Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Crusade Film Could Have Been a Huge Classic, But Paul Verhoeven Has Sunk it Forever

MOVIE NEWS – This film would certainly have been huge. It would have been a real bloody historical film. It would have been glorious. Instead, it was never made – and that’s the fault of none other than the star director who would have been behind the cameras here as well.


Arnold Schwarzenegger turned 75 yesterday (30 July). The Austrian oak has given us many great action films, but it’s probably Terminators and Conan (or rather just Conan the Barbarian) that we drool over the most. In fact, we love Total Recall – The Memoir, after which director Paul Verhoeven almost made another planned historical movie epic, Crusade, reminiscent of Conan and of course 1985’s flesh and blood, with its grisly historical score. We now commemorate this on Schwarzenegger’s birthday!

The film in question would have followed not Total Recall but 1992’s Elemental Instinct in Verhoeven’s filmography, and would have been helmed by the late Carolco, run by Andy Vajna and Mario Kassar. As the title suggests, it would have been set in the Middle Ages, during the Crusades, and like Conan or the other historical-themed Verhoeven epic mentioned above, Flesh and Blood, it would have been good violence. Of course, the main character, Hagen, was meant to be played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The story goes that Hagen is a serf or servant who is sentenced to death for theft, but by a (faked) miracle is pardoned by Pope Urban II (1088-1099). Of course, the pardon he receives means that he too must go to the Holy Land as part of the First Crusade, where he is captured by Muslim soldiers, as is his custom. But Hagen befriends the people in Jerusalem who have declared themselves the enemy, so he decides to go to war against the Christians instead.

Would the production have been exciting? Probably in every way, since Paul Verhoeven was at the height of his powers at the time, and Total Recall and Elemental Instinct were both pretty powerful and disturbing films, so it was guaranteed that Crusade would be a hit when it was made. The project had the full backing of Carolco, it was green-lit, the script was written, and pre-production began in 1993. Then, in 1994, the producer suddenly backed out, judging the production to be too expensive, estimated at over $100M, which at the time was a particularly large sum, and the company felt it would have to spend even more as production progressed. According to Schwarzenegger, Carolco asked Paul Verhoeven in the final negotiation to guarantee that the budget would not exceed $100M. According to the action star, Verhoeven took this as a personal insult.

“There is no such thing as a guarantee! […] If someone guarantees something, they are lying! We can’t even say that if we walk out of this building we won’t be run over by a truck. There is no guarantee that we will live to see tomorrow! […] So how can I guarantee anything? It’s just ridiculous!” – According to Arnold Schwarzenegger, that’s how Paul Verhoeven got pissed off. Schwarzenegger kept kicking the director under the table during the meeting to calm him down, but the self-proclaimed auteur was adamant. “That was the end of our film. Paul always tried to be honest, but sometimes you have to be a little selective about when to be honest and when to just get on with your project. It was a shame,” the action star confessed.

Anyway, for the rest of the 1990s, they both tried to hammer the project out elsewhere, but were unsuccessful. Instead of Crusade, Carolco made Treasure Island Pirates (1995) with Matthew Modine and Geena Davis for less money, roughly $98M, and did a good job of it at the box office. It even entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest financial flop in film history, taking with it the production company, which went bankrupt in 1995. Maybe Paul Verhoeven shouldn’t have been messed with?

By the way, Arnold Schwarzenegger turned 75 yesterday, which is also the reason why this story is now in the news.

Source: Den of Geek

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