With Conan the Barbarian 3D approaching the status of done-and-dusted, thoughts at production company Nu Image are turning to what comes next. Speaking to Empire this afternoon, producer Avi Lerner let slip that Red Sonja, long in development hell, is right back on the ajenda, with Simon West (The Mechanic, Con Air) in the frame to direct, and Amber Heard the favourite to fill Sonja's oh-so practical chain-mail bikini.
Sonja, lest we forget, is sort of a Robert E Howard creation, but actually has more to do with Roy Thomas' Conan comics for Marvel. She was previously embodied onscreen by Brigitte Nielsen in 1985, with Arnold Schwarzenegger also on-hand as the all-but Conan Prince Kalidor.
Twenty-odd years later, Sonja reared her crimson head again, in a projected film that was to star Rose McGowan, with Robert Rodriguez producing and Doug Aarniokoski (Highlander: Endgame) behind the camera. Teaser artwork was produced showing McGowan in costume, but the rest was ultimately silence, and as of last spring, the whole shebang had basically been scrapped and started again with a new team.
Which brings us to today, and Avi Lerner's confirmation that Sonja is still very much a going concern. "We didn't want to start it until we'd finished Conan," he tells us, but with confidence in Marcus Nispel's revivified warrior growing, and a sequel already in development, Lerner reveals that, "We will definitely shoot Red Sonja in between Conan and Conan 2. We already chose the director: an English guy called Simon West."
It sounds as if West will get going on Sonja (if you'll excuse the expression) after he completes The Medallion with Nicolas Cage. The second half of Lerner's bombshell is not a done deal however, although it does sound entirely plausible.
"We're talking to a few girls for the role of Sonja," he says, "but we just finished a movie called Drive Angry with Amber Heard, and I want to see her. She's my favourite for the role."
Mandy Lane as a sword-wielding, free-running warrioress? Oh hells yes. "Amber is the new Red Sonja... but she doesn't know it yet!" laughs the producer. "When you write it she'll get the shock of her life! She'll call me and say 'How dare you talk to Empire before you talk to me?!'"
Amber, if you're reading this, go easy on Avi, or at least try not to get blood on the contract.
We'll have more Red Sonja and Conan developments as they emerge. In the meantime, Drive Angry is out on February 25, and Conan the Barbarian 3D on August 19.