“I didn’t have to show how tough he is,” Aquaman director, James Wan, says of his leading man, Jason Momoa. “We all know how tough and strong and macho he is. But the thing that I love about him is how funny he actually is. He’s very likeable and charismatic and just full of personality. And that was what I wanted to pull out of him in the film. I told him that’s what I wanted to see more of in the movie. And he goes, ‘I’m not worried about the action stuff, because I know you’ll do that great.’ I worked closely and hard with him, and sometimes it’s not necessarily in his comfort zone. You know, he’s Khal Drogo, right? So he’s used to that kind of look. But people are going to see in this movie that he’s really likable, and that he’s leading man material. I could even see him playing in a romantic comedy.”
A romantic comedy might sound like a big leap for the man who literally defined violence and brutality as the terrifying Khal Drogo in Game Of Thrones, but Jason Momoa does indeed display so much charm, humour and vulnerability in Aquaman that it just might work. And while the Hawaiian-born actor has had plenty of screen time on TV (Frontier, Red Road, Stargate: Atlantis) and in smaller, independent film (Braven, The Bad Batch, Sugar Mountain), Aquaman is definitely the first truly wide canvas showcase for his talents yet. He was an eye catching supporting player in Justice League (with Aquaman playing second fiddle to Batman and Wonder Woman) and the failure of 2011’s Conan The Barbarian derailed his first major stab at big screen stardom. Aquaman, however, is Jason Momoa’s time to shine.
“I did not think when I signed on to this project that I’d be sitting here right now,” Jason Momoa tells FilmInk in Los Angeles. “I got signed on about six or seven years ago with Zack Snyder, and I did not think that we were going to be doing a solo movie. You just didn’t know what was going to happen from Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice. I’m literally in it for a second. So I’m very honoured for what’s here. Zack told me a lot of the story, and what he wanted to do. And then that’s when James took over. He took it to the next level and did the origin story.”
Already a smash hit, Aquaman was viewed very much as a make-or-break project for Warners’ DC Extended Universe movies after the relative failure of Justice League and the critical drubbing of Suicide Squad. After the enormous success of Wonder Woman, Aquaman was seen as a possible stand-alone that could actually stand tall, though Warner Bros. film chairman, Toby Emmerich also referred to it as something of a bridging film to the future of DC movies. “I don’t feel any pressure,” Momoa told FilmInk prior to the film’s release. “I went and did my job. James had a great vision for it. It’s a great story. It’s solid. DC gets bashed on a lot of things, looking at Justice League, obviously, and what happened there. And I just feel that, if it is [some kind of bridge], great. I just think it’s a great story, and it’s definitely colourful. We’re underwater and it’s a world that we’ve never seen before. So, if that’s what it takes to bridge it? Fuck. Put it on my back if you need me.”
Judging from Momoa’s performance in Aquaman, he could handle it. Rippling with muscle and toned to zero body fat, he’s an impressive sight, but the actor points often to the deep shading in the character. “He’s hardheaded and stubborn, and he just doesn’t give in,” Momoa says. “He’s the first one to jump in to help someone but he just can’t turn his ways. There’s a moment where he has to fight against something that is impossible, and he just gives into it. My voice is all cracked up because I can’t keep my shit together. I’m here to fight for the people that I love and for my home. It’s a very hard moment. And he just has to give up and go like, ‘This is why I’m here’, and I’m actually being vulnerable. He’s being a vulnerable, sensitive man. To be a sensitive alpha male is to be a leader. You can’t just be this rigid thing. So it was definitely a moment where I had to get soft, and for all the important reasons.”
Many of Momoa’s emotional moments in the film come with the appearance of Nicole Kidman, who plays his long lost Atlantean mother. “She works,” Momoa says of the Oscar winner. “She came in, and then she was out. But I got to tell you, it was one of the greatest highlights of my career working with her. She’s an Academy Award winner, and an amazing actress, but she also had to wear some pretty gnarly outfits in some pretty cold conditions. She was soaked to the bone, and she had to do scenes with me over and over. And James definitely likes to do a lot of takes. And she would constantly bring something new. She was super intelligent. I’ve never seen someone who is really, really playful, but also very, very intuitive. She brought the best out of me. There’s the moment where I see my mother. I had to go from running up a beach wanting to kill this monster – I’m in death mode, and I’m going to smash someone – to going, like, ‘Mommy!’ As an actor, that’s hard. Thanks, James! You want me to take the dorkiest character and make him the coolest? You want me to kill someone and then cry to my mom? Oscar nominee! Just joking.”
And speaking of Australia, how did Momoa enjoy filming Aquaman on the Gold Coast? “Well, you know, this is a cool thing,” he replies. “I actually lived down there for about two or three years. I used to live down in Adelaide. So I love it there. I was really happy to go back. I had my kids there. I could literally walk in a minute from my trailer and ride a rollercoaster. That’s epic. We had all these kid parks. It was beautiful. We lived on the beach. I got to go surfing every morning. I went in the ocean as Aquaman, every morning before I went to work. Yeah, that’s Australia. Fucking Australia. My stunt double is Australian. I love ‘em. I love you guys.” There’s a guy on The Gold Coast as big as Momoa? “No, he’s a little bit smaller,” the actor smiles. “But you know, it’s the movies.”
And happily, this is a movie that Jason Momoa’s aforementioned kids can actually go and see. “They’re the perfect age,” he smiles. “They’re 9 ½ and 11 right now. They are freaking out. They watched it last night. They are awesome. It’s the perfect age for them to see it. And now, finally, I beat Batman. Batman has been the head of the house. Not anymore.”
Aquaman is released in cinemas on December 26. Click here for our review.