[Movie still from Aquaman, Warner Bros.]
Rising star Jason Momoa has come a long way since his first Baywatch appearance in 1999—through several less-than-memorable action roles (and a few great ones), to his breakout role in Game of Thrones, and now on to series with more depth (such as Frontier) and even a major blockbuster franchise (in the DCEU). However, when people think of the Hawaiian actor, they tend to think of big brutes—barbarians, assassins, horselords and tattooed thugs. It’s a part that he plays well, and at over 6’3” with undeniably rippling muscles and wonderfully villainous facial hair, it’s easy to understand why Momoa generally finds himself up for this kind of part. However, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have any literary roles under his belt. In fact, many of his big scary barbarian characters are actually lifted from the pages of books and comics, proving that just because a film is a literary adaptation, that doesn’t mean that the characters have to be book-lovers themselves.
From first to last, we count down Momoa’s literary roles over the years, as well as those to come.
[Movie still from Conan the Barbarian, Lionsgate]
Conan the Barbarian
Before Game of Thrones, Momoa used his impressive size and strength to bring another barbaric hero to life—the titular hero of 2011’s Conan The Barbarian. While Conan has been adapted across TV, film, and video games over the years, he is actually a fictional sword-swinger from pulp fiction magazine, who has also made appearances in books and comics. This fantasy warrior has remained popular since his first appearance in the 1930’s, and while the 2011 film may have been a flop, Momoa’s version of the character wasn’t half bad.
[TV still from Game of Thrones, HBO]
Game of Thrones
Obviously Momoa’s most famous role is as Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones, HBO’s wildly popular adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Drogo may not have stuck around as long as fans wanted him to, but Momoa took fans from hating the violent horselord to falling in love with him, just as Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) herself did. His sheer power steals the scene at first, but as he becomes her ‘sun and stars’, we see a softer side to him, and the way that Momoa balances this out is a joy to watch.
[Movie still from Bullet to the Head, Warner Bros.]
Bullet to the Head
Immediately after his turn as Khal Drogo, Momoa starred in Bullet to the Head as the ruthless hitman Keegan. This action-packed thriller includes all the elements of a great shoot-em-up movie, with buddy cops, buddy criminals, and more than one femme fatale to round it all out. And it’s based on a comic book. Originally a French graphic novel (Matz’s Du Plomb Dans La Tete), Bullet to the Head has since been translated into English to delight a whole new legion of fans of noir crime comics. The film itself may not be the best example of its genre, but as always, Momoa is a delight of merciless charm.
[Movie still from Aquaman, Warner Bros.]
Aquaman and the DCEU
Next up on Momoa’s slate is a major role in the ever-expanding DC Cinematic Universe, the DCEU. The Hawaiian actor gets to bring his personal connection to the ocean to the big screen here, in his role as Justice League superhero Aquaman. The King of Atlantis has already had a brief cameo in Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, but he’s going to be getting his first major appearance in this year’s Justice League, before his own solo flick (Aquaman) in 2018. Assuming that Aquaman can find the kind of success that Wonder Woman enjoyed, these aren’t likely to be his only appearances in this world of comic book adaptations, with plenty more Aqua-movies to come in the future.
[Movie still from The Crow, Miramax Films]
Finally, Momoa may have one more adaptation in the works, as he is rumored to be up for the lead role in The Crow. “But wait!” We hear you cry. “The Crow isn’t based on a book, it’s a remake of the ‘90s cult classic of the same name!” Well, what many fans don’t realize is that it is actually both. The original film was based on a comic book of the same name, created by James O’Barr. The film closely follows the original book, as the brutally murdered Eric Draven is resurrected to seek revenge on the men who killed him and his fianceé. Momoa is sure to embody this lead perfectly (should the rumors be true, of course), as it’s just the kind of romanticized violence that he does so very well.