According to the Projection Booth podcast, John Milius got to know Gerry on his surfing movie Big Wednesday, where he was a stunt-rider and "technical consultant". He told Gerry that he should try acting, and when he was making Conan he called him in. There are some great stories about the crew and the fun they had in Spain on the shoot. But you can check that out yourself - no need for me to second-hand it here.
I remembered Subotai, Lopez's character, from the first time I saw the movie. He was one of my favorite characters, for some reason. Possibly, because he was named after Subutai, Genghis Khan's great general. Also, he was the Thief, one of my favorite fantasy types. Maybe it goes back to reading The Hobbit as a child. I was surprised this time around that he played less of a role than I remembered - I might have attributed some of Mako's scenes to him. It's an easy mistake to make, when you consider Lopez's mustache.
This time around, that heinous bandito beard and 'stache combo was my first impression. My final impressions:
- He seemed a little tentative, unself-confident, naturally enough since he isn't really an actor
- In his non-speaking parts, he moved a lot more confidently, naturally enough since he is a champion athlete
- He used his silly accent to his advantage, letting him deliver his lines very believably
So, if you saw Conan a long time ago and loved it, I am recommending that you don't watch it again and spoil it. Unless you want to see Gerry Lopez out of the water.