Remember when Aquaman was a DC Comics’ punchline? Not anymore. Aquaman was on few people’s radar when actor Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones) was cast to play Arthur Curry, who’s been traditionally depicted as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian man since the character’s comic book debut in 1941 (More Fun Comics #73). Aquaman is also a founding member of the Justice League in 1960 (The Brave and the Bold #28), for you trivia fans out there.
Momoa might have seemed like an odd casting, not only because his physical appearance differs greatly from the comic book version, but also because Momoa’s kind of a journeyman actor. He’s played a variety of small-to-medium-sized TV and film roles before landing his first major gig as Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian (2011); the film intended to reboot the franchise, but it failed to connect with audiences. Not so with Momoa, however; he was just getting started.
In 2011 Momoa appeared in HBO’s Game of Thrones as Khal Drogo, leading a tribe of horsemen and nomads — a character who didn’t speak English and was killed off after only one season. Drogo caught fire with audiences, and the role put Momoa on the map, leading to his casting as Arthur Curry/Aquaman. Interestingly, Momoa’s Polynesian heritage — his father is native Hawaiian — was ideally suited to Aquaman; in an unusual twist, Curry was modified to fit Momoa, rather than the other way around, which is more typical.
Speaking with Comicbook, Momoa provides some details on how he came to own the role:
“Zack [Snyder] brought me in. He definitely wanted this Outlaw Josey Wales. He wanted someone that wasn’t accepted in Atlantis, wasn’t accepted on land… He really was this outsider and lived on the fringes of society. We talked about him just being raised with his father, this blue collar worker. His father was a lighthouse keeper, but I probably worked on oil rigs. I’d be underwater and I could just rip the rig off and just weld. “
The blue-collar depiction makes sense, and will probably help the character resonate with mainstream audiences. Momoa’s Aquaman is seen in Justice League trailers and teasers as a hard-drinking brawler, and also as a bit of frat boy who’s stoked to be riding shotgun on the Batmobile or being launched across the sky by Cyborg. Momoa continues:
“You’re going to see that I really wanted him to be that gruff thing, because he has to become king. If Justice League is like seeing him at his lowest, and not just his lowest, but this loneliness that I wanted about him, so when we get to Aquaman you know why he became that, and how he had been put in that lonely spot.
Finally, Momoa talks about his solo Aquaman film, describing it as something of an origin film combined with a big road movie:
“We’re going to see a couple different younger versions of me. And even before I was born, so you’ll know where my mother came from, Atlantis. We’ve got to establish seven different kingdoms and the threat… It’s also a big road movie, because we travel all over the world. It’s got that Star Wars quality of gigantic ships and guys riding sharks. It’s going to be this whole world you’ve never seen before. You’re going to see him start as this guy who probably rides bikes, works on cars. You get to see him this one way as kind of a dirty, dark, drunkard, and then turn into this regal king.”
Momoa’s Aquaman is setting up to be something truly different and unique, it’s just what the superhero genre needs. A defender of the oceans, a king, a husband, and a teammate — elements we’ve seen in different genres, but all pulled together here into (hopefully) a compelling story that builds upon his big coming-out in Justice League.
Is Aquaman on your list of 2018 must-see superhero films? Let us know in the comments down below!
Aquaman hits theaters on 21 December 2018.
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