Paradox declines to extend WB's 'Conan' option

Weeks after Warner Bros. lost the rights to Conan the Barbarian, New Line has moved into prime position to make a movie based on Robert E. Howard’s mythical conqueror.

After posting a bid of mid-six against seven figures for an 18-month option with one extension, the studio entered into negotiations after CAA staged an auction for rights holder Paradox Entertainment. The property drew the interest of several studios and monied producers including Hollywood Gang’s Gianni Nunnari and Millennium Films.

Strong interest in Conan was attributed to the strong showing of the macho sandal saga “300.”

Several potential buyers blinked at an initial asking price of $1 million for a year option, with another $1 million for each year’s renewal. Studios are sensitive to ticking clock options, particularly when potential writers and actors strikes next year has them putting their resources into films that can be completed before next June.

Reinventing Conan didn’t come easy for WB, which spent the last seven years trying for a film that veered from the testosterone-laced beefcake fests that launched Arnold Schwarzenegger to something more reverential toward Howard’s original pulp novels.

Larry and Andy Wachowski, John Milius (who directed the original and wrote the script with Oliver Stone) and Robert Rodriguez took turns developing it. Rodriguez got closest but left the project for “Grindhouse.” Boaz Yakin was hired last year to start again.

Warners had a spring deadline to be in production but balked because it didn’t have a script in which it was confident. Paradox, which had extended its original option agreement three times, declined another extension.

“We have great respect for Warner Bros., but after seven years, we came to the point where we needed to see progress to production,” Paradox’s Fredrik Malmberg told Daily Variety.

WB, meanwhile, filled the breach with a deal to turn “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” into a live-action film.

If New Line makes the deal, the studio will have to start from scratch, as Warners owns the various drafts it developed.

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