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TAFs Interviews Gerry Lopez: Part 1 with Subotai!

Reported By: Randy Jennings
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Even though I get the fortunate opportunity to interview many of Arnold's directors and co-stars, I'm always extra giddy to speak with the cast of Conan the Barbarian, my favorite Arnold film. Recently I was able to speak with one of the key players, Gerry Lopez, who plays "food for wolves" a.k.a. Subotai!  Having finally have interviewed Lopez from his central Oregon residence, I feel like i've been swept up by the Four Winds of Cimmeria. The reason i'm soaring so high is because Gerry Lopez, out of modesty, seldom gives interviews. Obtaining the elusive Subotai interview has been a long journey but at last the planets have aligned and Crom himself granted us our one request.

now and then


TheArnoldFans:  How did you get involved with Conan?

Gerry Lopez: My relationship with John went way back to Big Wednesday. That's when we got to be friends but long before that I was a big Robert E. Howard fan. I've always been a big reader and I'd actually read all of the Conan stories and all the stuff he's done. So when the Conan project came along and it just got dropped into John's lap, I wen't oh man, are you kidding!  I mean right from the beginning it had been in the works for a while and Arnold had always been the one who they expected to be Conan; he was perfect.

TheArnoldFans: How often do you get people who recognize you as Subotai?

Gerry Lopez: Not a lot but the few that do are, like yourself, you know, Conan is really a special movie for them.

TheArnoldFans: Were you familiar with Arnold as a popular bodybuilder when you heard he was going to be cast as Conan?

Gerry Lopez: A friend of mine just reminded me of the time I took him to go see Pumping Iron at one of the local theaters there. He always says, 'Why did you want to go see that?' I was curious. I kind of knew who Arnold was and when the project came along and when John and I talked about it, because we were spending quite a bit of time together at that time, and John told me that Arnold was going to be Conan and I said, YEAH, that's PERFECT! I mean Arnold with long hair will look just like Frazetta and all the artwork that went with all the Robert E Howard stuff. It was perfect.

poster


TheArnoldFans: Did you ever think once you started working with Arnold that he might not be perfect considering his English at the time was still rather rough?

Gerry Lopez: (Laughs) Yeah, Arnold worked quite a bit with a voice coach before the movie and John and I talked about that too. I said, well, just don't have him say so much. And I thought it worked really good. I mean even with the accent, Conan could have been a dramatic kind of guy anyways... and he (the character) probably was.

TheArnoldFans: You've made a big name for yourself in the surfing world. You make your own surfboards, correct?

Gerry Lopez: Yep, ever since about 1968.

TheArnoldFans: What makes your boards unique and how does a surfer know which board is right for them?

Gerry Lopez: A surfboard is actually a pretty unique piece of equipment. Because for a surfer, the surfboard is a very personal item and a surfer, weather he buys that board from a store or has it made custom, develops a relationship with that board. Even before he sees his next board to buy, he's thinking about it as he's surfing and so he may have a picture or several pictures in his mind of a NEW board that he feels is going to make him surf better - which is why a surfer gets a new surfboard..because he wants to raise his game. SO the whole time he's surfing, he's thinking about another board that will improve upon the present one where he's unable to do certain things on. There's two types of customers...one that always custom orders a board to whatever degree of input to me, the builder....or the other type of customer always goes to a surf shop and wants to see the board because he may not be able to visualize the board. That guy wants to touch it and feel it first and then he'll know. Something will happen and surfers know, yeah, this is the board for me. Something goes on inside and that connection starts to happen. A lot of the customers of my boards tend to think of them a bit more. It's very personal. Especially for the custom guys.

Surfer


TheArnoldFans: Why did you step away from acting? Was Hollywood cruel or was your love of surfing too great?

Gerry Lopez: After Conan, that was really what lanched Arnold's career and Sandahl had a few more roles as well. A friend of mine worked at a big talent agency and he goes 'One of our agents there wants to talk to you about representinting you for the future,' so we met. She said 'I can get you quite a few parts if you're interested. This would be a great stepping stone for a film career' and I go, okay, what do I have to do? and she goes, 'Well, the first thing you have to do is move here to Hollywood.'  but I said, well, I live in Maui. She said 'There's casting calls and readings that always come up and you kind of have to be here.' I said, you know what, I think I'd rather be here in Maui. That was kind of it.

Mako


TheArnoldFans: Not too many people liked Conan the Destroyer. Were you asked to be in the film and what did you think of it?

Gerry Lopez: I thought it took it out of the depth of the real true Conan character and it was too funny.

