Giant, tentpole superhero movies, with huge, multi-film characters are a strange undertaking. Secrecy is paramount, so actors are often unaware of exactly what part they’re auditioning for. This is achieved by having them use scenes and lines from something else, that has similarities to the character actually under examination – thus allowing the director the opportunity to see how the actor would be with the desired tone, while keeping everything under wraps. This is how Jason Momoa auditioned for the role of Aquaman.
By the time the role of the King of Atlantis was up for casting, a plan was in place for a Justice League movie, which would need the character to join the team. So, while Momoa was cast to first show up in Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, his multi-film arc was already set out. But, as the actor related to the Hindustan Times while promoting Justice League, a process of deduction led Momoa to think he was actually reading for the role of a Batman villain.
“When Zack first approached me, it was a bit of a mystery because when I went in for the audition, he wanted me to read for Batman – and Ben [Affleck] had already been cast in the role by that point. So, I knew something fishy was going on and just read the lines with a lot of attitude, like I didn’t care what was on the page [laughs]! And then Zack said to me, ‘Do you know who I want you to play?’ I said, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ll be a villain or some bad dude who comes in and fights Batman – sounds like fun.’ He said, ‘I want you to play Aquaman.’”
This anecdote is actually quite moving, in that it inadvertently highlights the issue of representation and typecasting in big Hollywood productions. Jason Momoa, solely by virtue of his appearance, had spent years being cast in very specific roles, such as Conan The Barbarian, Khal Drogo, Phillip Kopus, and Miami Man, for example. He was rarely called upon for the kind of morally virtuous heroism required of truly iconic characters, such as those of the DC stable.
So, for an actor of Momoa’s talent to assume, in a meeting with Zack Snyder, that he was wanted for a villainous role, speaks volumes as to the expectations of superhero movies. Indeed, while Cyborg and Wonder Woman are welcome additions to the genre, it remains the case that there’s a white male default when it comes to superhero movies in general. Thankfully, Zack Snyder had a different vision for the DC Extended Universe, though, and cast Jason Momoa in the role of Aquaman.
Aquaman will receive his long-awaited and proper introduction to the big screen when Justice League arrives on November 17th.