Interview: Actor Jason Momoa - Our Badass New Conan the Barbarian
by Alex Billington
August 19, 2011
"I live. I love. I slay." He's the new badass in Hollywood, not only playing Conan the Barbarian in the latest remake, but also kicking ass on HBO's "Game of Thrones" as Khal Drogo. His name is Jason Momoa and his acting history includes "Baywatch", "North Shore" and "Stargate: Atlantis", but he's breaking out big this year, as those two aforementioned roles have earned him quite of bit of buzz just for being a badass. I had the opportunity to interview Momoa recently and I had a blast talking with him. He had a beer in hand the whole time and we chatted about everything from playing a "man's man" to acting without any dialogue.
I had the chance to see Marcus Nispel's Conan the Barbarian remake before interviewing Momoa and was entertained, just as I should watching a Conan movie. Momoa kicks ass, of course, and does an impressive job for using little dialogue. He's truly a funny, vibrant guy in real life and I enjoyed chatting with him, as it was a just a good time shooting the shit with Khal frickin' Drogo and Conan, too. So let's get right into it!
You've had quite a huge year so far, between this movie and Game of Thrones!
Jason: Yeah. Its been a big, beautiful year, man. We've been busting our butts, so its been good. And, you know, work is coming finally and it's fantastic, I'm playing my dream roles, really, to tell you the truth.
I have to ask which came first - Game of Thrones or Conan and did one influence the other?
Jason: Yeah, Game of Thrones. I got Game of Thrones and that got me Conan. I did Conan because I had Game of Thrones. One of the casting directors saw footage.
It's not that you're typecast or anything, but they are very similar roles.
Jason: No, it happened to be two very… I don't find Khal Drogo and Conan remotely alike. Aside from having their shirt off. That's really it. But they don't look alike, they don't act like. They don't even speak the same fucking language, you know what I mean?
Yea, for sure. What was it like to step into a role made iconic by Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Jason: You know, I am an Arnold fan in the sense that I love his career. I love Terminator 2, Twins too, True Lies—one of my favorite movies. I love Arnold. I don't feel like there's this cloud over it, cause I think the comics, and the stories, and the Frank Frazetta paintings are amazing. When I was little, that's what I'm a fan of… I'm a comic book fan. I grew up with Wolverine, and X-Men, and Conan. It's like I love… you see the painting of the skulls, that painting… they're the greatest movement paintings in the world! You see them, you're like, "Holy fuck! Who is that guy? I want to read this story right now." You read it and here are these great adventures.
It's shocking to me that the last 30 years no one has touched these things, because they are great. Spider-Man just finished with Tobey Maguire and two years later there's another one. There's been seven Batman. It's like you're comparing the Joker Jack Nicholson to Heath Ledger's - impossible to compare. Heath is brilliant, Jack is still brilliant. You're comparing Sean Connery to Daniel Craig. You can't do it. I can't take anything away from Arnold. He is amazing. I'm not going to play anything like him.
You saw it, we're nothing like him. I am not going to be big, and bulky, and muscle. I'm going to be like a lion. I'm going to be a like a cat. I'm going to be like a samurai. I trained to bring that Asian movement. I also went to the zoo and studied lions, and documentaries on lions. I wanted to see how they prowled, how they looked to incorporate that nimble-like part of their environment, the leader of their community. I wanted that to influence me, and then Frazetta. I wanted to bring those paintings to life. Both of my parents are painters and that is my fucking Conan.
This being the second Conan movie, why do you think this character and this story is such a popular, iconic character that can be retold in new stories again?
Jason: Well, I think what's missing out is it hasn't been retold. What I love - I love a man's man. All my buddies, they're the survivors, man. These guys are ex-Marines, they can go camping, they can go walking through the desert, they can live off no water. I studied Geronimo and the Apache wars. You see these men's men you want to follow into battle, and I love those kinda guys. I love the fact that he's flawed in the sense that he's not perfect. He's not the do-gooder. He drinks, he fucks many women. He's a pirate. He's a thief. He falls in love and he falls out of love. And death follows him everywhere; trials and tribulations follow him in this chaotic world that he lives in. It's also a really beautiful world with the possibility of all these beautiful things and fantasies can come true.
