The most modern movie star on the planet shares his feelings on ‘Dune,’ his famous family, and social justice.
[Photoshoots & Portraits] > 2020 Shoots > Set 004
MEN’S HEALTH – ONE MORNING IN LATE JULY, in the Year of Whatever Can Go Wrong Will Go Wrong And/Or Might Actually Kill You otherwise known as 2020, Los Angeles drivers westbound on the 118 were treated to a surreal sight even by California standards. There, in the slow lane of the freeway, a giant man was sputtering along in a 1929 Ford Model A hot rod with no roof and no windshield. His long, sandy-blond hair whipped across his face in the wind, and the red blanket he had placed over the busted car seat to cushion it was now flying like a cape behind his neck. Those who pulled up close to get a better look at a potential real-life Superman weren’t too far off the mark. It was Jason Momoa—Aquaman himself—behind the wheel, drumming on his knees to the Tom Waits song playing in his head while his car slowly broke down beneath him. Then, just as he neared his exit in the San Fernando Valley, radiator fluid began spraying all over his face. He was due at a photo shoot for this magazine in ten minutes.
“My wife makes fun of me all the time because everything I have breaks down,” he tells me when he arrives at the shoot only a few minutes behind schedule, freshly delivered to the set with a huge smile after hitching a ride with a buddy. He needs all of two minutes to peel off his stained shirt for a clean one and splash some water on his beard before he’s ready for the first shot, and one quickly surmises that Momoa is the type of guy to whom this kind of shit happens all the time. “I like old, beautiful things,” he says, shrugging off the roadside havoc. “It feels like you’re in a time capsule when you’re riding an old bike.”
But for all the old-man affection for classic racers and vintage Harleys, and for all the brick-house physicality that would’ve made him an outstanding ’80s action hero, Momoa has spent the past few years slowly revealing himself to be the most singular and surprising—the most modern, really—male movie star we’ve got. “I don’t do incognito,” he explains. “Here’s this flamboyant Cadillac I’ve had since I was 22, because I love Elvis. Here’s my top-hat collection, because I love top hats. Here’s my ridiculous pink fur coat. I have a lot of weird things.” Perhaps it’s because he used to go antiquing “all the time” with his mom that he appreciates well-made items and durable designs. “I can look at a rusty spoon,” he tells me, “and it defines who I am.”
With his artistic spirit, brawny physicality, and a pink scrunchie or two, the actor is the leading man we need.
If the apocalypse is slated for this very day, as it very well may be, then it’s hard to think of anyone handier to have around than Jason Momoa. Onscreen, the hulking 6-foot-4 actor has been all kinds of hard-core warriors and superheroes, and in the upcoming sci-fi epic Dune, he helps secure a hostile planet for his master, Timothée Chalamet. Surely I can count on him to protect me from any natural disasters that might occur in the Hollywood Hills.
[Photoshoots & Portraits] > 2020 Shoots > Set 003
Yet it’s not entirely surprising when Momoa greets me in a pair of flowy pink-and-red-striped pants that he had custom-made from a set of French linens. Or when he tells me he recently started seeing a therapist and is exploring issues of male vulnerability. Momoa, you see, is many dudes in one. Part soulful surfer, part brawny he-man, part committed activist, and part class clown, he spent the quarantine painting and writing and teaching his 13-year-old daughter how to throw a tomahawk. Certainly he’s the only guy I’ve met who can build his own motorcycle and ride it to a film première dressed in head-to-toe pink. When I ask him why he’s so fond of pink scrunchies (today he’s wearing two — one in his hair and one on his wrist), he smiles and shrugs.
“Pink is just a beautiful color,” he says. “And I’m pretty secure in my masculinity. I don’t really give a shit what anyone thinks.”
SYFY – HBO’s Game of Thrones wasn’t your average fantasy epic. It was grim, dirty, violent, and sexual. In fact, it had such frequent and graphic nudity that it helped coin the phrase “sexposition” when referring to plot exposition being doled out by a nude character. But according to a new book, the experiences of the cast in these intimate scenes left plenty to be desired — especially in the hit show’s early, scrappy days.
James Hibberd’s new oral history Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon: Game of Thrones and the Official Untold Story of the Epic Series digs into this plenty, including interviews with everyone from Khal Drogo’s Jason Momoa to Cersei’s body double, Rebecca Van Cleave. Few were complementary to the series’ handling of its sex scenes, most of which took place long before HBO mandated hiring intimacy coordinators for all its shows in 2018.
Momoa took first-time showrunners D. B. Weiss and David Benioff’s unprofessional handling of the situations in stride, though he needed to sometimes refuse their requests. Momoa recalled a time while shooting a Season 1 sex scene when he placed the intimacy pouch (which covers an actor’s genitals in nude scenes) in Benioff’s hand: “That was because David had been like, ‘Momoa, just take it off!’ You know, giving me s***. ‘Sacrifice! Do it for your art!’ I’m just like, ‘F*** you, bro. My wife would be pissed. That’s for one lady only, man.'”
Momoa added: “So afterward I ripped the thing off and kept it in my hand and gave him a big hug and a handshake and was like, ‘Hey, now you have a little bit of me on you, buddy.'”
His scene partner, Daenerys Targaryen actress Emilia Clarke, has spoken at length about her uncomfortable experiences doing nudity on the show. “Because Jason had experience — he was an experienced actor who had done a bunch of stuff before coming on to this — he was like, ‘Sweetie, this is how it’s meant to be, this is how it’s not meant to be, and I’m going to make sure that that’s the f***ing gaze,’ Clarke said on the podcast Armchair Expert. “He was always like, ‘Can we get her a f***ing robe? She’s shivering!’ … He was so kind and considerate and cared about me as a human being.”
“I was so desperate to be the most professional actor I could be that I’d be like, ‘Yeah, sure,’ for anything they threw at me,” Clarke said in Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon. “I’ll just cry about it in the bathroom later, whatever, you won’t know.”
The actress, who appeared fully nude in sex scenes and when Daenerys is “reborn” in fire alongside her dragons, spoke about the pressures of being an actress fresh from drama school on that set. “Those were tough days,” she said of the first season, adding, “I’ve had fights on set before where I’m like, ‘No, the sheet stays up.’”
Misleading promises from production reportedly ranged from people sneaking onto a closed set to a supposedly closed set being thrown wide open. Hodor actor Kristian Nairn remembered during his Season 1 nude scene (“probably the most traumatic day of my life,” he previously said), when a prosthetic was worn because there was a child in the scene. Alas, things did not go as planned.
“I was s*** scared, but I did it because of the whole body-positive thing — Game of Thrones has a lot of people of different shapes and sizes, probably more than any other show ever,” Nairn said. “It was a very busy day on set, which was the opposite of what they told me. I’ve never seen a busier set!”