Chicago Sun-Times

New‘conan’ prepared to roll with the punches

Momoagets a fewbreaks, dives face-first into iconic role

- BY CINDY PEARLMAN

sound a little upset. What irks Conan?

ow does a man know he has found his inner barbarian? For Jason Momoa, it revolved around reaching out to his he-man friends.

“I wanted to have my nose broken for this role but wasn’t sure how to accomplish it,” says the Iowa native.

So, he enlisted a friend with a fist.

“I was like, ‘Dude, I have this idea. I think you should break my nose. Would you do it?’ ” Momoa recalls. “My buddy just did it right away, damn it. After it was over, I said, ‘Dude, didn’t you want to think about it for a minute?’ But we’re guys and he said, ‘You don’t have to ask me twice. Done deal.’

“Just please don’t tell my wife about it,” he begs. “I wonder if she reads your newspaper?”

Yes, boys will be barbarians in the new installmen­t of “Conan the Barbarian,” the film franchise that made Schwarzene­gger a superstar. Dark-haired, beefy Momoa is at the forefront of new epic battles against very muscular rivals and a few horrific monsters as his Conan tries to save the great nation of Hyboria from supernatur­al evil.

“He’s a man. He fights, he f---s. He’s a pirate thief. He’s flawed,” Momoa says. “He’s a soldier and a warrior. He won’t fall in battle. Plus, women think he has this animalisti­c, primal side to him that’s sexy. Above all, he says what he means.”

The 32-year-old was born in Honolulu but grew up in Norwalk, Iowa. After high school, he returned to Hawaii, where he broke into acting with a role in “Baywatch.” Momoa also has starred on series including “North Shore,” “Stargate: Atlantis” and “The Game.”

He also plays Khal Drogo in the hit HBO series “Game of Thrones” and marvels at his newfound fame, including a recent appearance on Jay Leno’s show.

“I did refuse any makeup,” he says. “Someone wanted to put powder on me and I said, ‘Are you nuts? I’m a barbarian.’ ”

I just talked to some of the foreign press, and they thought the movie was violent. It’s “Conan”! People know they’re going to watch “Conan” and not “The Prince of Persia.” Conan is supposed to kick ass. I think this movie does a great job of reinventin­g a classic. Tonight, I’m going to go watch an early screening of it with a bunch of my buddies and then go drink some beers. I know they’ll love the action in the movie, and I’m not worried about what they think of me as an actor. They know I’m an idiot.

I was cast because I do “Game of Thrones” and the film had a mutual casting director who knew my work. He said, “This kid is our new Conan.” Actually, being cast as Conan wasn’t a nail-biting thing. Getting the HBO series was the nail-biter because I had to wait to find out, plus they didn’t want to cast out of America. It was sevenmonth­s of ups and downs. With “Conan,” I was equally thrilled because it was a truly iconic role and a departure from who I am. Plus, it is iconic, so I had a feeling of, “Letme show you what I can do with it.”

worries that audiences will be comparing you to Arnold Schwarzene­gger?

Of course, but then again, Sean Connery and Daniel Craig are both James Bond and both phenomenal. We saw Jack Nicholson do the Joker in “Batman” and thought no one else could do it. Then Heath Ledger came along and won an Oscar for it.

“I just talked to some of the foreign press, and they thought the movie was violent. It’s ‘Conan’! ... Conan is supposed to kick ass.”

It’s apples and pears or peaches and cream. The point is that it’s a new day for Conan. … When I started this movie, I watched the first Conan movie and Arnold did a great job, but it’s 30 years later. It’s actually shocking that no one redid Conan before now. … [Schwarzene­gger] saw the movie and passed on a message that I did a good job. That was fantastic to hear.

you bulk up for the role?

I did a lot of weight training to transform my body. I also learned Asian movement because I have to wield that big sword. Basically, I wanted to do that with the gracefulne­ss of a cat. I even studied big cats and the way they walk and hunt. In the end, I put on about 35 pounds for both “Conan” and “Thrones.” It was fun to put on just weight for “Thrones.” I ate pizza and drank Guinness. On “Conan,” I had to put on muscle, which was tough. I had to eat lean protein and keep a crazy level of training up.

you come away with any good injury stories?

Oh, I almost died on the horse a few times. Once, the horse’s feet went out underneath him and I slid off his neck. When the horse fell, his butt almost crushed me but missed me by a narrow margin. I was also bucked off and broke a rib. You heard about my broken nose. Don’t tell my wife. There were also mornings where I had to crawl out of bed because my body was hurting so bad. So, I’d just put some Epsom salts in my tub and sit there. Then I’d go back to the set and do a few more stunts, knowing that if something really happened to me, I’d be ... word deleted.

Big Picture News Inc.

 ??  ?? Jason Momoa, known to TV viewers as Khal Drogo on the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” has the title role in “Conan the Barbarian,” a role made famous by Arnold Schwarzene­gger three decades ago.
Jason Momoa, known to TV viewers as Khal Drogo on the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” has the title role in “Conan the Barbarian,” a role made famous by Arnold Schwarzene­gger three decades ago.
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