COLLIDER – Last year, right after Comic-Con, I got to visit the set of director James Wan’s Aquaman when it was filming in Australia with a few other online reporters. If you don’t remember last year’s Comic-Con, it was before Justice League had been released, and it featured Jason Momoa, running through Hall H, barefoot, with Aquaman’s trident in hand. It was a pretty crazy entrance that made the crowd roar in excitement. It was also the place where DC and Warner Bros. unveiled new footage from Aquaman – including a first look at Ocean’s Master’s army.
During a break in filming, we got to spend some time with Jason Momoa. He talked about being at Comic-Con, if WB ever gets mad at him for saying too much, why he wanted to play Aquaman, what we can expect to learn about his origin in the film, why Aquaman doesn’t fit in Atlantis or on land, what it means to be the first Hawaiian superhero on the big screen, why Aquaman’s biggest conflict isn’t with Black Manta or Orm, if he’ll wear the classic orange and green costume, why he thinks is going to be like Star Wars underwater, and so much more.
Check out what he had to say below.
Question: I wanted to start with a question about Superman. So, you get off the stage at Comic-Con, does anyone at Warner Bros. pull you aside….
JASON MOMOA: I kind of feel like they know what they’re gonna get with me and I feel like if they were really worried about something they would definitely warn me ahead of time. So, generally when I’m really quiet it’s going to be boring and I’ve been warned not to say certain things and that’s what the interview will be. But, if you don’t warn me, then I’m just gonna kinda be me. So, I feel like if they did go, ‘shame on you’, I’m like, ‘the fuck did you think was gonna happen?’ People wait days-forever-to get into Hall H and you just want me to sit there and go, ‘I don’t know where [Superman] is. Where could he be?’
In Hall H you made a hell of an entrance coming out there. You seem to really embrace and take ownership of this role. What is it about Aquaman that drew you to him and what’s it like taking ownership of a character like this and making it your own?
MOMOA: I think it’s your responsibility as an actor on any role, to take it and add your certain flavor to it, you know what I mean? I’m just adding as much as I can. I mean, I don’t know what it’s like to be king of my own house. [laughs] So, just sitting in your imagination trying to figure out-you do as much research as you can-I tell you what, that definitely running through Hall H made me feel like a king. I’ve never actually run-I felt like a gladiator or a boxer-I mean, that’s probably why they don’t run to the stage-I had like such an adrenaline dump when I got there, I was like, ‘Ahhhhhh!’. I can’t talk, so I’m just gonna, ‘Ahhhhh, this is amazing!’ I’m a big fan, too, y’know? So, you just geek out. I can’t believe I’m running through six thousand people with a trident over my head barefoot, I mean- check that off the bucket list. [laughs] No one else is ever gonna do that again.
I take those moments like that and there’s gonna be a great moment-my character really hasn’t gotten to the point of where he’s the king yet, so it’s really fun to see all of his quirkiness and his screw-ups and his jaded here-and-there and he’s gonna learn so much before he actually does become the king-we haven’t got there yet. It’s gonna be fun to see him as a king and really take that on. We can hear all certain things in our life, it’s just the moment we’re really ready to hear them. Your parents can tell you all kinds of stuff until you actually go through it. So, I think from his Mom to his Dad to Vulko to his girl, Mera, I think once everyone-he’s heard these things-but it’s the moment that he stands alone and they live within him and he goes from being a man to a king. That’s the beautiful…that’s the one thing I love about this story.
This movie is establishing the origin of Aquaman, but obviously we’ll be seeing more of you in Justice League. How much did you know about this version of Aquaman while in the making of that movie and how you’ve progressed him in this one?
MOMOA: Well, when we originally signed on to play Aquaman I knew a great deal of what Zack [Snyder] had built the character. So, I built a lot of it off of using backstory-I mean, whether, little things like, parents were alive, parent’s weren’t alive, all that kind of stuff, we could shift when I got to James [Wan]. The truth of, like, the bare bones of where he came from and what he was about, we’d already established from the very beginning and really what Zack was like, ‘this is what I want to bring to the team.’ So, coming over here it’s just like trying to balance and match that, but also James has a really, really different vision and it’s a very spectacular, different view of what, originally, when I was with Zack, so it’s fun to go, like, “All right, well we haven’t really reviewed these finer aspects of the character, ‘cause now it’s my origin, so we’re connected to all those pieces.’ So, it’s left open to go, like, ‘All right, we didn’t need to develop that for Justice League. Now…’ That definitely was one of the hard things was going like, ‘Okay, here’s Aquaman’s life and here’s Justice League.’ So, I made up a whole bunch of different scenarios of what it was like beforehand, then he comes and he joins the team and then he goes back to his life. So, that was really important to all the forward stuff, because afterwards that was up for James [Wan] to go, ‘Hey, the future is yours. You’ve already done Justice League. I need everything pre.’ And, uh, building all that stuff on your own is building a character.
