character and the works of Robert E. Howard.

I love the original Milius film and I love Arnold Schwarzenegger. My original love for Conan was rooted in that 1982 movie. That led me to discovering the Howard stories and the Marvel comics and the Frank Frazetta paintings, the whole process every Conan fan goes through, I think, at least Conan fan from my generation.

I just saw that there was a way to present the Howard stories on television because the Howard stories were short form and published in pulp magazines over long series of time which is to me a great serial, which really lends itself to one hour long drama on television. I think the problem with the movie adaptations following the Milius story was that a lot of people were going back to the Howard stories and trying to make these big two hour sweeping features out of it, when really the Conan character exists better as the wandering swordsman. There’s always something on the horizon that he’s moving to and they’re episodes in his life. He slowly evolves over time as a character and one day takes the throne.

That just presented a really great opportunity for a TV series, especially in this environment that we’re in. We’re making cinematic television and we can tell these kinds of stories with huge budgets and scope and all that, as Game of Thrones has proven time and time again. So I brought that vision to the rights holders. They liked me. They gave me the rights to the material and then we set it up with Endeavor Content, which is WME’s production wing. I wrote a pilot for them. We sold that pilot and vision for the show to Amazon, and Amazon ordered a couple more scripts to try to get a more complete vision for the series. They will be getting those very soon and then will be able to begin making their decision as to what to do with it.

Did you work on Logan’s Run after the Bryan Singer iteration?

Yes, much long after. I’m no longer working on Logan’s Run but that particular project has been through many, many iterations, many renewals we shall say over the years. It’s tough. To do it right, it’s an incredibly expensive movie. It’s, I think, a very challenging thing to make. People come in all the time with new visions and new ways of attacking it. I think eventually Warner will make Logan’s Run. I just don’t know what version they are going to make.

When you worked on Rampage, was there ever a version that was more like the video game where it was humans mutated into monsters and turned back at the end?

The version that we came onto, I co-wrote it with Carlton who I created Colony with, the conceit was much like what you saw. The idea was always that animals get mutated into monsters. When we came on, Brad Peyton, the director, was already attached. He had a very specific vision for what he wanted to do with the script and where it needed to be. The capacity that Carlton and I came in was much more like a medical professional was hired to attack a specific problem. There was a lot of stuff in place. Sets had been designed, locations had been scouted so Carlton and I were executing a very specific vision that Brad had for the movie and just trying to give him what he needed to get Dwayne to commit to the movie and get New Line to commit to financing which ultimately worked out. We were not in a place where we were coming in to talk about what is this all going to be? We were brought in as professional writers to execute a director’s vision. I credit Brad because in the final analysis, and I played a lot of Rampage when I was a kid, I think he saw a way to bring that movie to life but also realize that ultimately it’s a side scrolling EGA game without a core narrative. That needed to be applied to it. You needed to keep the stuff that we all love from the game which is giant monsters wrecking a city, and then don’t be too precious about the source material. I’m proud of the result.

Can you point to something that was yours that ended up in the film?

Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character, Carlton and I created, Harvey Russell. Our original joke was he was black ops for Fish and Wildlife which we thought was funny. The character, and I credit Adam Sztykiel who was the writer that worked on the project after us, a lot of his fun dialogue came from Adam. We felt like Dwayne really needed a rival. We knew it’s very hard to find a physical rival for Dwayne so we looked for an intellectual rival, a verbal rival. I love Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Huge fan of all of his work. It was really exciting when he got cast.

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