Face Time: Jason Momoa

August 18, 2011

With his toned bod and handsome features, Jason Momoa seems all alpha male, but he warns us that it’s all acting. “I take out aggression on set. I’m not even king of my own house!” The “Game of Thrones” star plays the title role in the new film “Conan the Barbarian,” made popular by the fantasy books and 1982 Arnold Schwarzenneger film by the same name. Momoa claims the action-packed portrayal of the hero, opening today, is an edgier take on the strongman. But this Conan has a soft side, just like Momoa.

This is a breakout role for you. Is “Conan” a career highlight?
I’m a true fan of “Conan,” the comic books and the story. When I got the role, it was an honor. I’m truly a fan playing the dream role.

Did you read the books when you were a kid?
I did. I haven’t read all of them – there’s a lot! But my big thing was both my parents were painters, so I was a really big fan of Frank Frazetta’s “Conan” paintings. I love the way he captured his movements.

Does watching the film in 3-D make it a different experience?
I had seen it in 2-D. I wasn’t too thrilled about wearing the glasses, but then I saw it, and I was shocked and impressed. For one, it sinks you into this beautiful world. The visual art just sucks you in.

How did you prepare for the role?
I just put myself in the hands of people in charge, and they took over. Like the guys who taught me how to use the sword. Then, I just sank into it. I studied a lot of Samurai films. I went to the zoo to study the lions and panthers. I wanted Conan to move like a cat.

Was it a physical challenge? How much did you work out each day?
Before we started filming, I trained six hours a day. But when we started filming, I tried to get two hours in. Sometimes I could only get one in, but we did stunts all day long, so I was getting cardio. It was just hard to keep the muscle mass on.

Have people been comparing you to Arnold Schwarzenegger?
No, it’s impossible to be compared to Arnold. He’s Arnold; there’s only one. I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes even if they said I was. I’m not striving to be him, and I could never take anything away from his Conan. It’s like he’s Sean Connery and I’m Daniel Craig. Two great but different performances.

Why should women see this film?
There’s some powerful female characters in it. And there’s a great love story. He’s this really strong guy, but we also tried to keep him vulnerable. Conan has this hard shell, but he really takes this woman in his hands and trusts her and loves her. I’m naked in it, too – that’s always a plus for women.

You’re a father of two young kids. When will you let them watch it?
They’ll be, like, 30. It’ll be so outdated, they’ll say, “Dad, this is 3-D? We’re in 6-D now. This is stupid.’”

Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images

Katherine Boyle reports on arts, museums and culture for the Style section.
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Kristen Page-Kirby · August 18, 2011