Millennium Media’s Red Sonja reboot (described as a “hot new take”) has landed a new director (and writer) in Jill Soloway, creator of the Amazon Original Transparent; replacing X-Men franchise director/producer Brian Singer and screenwriter Ashley Miller (Thor, X-Men: First Class), who were initially attached as director and writer almost a year ago before Singer was removed from the project in March 2018 following sexual assault allegations. She will also produce the film through her Topple Productions imprint alongside her business partner Andrea Sperling (Imperial Dreams, Harsh Times). Originally, Robert Rodriguez (Alita: Battle Angel, Machete) was set to direct an early iteration of the film back in 2010 with then-girlfriend Rose McGowan (Planet Terror, Conan the Barbarian) set to star; but the latter dropped out after suffering injuries that permanently damaged the mobility and strength of her right arm, and Rodriguez followed soon after. Simon West (The Expendables 2, Con Air) came onboard to direct with Amber Heard (Aquaman, Magic Mike XXL) as the frontrunner to star, but this never materialized either. Mike Le Han (who pitched the Hellraiser: Origins reboot in 2013) also made a pitch to tackle this project, but was ultimately not chosen to take it on.
Soloway said in an interview with Deadline:
“I can’t wait to bring Red Sonja’s epic world to life. Exploring this powerful mythology and evolving what it means to be a heroine is an artistic dream come true.”
The character of Red Sonja (created by writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith) debuted in Conan the Barbarian #23 (1973) for Marvel Comics and was an amalgam of two different characters created by Conan author Robert E. Howard: Red Sonya of Rogatino, a female swashbuckler from his 1934 short story “The Shadow of the Vulture”; and Dark Agnes de Chastillon, the swordswoman protagonist of three stories set in 16th Century France. For the comic book, Thomas kept the Red Sonja name (with altered spelling) and crafted a new origin story for the character, changing the timeline from the 16th century of the original story to the Hyborian Age (also created by Howard), in order to have the comic-book iteration be able to interact with Conan the Barbarian. Here, Red Sonja lives a simple life with her family in the Western Hyrkanian steppes. When she is 17, a group of mercenaries slaughters her family and burns their home to the ground. Finally, after Sonja attempts and fails to defend herself, she is brutally raped by the leader of the group. Her subsequent desire for revenge summons Scáthach, the red goddess, who grants her incredible fighting skills on the condition that she never sleeps with a man unless he defeats her in fair combat. The original Marvel Comics run lasted from 1973–1986, and it wasn’t until 2005 that Dynamite Entertainment began a new run that is still ongoing today. Gail Simone (Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman) and Amy Chu (Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death) have both served as writers throughout the run.
A Dutch-American film adaptation was made in 1985 directed by Richard Fleischer (Conan the Destroyer, Soylent Green) from a script by Clive Exton (The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells) and George MacDonald Fraser (Octopussy, The Three Musketeers). Brigitte Nielsen (Rocky IV, Beverly Hills Cop II) starred as the title character alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger (Conan the Barbarian, Predator), Sandahl Bergman (Conan the Barbarian, Hell Comes to Frogtown), Ronald Lacey (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension), Ernie Reyes, Jr. (The Rundown, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze), Paul L. Smith (Dune, Popeye) and Pat Roach (Kull the Conqueror, Willow) in supporting roles. Bergman originally auditioned for the title role, but opted for the main antagonist to avoid typecasting. Additionally, this film was intended to feature Schwarzenegger’s third appearance as Conan, but the filmmakers did not have the rights to use the name.
Stay tuned for casting and filming/release date announcements.