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Home Interviews Brief Encounters Interview: Jason Momoa (Conan the Barbarian)
Interview: Jason Momoa (Conan the Barbarian) Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Wednesday, 24 August 2011 07:53

Sometimes in life, you just want to stand and stare in awe at a man with thighs as big as a Death Star. At other times, you want to hear exactly what he has to say about playing Conan the Barbarian.

And so it's lucky that Jason Momoa (a.k.a. Mr. Barbarian with Not Many Clothes On from Game of Thrones) was stomping around The O2 and scaring small children at Empire's BigScreen event. Here's what he had to say about horses, samurai swords and reworking Robert E. Howard's fantasy hero. 


You look like you were born to play Conan and you've said before that you remember seeing it as a child. Did Conan stick with you 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.


What did you do to get that ridiculously buff body?

Lots of lifting, lots of eating boiled chicken and minimal vegetables! There was 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 of the action 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.


What's wrong with horses?

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 do love horses, but I’d rather be on motorcycles.


How did Conan come about for you?

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.


Your version of Conan is 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 re-imagining the character?

A lot. I tried my hardest. Obviously it’s my performance, so you know, little choices like when he gets a scar on his eye. It’s all small things. If you break it down scene-by-scene, everything I do is character-based. 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. 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. I also wanted to incorporate Robert E. Howard’s quotes. “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”. I wanted to have that philosophy injected into the script.


Do you see yourself doing more action 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.



Conan the Barbarian is out in UK cinemas today. Read our Conan the Barbarian review - or go get friendly with him on Facebook


For a round-up of the weekend's film events at The O2, read Empire BigScreen: The Graphic Novel.


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  • jason momoa
  • marcus nispel