Tall, broad, and brooding, Jason Momoa is both handsome and intimidating. Luckily, he is also thoughtful, open, and seems to enjoy his craft. Yesterday I sat down with the Conan the Barbarian star and talked about his role and filling the shoes of the iconic Arnold Schwarzenegger. We also talked about swinging a real sword, what he geeks out over, his role as Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones, and an update on Bullet to the Head. Hit the jump for my full interview, including audio.
Directed by Marcus Nispel, Lionsgate’s Conan the Barbarian will hit theaters August 19th, and when I sat down with star Jason Momoa, he seemed eager to talk about the role. Because the lobby where we were going to hold the interview was a little too noisy, he suggested we go into the hotel fitness center instead. Looking perfectly at home on a leg raise machine, we began the interview.
Click here for the audio.
Collider: Is this your first Con?
Six years ago?
Momoa: Yea, it’s amazing. But I haven’t been down there on the floor yet. But we’re going there shortly after this. Probably in about an hour.
Momoa: Yea, and it’s going to be great because I haven’t had a chance to see any of the Game of Thrones fans or the Conan fans. I did a panel but it’s a whole different experience once you’re on the floor. So it’ll be around five o’clock that I’ll go down and do some autographs.
Well, are you going to walk on the floor or are you going to be transported onto the floor?
Momoa: I’ll probably be walking to the floor to get to… I mean, I don’t know how much they’ll let me… We’ll get mobbed, I think.
Momoa: I think we’ll get mobbed.
Would you ever wear a masked costume or a…
Momoa: Oh, absolutely. But I mean, literally, when you get here, you’re just working non-stop. It’s like, we didn’t even have time to enjoy ourselves, until it’s like nine o’clock at night and you’re like, “ahhhh.”
[Laughs] Well, that’s what I was going to ask. Comic-Con is a very big, every single year, is this a lot of work or is this a lot of play? It sounds like it’s…
Momoa: You know, our job is never really work. I mean, it is when you’re on set, but this is all fun. It’s fun and in good spirit… the fans are all supportive so it’s not like, “Work.” It just becomes tedious because you’re talking about the same question and answer… all day long. So you’re just tired of listening to yourself talk.
[Laughs] If you were going to go onto any of the panels, what would you check out here?
Momoa: You know, I don’t even know what’s on some of the panels. I would probably love to get to go see some of the directors that would hopefully be speaking and talking. I’m not sure who’s exactly here. I don’t know…
Spielberg’s here. Guillermo del Toro’s here…
Momoa: Guillermo del Toro… you know, stuff like that. I would love to… who did, ummm… gosh. You know what also I love? That you see the previews. I love going to see the costumes. I love to see people get dressed up. I think it’s fun, it’s fun to… things that inspire you and that you love in your life… you have a place to go and celebrate that with other like-minded people. I mean, it’s a ball down here.
Ha, absolutely. What do you geek out for? I mean, if anything…
Momoa: What do I geek out for? My wife… My wife… ummm, what do I geek out for? You know what’s kind of neat? Is being an actor, I geek out from time to time, doing whatever I’m doing in the sense of… I geeked the fuck out when I got Conan. So I dived into it. And you learn as much as you can and then you play it. And then I wanted to learn about samurais, and I geek out and watched every movie about samurais… I’m kind of ADD in that sense where if I start liking something, I’ll just learn it to the absolute max.
I know that feeling.
Momoa: Like blues music. I wanted to know everything about the blues. I think it constantly changes for me. I don’t stick with one thing. I love life and if there’s something that I’m playing that I love, I’ll research it. I guess that’s geeking out in some sense.
Yeah. Absolutely. You’ve been a part of Game of Thrones, and now with Conan. Did you get to swing any live steel, as they call it in the book?
Momoa: Did I get to swing a proper? Yeah. I actually got to swing a proper sword and it was so sharp… I chopped a big knot. It’s one of those big, huge ropes that we tied a gigantic knot in, and we just hit it and it completely… just absolutely, like butter. Samurai swords are amazing. It’s just unbelievable.
Momoa: You can clean swipe someone’s femur like right off them. It’s insane.
That’s crazy. Obviously there’s a lot of swordplay involved in Conan. And then in Game of Thrones, I don’t know how much…
Momoa: We didn’t actually do much swordplay in Game of Thrones. That’s what I really liked about that because I wanted to be so intimidating I wouldn’t need weapons. I wanted him to just have knives. Like he wanted to get close. Like he loved the fact… that act of getting in tight and watching you bleed like that. And I wanted Drogo to have different ways of doing stuff; he was so bored with chopping someone’s head off. He likes to pour molten lava over someone’s head and smell it. And I had this dream that I wanted to rip this man’s throat out, and they made that come true and I ripped a guy’s throat out. I don’t even use any swords. I used his own. I wanted to make someone so intimidating that they don’t even need weapons. They’re that bad.
Well, for Conan, for the role, you’re going to be working with a lot of swords… did you get any blisters on your hands? I can see doing long takes, several times…
Momoa: You know what? I grew up rock climbing. It’s my sport for 17 years so my hands are pretty rough. It’s one of those things where… never the blisters on my hands. It was always my knuckles were always banged up. You’d always seethe between these big fights and you’d always ding stuff. So my hands were always bleeding on the outside, but inside I already have pretty big calluses.
Obviously this role was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
[Laughs] Yeah. How much pressure did you feel to gain some weight or was it just, “You know what? Fuck it. I’m going to do this.”
Momoa: No. I think I took the role on as absolutely, “Fuck it.” In the sense that, I can never be Arnold and Arnold could never be me. He’s not going to represent what I’m going to represent. And it’s just like; he made something that was beautiful. It’s like saying; Sean Connery in Bond is amazing. And Daniel Craig… he’s fucking amazing too. You can’t compare the two. They’re both the same characters. And I think what I offer is something completely different than Arnold so I feel no pressure on that at all. In fact, I embrace it because I knew I had something I could offer and bring to the table.
In Games of Thrones, in the book, you’re wedding scene is very different. It’s tender; it’s nothing like what ended up playing out on the TV show.
Why do you think they changed that particular scene?
Momoa: What’s that? In the Game of Thrones?
Momoa: Why it’s like a rape, you mean?
Momoa: Well, that’s just kind of what they do. That’s the way their people are.
Momoa: Yea, it’s the Dothraki way. This is the way they make; this is how they do it. This is a horse tribe and they do it like horses, you know doggie style or whatever. That’s what they do. And she was something that was exceptional. She changes this king’s point of view. And he fell in love with the woman.
Can you tell me if you’re still attached to Bullet to the Head?
Momoa: Oh yeah. I’m shooting right now down in New Orleans. We’re doing that. We’ve got Stallone, we’ve got Sung Kang, and then we’ve got Sarah Shahi. And I think Christian Slater just signed on. Yeah.
How’s it going?
Momoa: It’s phenomenal. I get to play a great… I mean I’ve never tried guns before. So it’s another one of those things where I have to pretend like I’m this professional gun guy and study with Navy SEALs and stuff. And it’s fun. I geek out because I learn about all these guns that I have no idea [about] and I play this assassin. And truth be told, I’m a big Rocky fan. So it’s really, really amazing to be able to work with a childhood dream.
Click here for all our Comic-Con 2011 coverage.