A quick syndicated chat with Conan the Barbarian's lead actor, Jason Momoa.
You look like you were born to play Conan and you said that you remember seeing the images as a child. I just wondered if Conan stuck with you at all growing up?
It did, man. I saw Frank Frazetta’s art and it seared on my memory. I love his paintings. They’re so amazing. The way he captures movement, the raw power and that whole world it makes you want to read the stories of Robert E. Howard. So I was a big fan.
Can you explain a little who Conan is? Perhaps for people who are not familiar with the original?
If you want me to explain the original movie you will have to go and watch it because it’s not my movie. But our movie, Conan is basically a man’s man, to me he’s a marine, he’s a pirate, a thief, he’s not a superhero, he’s the anti-hero. I really love the fact that he’s a warrior. He could be a king if he wanted to, he could be this rogue wandering warrior that lives in a time of Hyboria and Cimmeria that is this very violent and chaotic world of sorcery and magic and you’re going to watch him run it.
Can you talk about your preparation in achieving that body?
Lots of lifting, lots of eating boiled chicken and minimal vegetables. I did a lot of sword training, horseback training, a lot of cardio and obviously just trying to perfect that sword.
Your trainer said that you really took to the sword fighting like a duck to water. Did it feel that way to you?
Yeah, I wanted to be a samurai when I was little. I always loved samurai movies and I wanted to incorporate that whole level of elegance and just the code of the samurai to Conan. Also, I wanted to study big cats; I went to the zoo to study animals, the big lions and stuff, I thought it was very interesting.
So what was the most difficult part for you?
Keeping injury at bay. You do that many stunts you are constantly bleeding somewhere on your body. And, trying to stay fit and healthy while you’re doing all these very heavy stunts.
What was the worst injury that you had?
The first day that I got my horse, he bucked me off and I broke a rib. That sucked. I almost died a couple of times on the horse. Basically, anything on the horse—he was an evil bastard.
You have said before that you didn’t like horses. Is that why or did you not like them to start with?
I don’t mind them. I’m very good on them. I don’t like them because they’re very skitzy, they’re unpredictable. If I had a horse of my own, that I loved and fed and knew me, it would be amazing. You go from place to place to place, you make them wait around for twelve to thirteen hours, and then they have to be on point. They’re hungry and they’re tired. It’s an animal and you have to respect it. I think a lot of movies and sets don’t respect them properly, so it’s very hard to be on top of it while you’re around people that do not properly take care of them. So, it’s not their fault. I always use it as a joke. I do love horses, but I’d rather be on motorcycles.
When you first heard about this project, did you think ‘this is mine’? How did it come about for you? Were you approached?
The same casting director was in the room when I got Game of Thrones, and so they were like, ‘we’ve found our Conan’. I came back and Conan wasn’t cast yet. I came in and I talked to Marcus and we discussed what we wanted, how he wanted it and how I wanted to play it. We had a real mutual agreement on how we wanted to design it. And then we had to prove it to the powers that be. He was really in my camp, Marcus, once we proved it to them. This movie is a little bit different, it’s very violent. My biggest goal was to impress and make the Robert E. Howard fans really, really happy and the Dark Horse comic fans. You want to impress the source material people. To me, I wasn’t there to impress the Arnold fans because you’ve had that and I didn’t want to regurgitate a movie that had been done thirty years ago. We wanted to re-imagine the franchise. I think we came really close to Robert E. Howard’s stories.
How much of a say did you have in the re-imagining aspect of it?
A lot. I tried my hardest
What did you contribute?
The look of Conan. Obviously it’s my performance so how that handled. You know, little choices like when he gets a scar on his eye. It’s all small things. If you break it down scene to scene everything I do is character based. Liking shoving my finger into a nose... I wanted to have the small things like the way I fight with my father’s sword. I fight it reverse grip style from the Japanese Samurai. I fight in a completely different style. And have it always upside down. There are countless things that you put into it. The action was going to come easily, I wanted to make him human, I wanted to have him be vulnerable. You want to hit those moments as an actor where it makes him human, putting in a sense of humour. It’s all small moments and you can break it down scene by scene but that’s what you’re supposed to do as an actor. I wanted to incorporate Robert E. Howard’s quotes that weren’t in the scripts. “I live, I love, I slay, I am content”. “I will follow you to hell. If you hide from me I will tear down the mountains to find you and follow you to hell”. That’s all me taking from Robert E. Howard. I wanted to have that philosophy injected into the script.
There’s such a dearth of action heroes around today is this the sort of thing that you see yourself doing more of in the future?
No, I just really want to play Conan. I just want to finish off the series. I think if I do three of these could be great. I think that I want to write and direct and do other things. As far as super heroes go he’s amazing. I wouldn’t want to do anyone else.
Lionsgate presents CONAN THE BARBARIAN at UK cinemas Wednesday 24th August 2011.
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The interview featured image was designed by Will Tunstall, winner of a competition run by Lionsgate to create a fan poster. Looks brilliant, I'm sure you'll agree - give the man a job in the film poster industry!