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Catching up with John Milius

Helmer rises with 'Dawn'

Saddam Hussein‘s recent capture was particularly interesting to John Milius. After all, the U.S. military named its Saddam-seizing venture Operation Red Dawn.

That name — minus the “Operation” — was previously most associated with Milius’ 1984 pic featuring Patrick Swayze as a teenage resistance leader fending off a Soviet invasion of the U.S. The pic remains a campy tribute to unbridled Reagan-era jingoism.

“The best part was that they called the locations Wolverine One and Two,” Milius says of the ops to capture Hussein. In “Red Dawn,” Swayze’s guerilla gang is named the Wolverines, after a high school mascot.

The writer behind such chest-beating films as “Apocalypse Now” and “Conan the Barbarian,” Milius clearly knows how to think like a war strategist.

“Maybe they referred to him (Saddam) as Strelnikov, one of the villains in the film,” he jokes.

Although the director has been following the war in Iraq and spent time in the Middle East during the Gulf War, his current projects aren’t influenced by recent events.

Upcoming TV gigs include a series about ancient Rome for HBO and “The Son Tay Raid,” about a raid during the Vietnam War to rescue POWs, for the History Channel.

On the feature front, he’s begun “a motor cycle Western” starring wrestler Triple H.

Milius thinks Triple H could be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom he unfortunately can’t cast in his upcoming Conan pic now that Schwarzenegger has a day job.

“I think it’s really good that he became governor,” Milius says of Schwarzenegger’s metamorphosis. “I think he’ll be better at that than anything he’s ever done.”

Milius considers this and then adds, “Well, he was pretty good in ‘Conan.’ “