conanthebarbarianIn the indie pre-sale world where Nu Image/Millennium Films operates, it’s often hard to discern fact from fiction. So when reliable sources tell Mike Fleming that co-CEO Danny Dimbort hasn’t been in the office since December 10 and plans to exit, should it be surprising that co-founding partner Avi Lerner says it’s hogwash? Dimbort issued a no comment on exit talk that came out of disagreements with Lerner. Avi made it sound like one of their typical quarrels. “Yes, we argue and have different opinions on which movies to make,” Lerner said. “He wants to do bigger movies and I want them smaller in a market that is getting worse and worse. But that doesn’t mean he’s leaving. I love Danny and without him, I wouldn’t exist. Nu Image/Millennium wouldn’t exist.”

Dimbort’s departure would come as Millennium gets close to a production start on its biggest bet yet. That’s Conan, the rebirth of the Robert E. Howard-created barbarian famously played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Director Marcus Nispel is on track to start production March 15 in Bulgaria — if they can find the right barbarian. Last weekend, it seemed like things came down to two buff finalists: Kellan Lutz (Emmett Cullen in the Twilight Saga sequels New Moon and Eclipse), and Jason Momoa (Ronon Dex in the TV series Stargate: Atlantis). Suddenly, Millennium and partner Lionsgate decided today to look at another unnamed but better established actor before deciding.

On the executive front, Dimbort would be tough to replace. While Lerner and his shaggy white head of hair is the front man, it’s Dimbort’s presale skills that get the films funded. And while the Millennium mantle isn’t cluttered with Oscars, geez, do those guys makes a lot of pictures! They’ve averaged 15 or more in recent years, titles ranging from Rambo to Righteous Kill, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and The Expendables, the action film that Sly Stallone just directed and starred in with a testosterone-heavy cast of Jet Li, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren and Eric Roberts.

Lerner insists Dimbort “is categorically not departing, and whoever is telling you that is just being mean. We’ve been partners for 30 years, he’s my best friend, and I love him to death. You want a problem? It’s that the American government doesn’t give a shit about the piracy of our product that’s taking place around the world,” Lerner told Fleming. “The stuff about Danny is bullshit.”