But I love the fact that he's the antihero in this world of superheroes. I love that he's a man. He's a badass man. I think women love that and men love that. There's something to be said about it. It's fun. There's enough of everything else, I don't think there's enough men's men out there.
So how do you make a character like that likeable? Even though he is the antihero and he does slay… we know he's the badass and we just connect with him anyway, but still the challenge for you is making that person be likeable.
Jason: Well, absolutely. I think what helps in this origin story is, obviously, you can see his perspective and where he's coming from. When you're born on the battlefield, cut out of your mother, and you're father is slayed right in front of your face, you've got some shit going on. You got some anger inside of you. So you know where he's coming from. Then you get into his pirate years. You see him having fun and he's having fun with his buddies.
You know, Marcus's biggest thing is, when he came, he was like, "I want Sean Connery. I want…" When I came in, I had this personality where like, "I want Arnold…" Not where you walk in and he's charismatic. He wanted me to not be PC and walk in and grab a girl's ass and say, "you look beautiful today" and she's not my girlfriend and get away with it - that's what he wanted. He wanted the charm to come in and be… comment her on her eyes… you know, really be honest. The guy's brutally fucking honest. I don't know how we did it, but we just… I want him to be likeable. I'm not sure how we did it, but hopefully it does work.
You achieve quite a bit without even speaking, in both of your roles as Drogo and Conan, and I know that's a challenge to do, to convey so much without speaking at all.
Jason: People are always like, "well, you don't say anything…" That's the hardest thing in the world! And it's very silly. People are like, "Oh, you don't do anything." I'm like, "Really? You know how hard it is to sit up on the throne and pretend you're the king when you're not?" I'm not even the king of my own house. My wife is like, "Do the dishes." And I'm like, "Yes, honey." It's like, dude, to walk around, to have that stare and intensity…
For Drogo I wanted to just go stare at Silverbacks and watch how they react. You look at a Silverback, they are so intense. That's what I wanted to have. He don't talk! He's amazing! I'm playing a character. If you want to have a conversation with me after work, we can. I do know how to talk. I love Clint Eastwood. Clint Eastwood is great because he doesn't have to say shit. He does it through a look… and most good actors take shit away. I can sit there and babble my face off and tell you exactly how I feel, or I can shoot you a look and you're going to know exactly how I feel. It's a lot harder to do that.
How much of what you shot was realistic? Did you do your own stunts at any point? Did director Marcus Nispel try to make the shooting of it as real as possible?
Jason: Yeah, I'd say it was very realistic. We shot about 85% of it was all me. The greatest thing is that there were so many sets that were realistic. We didn't do a lot of green screen. When sets are very real it makes it so easy for an actor to walk in and play that role when everything is around you. As far as playing with real knives, no. But, I mean, I'm really riding that horse. That's for fucking sure, that shit is real.
My final question is that, in my eyes, you're one of the new "badass" guys in Hollywood. Is this something you strived for, or were aiming for, or were hoping to achieve?
Jason: I didn't see this coming, not at all. The great thing is… You can ask Kimberly here… I'm extremely funny and extremely charming, aren't I? Among just having a sense of humor, most people don't know me like that. So the funny thing is, I'm not a badass. So if I'm booking this, then the rest of it's going to be very… the rest of it is second nature for me. It's a stretch for me to play these [kind of characters]. So I'm absolutely not the badass. But I will play the fuck out of it.
Awesome. What a way to end an interview! I have to say, this was one of the wildest interviews I've ever done, Momoa is a crazy, massively built, but funny guy and I had a great time chatting with him, even if he was a little buzzed. He seems to be having a genuinely good time playing these roles. Conan the Barbarian starring Jason Momoa hits theaters everywhere on August 19th, this weekend. Go see Momoa kickin' ass!
Reader Feedback - 19 Comments
I'm excited to see the movie. Momoa has the classic Ken Kelly look that will carry well on the screen.
Savage on Aug 19, 2011
This movie is already getting bad reviews from critics. I was hoping this movie would be something worthwhile but I don't know... "Fright Night" is getting better reviews which is surprising.