What we’ve seen so far of Aquaman, he seems like a serious dude. Would you say he’s the type of guy you would or wouldn’t want to kick it and have a beer with?
MOMOA: Oh, absolutely. I think I wanted to make him that way. I think that’s why they kind of hired me to play the role. I mean, he’s serious, but he’s just jaded. He’s just seen so much and he doesn’t really trust anyone. I think it’s all about building the trust and that’s the whole Justice League thing-just being the team. I think-I definitely want him to be-y’know you can’t sit down and have a beer with Superman, you know what I mean? You can’t. There’s things you can do with Batman that you can’t do with-I wanted Aquaman definitely to be that guy that- he’s blue collar. I mean the whole thing about him, I wanted him blue collar, he’s raised with his dad, worked on bikes, worked on old cars with his father and at a certain age he’s given this gift. He doesn’t know how to deal with it. His dad doesn’t want him in the water, because he doesn’t want him taken away. The only thing he does know is that his mother was killed. He wants nothing to do with these people. Fucking hates ‘em. And, I wanted to see what kinds of jobs he did when he left his dad’s house, working on big oil rigs-he can go underneath and he saved people and he hasn’t saved people. And the side he can’t cope with is his human side. That’s what makes him great. That’s what’s gonna make him a great king is his humanity. Cause, the Atlanteans are very-it’s a totally different race down there and how they treat people.
And so, I think what’s gonna make him a great king is that he walks those two lines and what makes him powerful and what makes him weak is that he’s human and what makes him powerful and what makes him the greatest king ever is that he’s human with his Atlantean. So, it’s a really cool area to discover, like, which one is a superpower and which different role-to be human and Atlantean and to be Atlantean on the surface. And so, him just, like, having his loss, he drinks. And, it’s like, he’ll cover up those things. He doesn’t want to talk about it. I mean, Zack [Snyder] was really clear on, like, ‘I want Outlaw Josey Wales, I want the outsider, I want more than Batman the loner.’ But, he was great with people that were just living the tides and in these far off little villages and these people just accepted him. He lived in and was with more on the side of the people, so you find him in these remote spots.
Something about Aquaman that you always here in modern times is that he’s kind of a joke. There’s this great moment in the comic where someone goes, “Oh, you talk to fish?” and Aquaman goes, “No, I don’t talk to fish, I command fish”. Is there a moment like that in the film?
MOMOA: Yeah, I think James [Wan] has taken all those fish puns and, really, kind of let me do ‘em. I think he has an interesting look on what all those fish puns are. The more you look at it, I think it’s really-it’s not so much that he can talk to fish, but I think when you get to see what he can really do and how powerful the ocean is, I mean…I guess we’ll see who’s laughing then [laughs].
How does it feel being the first Hawaiian superhero on the big screen?
MOMOA: I mean, that was the biggest honor, like when Zack [Snyder] told me-there’s just so many brown-skinned kids that are gonna grow up and go, like, ‘Yeah, all of our gods are water gods’. It is an absolute honor. Some people accept that he’s not white. I think it’s cool. It’s an honor for me to be that person standing up. Dream job, you know what I mean?
We’ve heard about the feud with Black Manta, the feud with Orm, there’s all kinds of things going on. What do you think is the biggest conflicts are for Aquaman in this film?
MOMOA: I think the biggest conflict is with himself and that’s my big arc. Obviously, the world’s gonna-if I don’t step in and intervene, Orm’s just gonna take over the land. It’s really cool, what-you think about all the harm we’ve done to the oceans-and are still doing-and if you lived under there, you would absolutely despise and hate these people that lived up there and why wouldn’t you send a tsunami and just wreck the whole place. Why wouldn’t you? You burn up your cars and take the fossil fuels and put acid rain in the ocean and-why wouldn’t you? It’s just interesting, because Orm’s not coming from this-I’m this bad man; He’s just going, ‘This is what they do to our people’ and so the treaty is over with. It’s interesting. And, I’m the guy coming from it going like, ‘I get it, but you can’t and you gotta find this place.’ But, who’s obviously gonna be king. It’s gonna have to be a person between two worlds. But, he didn’t believe in himself nor does he give a shit [laughs] He’s kind of the reluctant king and that’s what’s great about him. He doesn’t want the responsibility. And, I think even probably when he gets it-he’s always had it-he’s still a reluctant king in a way.
