Several years ago, on a Sunday evening, “Justice League” director Zack Snyder discovered a superhero in a not-so-unlikely place.
“We’re big ‘Game of Thrones’ fans,” explains Deborah Snyder, Zack’s wife and producing partner. “I remember Jason Momoa [as Dothraki chieftain Khal Drogo]. Zack was like, ‘Jason would be the perfect Aquaman.’ I was like, ‘It’s so out of the box. But yeah!’ He can be tough. And he feels like he comes from the water.”
DC and Warner Bros. announced Momoa as Arthur Curry, the Atlantean king and underwater hero, more than three years ago, planning to introduce him in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Although the three metahumans who join Batman and Wonder Woman in “Justice League” didn’t figure into the plot of the 2016 Superman sequel, the filmmakers wanted to give fans a glimpse of their upcoming versions of Aquaman, the Flash and Cyborg.
They shot one scene of Momoa as Aquaman, and then enlisted Ray Fisher as Cyborg and Ezra Miller as the Flash during production of “Dawn of Justice.”
“It was a learning experience because we actually shot that underwater,” Deborah says. “After we shot it Zack said, ‘Are you kidding me? We can’t shoot all these [underwater] scenes.’ It gave us a chance to say, ‘How are we going to do Cyborg? Is he going to be mechanical?’ It was a way to start testing a little bit. We were able to hone in on it when we came to ‘Justice League.'”
For both Zack Snyder and the producers, it was important to find actors who could embody iconic comic book roles, but it was also essential to consider the performers as people.
“For movies with these superheroes you have a lot of kids [watching] and they become role models for kids,” Deborah notes. “They become role models for adults too, but what’s different for the kids is they can’t necessarily distinguish between the character and the actor. Casting the person who was going to play the role was really important to us because it means a lot more. It’s not like a typical role an actor has. It’s magical when it works.”
“The casting of all three of them was pretty inspired,” adds producer Charles Roven. “It was interesting that we ended up, without knowing it, having guys who brought so much of themselves into the characters and have it fit so perfectly.”
And the pressure was on because not only would the actors become part of the superhero supergroup in “Justice League,” but the expectation is that each would ultimately headline his own film as well. Momoa’s “Aquaman” is due out next year. A standalone Flash movie has hit multiple stumbling blocks as directors Seth Grahame-Smith and Rick Famuyiwa both dropped out due to creative differences.
Assembled for the film’s press tour in London (where Miller is currently filming the sequel to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”), Momoa, Fisher and Miller spoke to The Times about the status of those projects, their “Justice League” experience and the importance of superheroes in today’s world. The movie opens Nov. 16.
By Emely Zemler – LA Times