Conan the Barbarian is a literary legend from author Robert E. Howard, but he was made famous in the movies by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The new Conan the Barbarian movie reboots the legend, with Jason Momoa in the title role. You may know him as Khal Drogo from HBO’s Game of Thrones, but Momoa joked he had no problem separating his sword and sandal warrior characters.
“No, because I'm not that good of an actor,” Momoa said. “I don't get stuck. It's not like, 'You're not Drogo! You can't go around killing people!' I did Conan first. Game of Thrones got me Conan, but I shot Conan first. Then when I went to do I, I just wanted to transform my body. To walk around like a king is not very [normal.] In my house, when my wife says to do the dishes it's like, 'Yes, ma'am.' To walk around with that kind of air like a king was a lot harder for me."
Momoa may not think himself a great actor, but he did take the role seriously. He did lots of research. “My first experience of Conan was looking at those Frank Franzetta paintings. I don't need to see a movie to understand what that guy's made of. It just sears in your memory, when I was a child. When I read the comic books and Robert E. Howard, those are my own images in my head and how I wanted to play Conan. I went and studied big cats, lions and panthers and just the way they move, how I wanted to tuck my hand. If you looked at a lion you're sort of like, 'Holy sh*t.' You don't want to make eye contact. I just wanted to have that presence in just the way he prowls and stalks his victims. Then I studied a lot of samurai films. I wanted to incorporate that, to take a broadsword and to wield it like a samurai sword was something that I wanted to do, so I studied a lot of films. I did everything, like reverse grip, and I just wanted to put that Asian influence into this Barbarian thing, bring some grace to it."
Nowhere in that homework did Momoa mention the Schwarzenegger movies, Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer. Those remain on his Netflix queue. “I guess one of my theories on it is that ignorance is bliss for me. I like Arnold. I'm going to go watch the movie right after this because it is such a huge impact on a lot of people. It would be a slightly older than me, that generation. It's so huge to them. I'm going to go back and watch. I think it probably needs to be redone. It's been 30 years and some amazing things have happened in film. I know it's big shoes but at the same time I wouldn't have taken the job if I didn't know I could crush it and absolutely make it better than what it's ever been.”
Conan the Barbarian opens Friday.