Best known for his role as Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones, this month American actor, model, director, writer and producer JASON MOMOA embarks on his biggest gig yet – playing the lead in the latest epic DC Comics superhero installment Aquaman…
Hey Jason, you were actually offered to play the role of Aquaman years ago but weren’t allowed to tell anyone. How hard was that?
It was horrible. I can’t keep a secret to save my soul. I literally buy my wife a present and it could be two months before her birthday and I’m like, “Do you want to open up your present? It’s really good! You want to open it?” I’m horrible at secrets and it was brutal for me. It was a struggle. I became so tired of people asking me, “Are you Aquaman?” I’m like, “What? Huh?” The hardest part was just saying, “Ah, no, I’m not Aquaman. No, I’m not Aquaman.”
What was the audition process like?
Well, I originally auditioned for Batman, because it was just a general audition. They’re like, “We’re looking for people, it’s top secret…” – it’s always top secret. So, I go in and do it and I’m like, “Well, I want to know – I’m not going to be Batman, right?” I mean, I don’t even look like billionaire material. Then I get called into the office and Zac [Snyder, executive producer] was like, “I want you to play Aquaman.” I’m like, “Come again?”
How did you react?
I can’t tell you the things that were flashing in my mind. When someone says Aquaman to you and you look like this – I’m brown, I’ve got a beard… but when he told me the whole idea of tattoos and what he wanted to do with the character, I was like, “Wow, cool, I’m in!”. And then, “You’ve got to keep it a secret for two or three years.”
What do you think of your lead character?
I like him – he’s gruff, he’s a smartarse, he’s kind of a blue collar worker and this brawler who then becomes this king. So, he’s evolved and strong and had that perfect balance between the two worlds – he’s all like, “I walk on both sides”.
Does gruff come easy for you?
Oh, it’s just the beard and the hair that kind of pull it off. I’m a lovable chap.
After smaller appearances by Aquaman in films like Justice League, how are you feeling carrying a whole film now?
Oh, great. I love it. It’s awesome. A dream come true, man. I’m playing a dream character that I love and there are a lot of things I can draw upon in myself. There are a lot of things I haven’t shown to people, and especially on this scope, so it’s going to be a diverse and fun little adventure that I’ve ever done. Justice League was great, but there were so many people in that. The places we go in Aquaman… obviously we’re in the bottom of the ocean, we’re also in the Sahara, Sicily, and it’s just an unbelievable journey. And you’re going to see him, where he starts and then where we end up. It’s going to be really cool.
How are you going to make Aquaman everyone’s new favourite?
Well, I’m kind of biased for him, I guess. There’s just so much I relate to. I just love the fact that it really hasn’t been seen yet. We’ve seen 10 or so different Batmans, a few Supermans, Wonder Woman was great… but we’ve never been underwater. And we have this guy who is – I mean, we’ve obviously had the reluctant king story before – but there’s a guy who was raised by his father, never got to know his mum… she could possibly be out there, she could possibly not. But he’s just been on the road by himself and when he does discover he’s kind of special, he doesn’t know what to do with it. And then eventually it’s that man becoming king and it’s just a beautiful journey.
How tough was your experience playing Aquaman?
Well, you know, they held me together with some tape. I mean, it’s a huge action adventure film, so yeah, I’m only human. These puppies [points to legs] played a lot of hockey and had a lot of knee injuries and stuff, so they just made sure I didn’t fall apart.
What was your training regime like to stay in shape for this movie?
We had everything we needed in the gym on set. We just made sure we were set up for certain things depending on what we were shooting each day. Like, if I had to be shirtless I’d go on a strict diet then train in there. There was a tonne of weights and obviously I’m supposed to, you know, play the superhero, so you just drink some coffee, get in there and do it. We had a big rock climbing wall in there, which I did with my kids, and I loved it. I’ve done it my whole life, so it kept me happy.
Does that come naturally to you? You’re usually a pretty fit guy anyway right?
Oh, you know what? I didn’t actually start really training until I did Conan, until a role actually demanded it. Like, Drogo demanded it, and I’ll work very hard and I’ll respect you for paying me when I’m playing the character – I’ll do it – but generally I’ll just go surfing or rock climbing. That’ll keep you in shape, but you won’t catch me on a treadmill or something like that.
Khal Drogo versus Aquaman – who wins in a fight?
I’m pretty sure Aquaman wins. He’s got the sea and you know, Drogo’s afraid of the water. He’s got to drag it out down there.
What do your kids think about their dad being Aquaman?
They love that I’m Aquaman. It was really interesting last year because it’s like a dream come true for a dad to be able to put his kid on the Batmobile and you kind of geek-out when Batman walks in. It’s like, “It’s Batman!” And then Gal [Gadot] looks stunning as Wonder Woman and to see my daughter Lola just staring adoringly up at her, and Gal taking off her tiara and putting it on Lola… I mean, I don’t even know how to talk about that stuff. Just being on the set was amazing. It’s just unbelievable. It’s a trip. I pinched myself every day.
How long did it take you to get over that, “Oh my god, it’s Batman” on the Justice League set?
Oh, you get over it pretty quick but I look at things like a child sometimes. I don’t know, it just makes me excited when I see something like that. I grew up loving Batman – he’s my favourite. Seeing Tim Burton’s Batman just blew my mind. You know, that was the age when it was perfect for me.
Which superhero do you most identify with?
Batman is my favourite, hands down, but I think I identify most with Wolverine. He’s a bit of an outsider, he’s rough and the fact he can drink, cuss and not have to really be a role model… I like being able to be a bit of the outcast.
We heard that on the set your kids and your co-star Patrick Wilson’s (who plays Orm – Arthur Curry’s Atlantean half-brother and ruler of Atlantis) kids were all like, “My dad’s beating up your dad”.
Oh yeah, their dad is definitely beating me up.
You filmed the movie on the Gold Coast in Queensland. How did you find living and working in Australia?
I loved it. I mean, I love Australia. I actually once lived in Adelaide for three years and I travelled all over the country and we went all the way from Adelaide to Ayers Rock. I went through Coober Pedy and Alice Springs and then went all the way across to Coffs Harbour and down, finding the Grampians, like three times, to the Barossa and travelled over to Perth.
How did you feel when you found out Nicole Kidman was playing your mum?
Oh, a bit surreal. You even saying it right now is a bit surreal. Like, you know, that’s unheard of. I mean, she’s just a legend. I mean, I just tried to keep my cool when meeting her. The same thing for Temuera Morrison [who plays Aquaman’s father] – that’s a huge one for me. It may even be bigger.
Why is that?
Because of Once Were Warriors. To do what he did in that movie is kind of like what I did for Game of Thrones – you know, to hate me, to love me, to follow me… it’s just so complex and in that movie he was unbelievable. He’s definitely a huge inspiration in how I played that character and who I looked up to. So, I wanted him to play my father in Aquaman – it was a big honour and I geeked-out. Like, he was one of my biggest geek-outs ever. Totally fan grilled out.
You seem like a genuine, funny, down-to-earth guy. Did you bring a lot of your own personality into the Aquaman character?
This is definitely one of the characters I’ve brought the most of me into. I’m nothing like Drogo – there’s a lot more comedy, cheekiness and charm with Aquaman, but nobody really knows I smile sometimes. So you’re going to see me f–kin’ smile and maybe have a little wink in my eye, you know what I mean?
And you have to play a bit of romance, too?
Yeah, which I’m really good at – not that I’m bragging or anything.
AQUAMAN IS IN CINEMAS ON DECEMBER 21
PHOTOGRAPHED BY KURT ISWARIENKO
INTERVIEW SANTI PINTADO
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