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Untold Tales of Hollywood #19

John Milius cast champion surfer Gerry Lopez as Conan’s right-hand man, the thief known as Subotai. John held to a theory that someone who had achieved supreme genius and excellence in one field would have no problem transferring that high level of quality into all other fields.

Like acting.

Gerry had a pretty strong surfer accent, so his lines were dubbed by Mako, who also played the film’s wizard.

We did a screen test with both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gerry at a nearby sound stage. Upon arriving at the sound stage production designer Ron Cobb immediately began painting on the wall behind Gerry and Arnold. It looked like Ron was painting bands of clouds. It was not very impressive until Ron had me look at what he had done through the movie camera.

Holy moley! Ron’s background sprang to life. It looked totally three-dimensional and completely believable as a distant, atmospheric sky. I was awestruck by Ron’s knowledge and his command of values (dark and light systems).

This was all presented as a screen test for Gerry. In actuality it was Arnold that was being tested. John wanted to see how heavy Arnold’s accent was and if he could overcome it. Arnold, after all, had to carry the picture.

I remember one of Arnold’s lines. He was supposed to say, “This is not my father’s sword.” Instead, it came out as “Dis iz not my fadda’s soo-wahd.”

John Milius got very depressed. Eventually, of course, with vocal coaching and a lot of work on Arnold’s part, his accent got much better and more understandable.

Arnold and Gerry didn’t really hit it off until one day when their car pulled to the side of the road. They got out of the car for a stretch. Arnold walked over to the side of the road — and threw up. Gerry saw this and walked over to Arnold, then turned and added his own vomit to the pile. A light of recognition ignited in their eyes. Both of them could vomit at will! It made sense in a way. They were both athletes who needed to keep their weight down. An occasional purge would do the trick. They became good buddies and kindred spirits from that moment on.

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