TheArnoldFans: Were you asked to come back to the sequel or did the studio just always have different plans?

Gerry Lopez: No, except for Arnold, non of the original cast were invited back. Oh, and Mako.

TheArnoldFans: Did you know Mako well?

Gerry Lopez: I did. We spent quite a bit of time filming together. I went to his acting school. John sent me there to learn how to act for the movie so when he finally did come over to Spain. He wasn't there the whole time because he was a pretty busy guy. We spent quite a bit of time together. It turns out he was a gourmet chef. He was a really multi-talented guy. He was a Japanese national originally and he kind of got marooned in America when WW2 broke out in Japan and he had to scramble for stuff to do. Long before he got into acting, cooking was one of his biggest ones and he got really good at it. And I used to cook a lot and I didn't ever go out to eat in Spain. John and Arnold would come and eat in my room. He'd say, 'We were going to go eat Viet Cong with Lopez." because I just cooked brown rice and vegetables and tofu and stuff like that and a couple of times a week they'd come over and eat with me. But Mako would come over and eat a couple of nights and he'd go, 'Well, that was okay but tonight, i'm going to cook!' When we were down south in El Maria, he started early in the morning, got all the food, spent all this money, spent all day preparing this really gourmet stuff and shit, then dinner time came around and everyone came... Arnold, Sandahl. And Mako didn't eat anything. He goes, 'You know how it is when you make food, you loose your appetite.' So he just sat there and watched us eat all this fabulous food. He made a ton of food and it was really fancy.

Eating


TheArnoldFans: John Milius told me you guys have surfed together before. Did you teach him the sport or did he already have surfing skills?

Gerry Lopez: Yeah, he was a good surfer. He would always like to say he was the best surfing director in Hollywood. I built him a number of boards. I think one resurfaced recently. Somehow it had gotten lost. He had a number of moves through the years. He had a lot of stuff.

TheArnoldFans: Did you ever put any Conan logos or designs in the surfboards?

Gerry Lopez:  I think I named one the Sawhorse and one the Bismarck after two German battleships. I didn't do any Conan stuff on the boards. But one time I did take Arnold surfing. Arnold came over and met us in Maui and we took him surfing at this secret spot I had. There was no one there but us. He was pretty keen. He paddled out beyond the waves and he goes, 'Okay,' he got off the board, 'that's it for me.'

TheArnoldFans:  Ha, it sounds like he didn't enjoy it too much.

Gerry Lopez: Yeah, He was done.

Beach


TheArnoldFans: The movie Conan the Barbarian turns 30 next year. How well do you think it holds up today?

Gerry Lopez: I think it's one of those timeless movies. John (Milius) had a way of making those movies that's not going to please everybody all the time but it's going to really please some people... and Conan, as it continues along, will get people who have not yet seen it yet, who are really young and who are going to be taken to it. In some respects it's really dark but these movies only appeal to certain people.

TheArnoldFans: For the 30 year anniversary, would you consider attending a Conan cast reunion convention if I can assemble a large gathering from the cast and crew?

Gerry Lopez: It just depends at when it is. At my age, it's suddenly becoming the busiest year of my life. I'm like, what the hell is going on, I'm going to be 64 this year and I should be sitting at a lazy boy watching TV.

TheArnoldFans: Why did you step away from acting? Was Hollywood cruel or was your love of surfing too great?

Gerry Lopez: After Conan, that was really what lanched Arnold's career and Sandahl had a few more roles as well. A friend of mine worked at a big talent agency and he goes 'One of our agents there wants to talk to you about representinting you for the future,' so we met. She said 'I can get you quite a few parts if you're interested. This would be a great stepping stone for a film career' and I go, okay, what do I have to do? and she goes, 'Well, the first thing you have to do is move here to Hollywood.'  but I said, well, I live in Maui. She said 'There's casting calls and readings that always come up and you kind of have to be here.' I said, you know what, I think I'd rather be here in Maui. That was kind of it.

Subotai


TheArnoldFans: Do you continue to follow Arnold's acting career or have you skipped some of his films?

Gerry Lopez: Oh yeah, I've been an Arnold fan ever since I met him. Everything he does; I don't think I've missed any of his films.

TheArnoldFans: What are your top 3 Arnold movies?

Gerry Lopez: Besides Conan, Predator, Commando and Twins.

This is just PART ONE with Gerry Lopez so be sure to come back for PART TWO. I have much more with Subotai. Oh yes, many tales of high adventure! In the meantime, check out GerryLopez.com


Subotai, Conan




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Randy Jennings






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