Jason Momoa in Conan the Barbarian, 2011. (Photo: ©Lionsgate/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Not even Aquaman’s foes have been spoken of this harshly.
The ever-candid Jason Momoa did not pull any punches when looking back at his 2011 star vehicle-turned-fiery-crash Conan the Barbarian, in which he played the same sword-swinging, Robert E. Howard-created mega-man that helped turn Arnold Schwarzenegger into a household name in 1982.
“I’ve been a part of a lot of things that really sucked, and movies where it’s out of your hands,” Momoa told British GQ in a new profile. “Conan was one of them. It’s one of the best experiences I had and it [was] taken over and turned into a big pile of shit.”
It’s unclear what Momoa means when he says the adventure film was “taken over.” The project did face a rocky road through its development, first failing to get off the ground at Warner Bros. before Lionsgate acquired its rights. Brett Ratner (red-hot at the time because of his Rush Hour movies) was prematurely announced as director in November, 2008 — apparently much to his chagrin — before German filmmaker Marcus Nispel was officially enlisted in June, 2009. But Momoa wasn’t cast until January, 2010.
Made for a bulky budget of $90 million and released in 3D, Conan bombed with critics and at the box office. “It’s downright barbaric,” wrote Globe and Mail’s Rick Groen, a contributor to the film’s 25 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Conan grossed $48 million worldwide, barely recouping half of its cost.
It was a tough break for Momoa, then best known for his role on the Syfy series Stargate: Atlantis.
But 2011 was still ultimately a game-changing year for the Hawaiian-born actor. Four months before Conan’s box office flopping, Momoa made his debut as the brutish Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo in HBO’s instant hit/pop culture sensation Game of Thrones.
His buzzy stint as the truly barbaric Drogo would only last two seasons (“It would have been great to stay on it across the seasons, but it’s just the way Drogo had to go,” Momoa told British GQ) but in 2014 the actor would find his true blockbuster calling when he was cast as Aquaman in the DC Comics Extended Universe.
After making his debut as the seafaring superhero with a cameo in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Momoa headlined 2017’s Justice League and 2018’s Aquaman.