Hollywood Flashback: In 1984, Grace Jones Slayed in 'Conan the Destroyer'

Courtesy of Everett Collection
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Grace Jones in 'Conan the Destroyer,' originally titled 'Conan, King of Thieves.'

Before the singer-actress became the subject of Sophie Fiennes' doc 'Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami' (which premieres Sept. 7 at TIFF), Jones stood out in her role opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in the sequel to 1982's 'Conan the Barbarian.'

Grace Jones, the subject of Sophie Fiennes’ documentary Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, which premiered Sept. 7 at TIFF, drew her first film-world blood with Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1984’s Conan the Destroyer.

In this sequel to the 1982 blockbuster Conan the Barbarian, Schwarzenegger was teamed up with basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, Sarah Douglas (who had played Kryptonian villainess Ursa in a pair of Superman movies) and Jones. The Hollywood Reporter said the pairing made the film “a bit reminiscent of The Professionals mixed with The Wizard of Oz.” However, THR gushed over Jones, saying she “proves [to be] the movie’s saving grace, her lithe, expressive figure and savage attractiveness making for spontaneity that, at times, appears well nigh incontrollable.”

Before Conan, the Jamaica-born Jones, now 69, had been a Parisian runway model, singer (she’s released 18 albums), performance artist and Studio 54 habitue. Her gift for maintaining celebrity was instinctive. Though he disapproved of her spending so much money on furs, Andy Warhol wrote that “you don’t get to stay famous for long unless you’re always switching. Grace Jones is an example of this.”

The multiple androgynous personas that Warhol so admired have served Jones well. “It’s not like she’s an actor becoming something different according to a script,” says Fiennes. “The visually fetishized image of Grace isn’t radically different from the person. She’s someone who’s kind of excessively alive.”

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Sept. 9 daily issue at the Toronto Film Festival.