Anonymous on Aug 19, 2011
One thing I have learned about movie critics. It is extremely rare (about 1%) that they represent the opinion of the majority.
Anonymous on Aug 19, 2011
So Toy Story 3, Black Swan, Inception, King's Speech, Fighter, True Grit, How to Train Your Dragon, Social Network last year were all crap were they? At the same time, Gulliver's Travels, Yogi Bear, Marmaduke and Cats & Dogs 2 were excellent too? They must be because critics are 99% misrepresenting the populace! It just so happens Conan sucks like a cheap whore, deal with it.
ate on Aug 19, 2011
Hmm, looks like you replied to the wrong post. .. or failed at trolling... HAHA
Anonymous on Aug 19, 2011
And it looks like you fail to comprehend his point.
Marc Bellmunt on Aug 19, 2011
I didn't know I was speaking to a kindergarten student. Shall I enlighten you? You: Critics represent majority 1% of time. Translation: 99% of time critics are wrong. If you still don't understand my response, please enroll in school.
ate on Aug 23, 2011
mamoa for the win. i will see your conan dude, if you bring what you brought for Drogo, i'm in.
redguy on Aug 19, 2011
Good interview, but honestly I'm not sold on the guy yet..
Davide Coppola on Aug 19, 2011
Being the 2nd conan movie? this new one is the 3rd. I think the 2nd conan movie is called conan the destroyer?
Moto_psycho69 on Aug 19, 2011
Robert E Howard spinning in his grave....
Crom on Aug 19, 2011
"This being the second Conan" ?? It's the 4th actually: Conan The Barbarian-82 Conan The Destroyer-84 Red Sonja-85 Conan The Barbarian-11
David Banner on Aug 19, 2011
Red Sonja is not a Robert E Howard character and Schwarzenegger played Lord Kalidor in that film, not Conan.
5PtPlmXpldnHrt on Sep 5, 2011
In Red Sonja, Arnold's character is named/credited as Kalidor, but I don't recall his name is ever mentioned in the film? This is the reason why he is credited Kalidor and not Conan: "Kalidor is supposed to be Conan, the producers failed to secure the rights to use the name from the Robert E. Howard estate right after filming began."
David Banner on Aug 19, 2011
I wish his Conan had Drogo's beard. That beard is so effing manly, I can't even stand it.
Anonymous on Aug 19, 2011
I can't even think about this movie without getting a bad taste in my mouth. The directors filming experience is ridiculous and frought with cheap fluff. Pathfinder is a well known disaster. Mamoa is a well-muscled woman (who lists Twins as one of their favorite Arnold movies???) Even the interviewer clearly hadn't seen Conan the Destroyer. All I see in this is Mamoa's arrogance and self-praise. "I'm extremely funny and extremely charming, aren't I? Among just having a sense of humor..." I'm sorry did you just call yourself funny and charming? I also didn't fail to notice his subtle comparison between himself and Heath Ledger. " It's like you're comparing the Joker Jack Nicholson to Heath Ledger's - impossible to compare. Heath is brilliant, Jack is still brilliant. You're comparing Sean Connery to Daniel Craig..." He just compared his version of Conan to Heath Ledgers Joker or Craig's Bond. This guy belongs in Abercrombie commercials, not flaring his nostrils, reading one-liners with his eyebrows furrowed and ruining the Conan legacy forever. I don't understand this site. Sometimes the writers give you this detailed and thoughtful look at upcoming films and other times they sell themselves on movies like this with seemingly no basis. All they've done is build this up to be a bad@$$ movie and all I can see is fail.
Jpeters1138 on Aug 20, 2011
Anonymous on Aug 20, 2011
Loved the movie Conan with Momoa cause it wasn't a play by play of the original movie...Momoa did his own thing and it worked 🙂 . Have to say hated it in 3D.
Nicole05j on Sep 5, 2011
one thing for sure people sure cant have opinions without someone else taking it so personally,j peters such negativity,i think a man who has confidence in himself and a body to boot is very sexy,do i sense a hint of jelousy.can you say any thing good about yourself.sounds like the only woman in this comment ,is you
Valerielo4 on Apr 22, 2012
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