Do you think any of the characters in Justice League have more of an influence on him than others and does that carry over here?
MOMOA: I think everyone has really a lot of examples. I mean, me and Cyborg are definitely- we’re very much, like, watching out for each other in the sense that I don’t trust him and he doesn’t trust me. I think there’s a really good…we learn a lot from each other. Wonder Woman is-she’s easy on the eyes, so I’m gonna listen to her a little more [laughs]. Bruce, I like to just, ‘I don’t really wanna hear it. I’ll do it, not because you said I’ll do it.’ And Ezra-I mean, Flash-he’s great ‘cause it’s just like a little brother. Which, in life, he is my little brother. We have a great time. I’ve known him for very many years. It’s a great dynamic and we’re all so different and so complementary of each other, too, I think.
Why not involve them in this effort to save the world?
MOMOA: I think it would cost a lot of money, probably. [laughs] I don’t think we got it in the budget. But, I think it would be great. At some point, I’m pretty sure, if this does well and if that does well…Probably, the same thing that happened with Marvel, you know what I mean?
What sets Aquaman’s origin story apart from the others?
MOMOA: What’s different? I really love watching origin stories. I wouldn’t really say there’s necessarily something that hasn’t been done, I think everything’s kinda been done. The only thing different is I’m amazing and I’ll probably do it better than anyone else. Maybe. That’s the only thing I can really come up with.
Have you had the chance to wear the orange and green classic costume?
MOMOA: I haven’t yet. Nope.
Looking forward to it?
MOMOA: I am. I am. I haven’t even seen it yet.
MOMOA: Concept art, of course, yeah. James [Wan] definitely wants to keep it just like the original, so…
Can you talk about what it’s like working with Patrick Wilson (as Orm) as your main adversary and how he challenges Aquaman.
MOMOA: I love him! He’s such a talented actor. I’ve never really been like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to see this Patrick Wilson film’ I mean, like, it wasn’t ever something that-until I worked with him. And, he is just-he can transform and he can change and can laugh on a dime and he’ll just take your soul and make you just-I’m giggling all day and then he’ll just switch into it. I mean, he grew up in theater and I’ve never even stepped foot on stage. He’s just such a well-trained veteran and then to have him work with James [Wan] on five films is just super comfortable. I think a lot of my scenes [with him] are really heavy and I love-we really get to get into it-he’s just a great actor, he can just sink into it and we can go at each other. Where me and [Black] Manta are, it’s more physical. I mean, not that me and Orm aren’t gonna be physical, but a lot of our scenes are brother scenes. And I think James’ view of how we get together they’re sentimental moments. I always knew I had a brother and there’s moments that aren’t always just like ‘I hate you, you were never there for me’. There’s just these moments where these guys could get along, but they can’t, because it’s from two different worlds. It’s kind of interesting.
We’ve heard there’s a lot of different tones in this film, like it’s a quest movie, a little Romancing the Stone, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Can you talk about those references?
MOMOA: I mean, that was definitely one of the amazing moments when James [Wan] told me, cause, I mean, I love Romancing the Stone-I grew up with my mother. I wasn’t watching Conan The Barbarian, I was watching Casablanca and Gone with the Wind and Rear Window and Romancing the Stone. So, I loved those movies, what I grew up with, and obviously Raiders. It’s like Star Wars, it’s just a world we haven’t seen before. And, I think the bickering between the two of them [Aquaman and Mera] and also when they slowly start to enjoy each other and fall in love, I think it’s just a timeless story that’s just fun. And, I love the fact that we haven’t been underwater and, like, what we showed at Comic-Con was just showing that it’s gonna be like, when the shit hits the fan it’s gonna be like Star Wars underwater-it’s cool! I’m a huge fuckin’ Star Wars fan and I’ll never be anything remotely as good as Indiana Jones, but we can sure as fuck try! [laughs] I mean, like, I’ll never ever, ever beat him, but if we’re modeling after that, then, great, I’ll do my best. It’s something good to strive for.
Can you talk about what it’s like working with James Wan and what he brings to the DCEU?
MOMOA: He’s just a total visionary, man. I mean, just his films alone. But, his worlds, what he’s built, like, the layouts, I’m sure you went to the war room and saw-I mean, when you see us go against the Trench people, that’s gonna be insane. Just his visual-same thing like Zack [Snyder], he’s just amazing that way. I’m really excited because he comes from a lot of horror. And that is through-you really have to tell a story without saying a lot, you know what I mean, you can build the intensity and the suspense. So, that’s one thing that’s gonna be really, really cool.
Aquaman will be in theaters December 21st, 2018