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Why 'The Red Road' Star Jason Momoa Wants to Work With Terrence Malick

Photo of Alison Willmore By Alison Willmore | Indiewire February 19, 2014 at 4:28PM

"The Red Road," a new drama coming to SundanceTV (formerly Sundance Channel) on February 27th at 9pm, features Jason Momoa as we haven't seen him before.
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Lisa Bonet and Jason Momoa in 'The Red Road'
James Minchin/SundanceTV Lisa Bonet and Jason Momoa in 'The Red Road'

So tell me a little bit about directing -- you have the first movie, "Road to Paloma," and you're working on a second?

Yeah. I loved it, that's what I want to do is be behind the camera. Unfortunately I'm in it, so that was hard, doing both jobs. I was inspired by a couple articles in the New York Times about the rapes that are happening on the Native American reservations and how a non-Native can come on and commit a crime against a native and tribal law can arrest them, but they can't prosecute them. There's something crazy, like, 60% of the cases were non-Natives, and they were just getting tossed out, because terrorist acts, Homeland Security, they don't have it, it's just a small case. But this injustice was crazy -- being a father, son, grandson, husband, if you fuck with the women in my life, and the law won't take care of it, what are you going do? Probably something bad.

It's the story of a man going to get his mom's ashes -- he's taking her back to where life began for the Mojaves. It's up in the mountains, and he spreads her ashes and goes to the Colorado River. It's not a chase movie, but they're tracking him down, the FBI. He'll never love again, he'll never see his father or sister. It's kind of a sonnet, it's him saying goodbye to his life and doling out the better parts of his soul even though he did do this heinous act. You see the other strangers that he meets and what mark he leaves in this world.

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What made you want to be a filmmaker and who were your influences when you made this first film?

Ah man, Terrence Malick is a big one -- I love Terrence Malick. John Hillcoat, I love. You know, it's funny -- when I originally got "Conan the Barbarian," everyone was like "Oh, you got Conan!" I was raised with a single mother in Iowa, and we'd watch "Rear Window" and Gone With The Wind." It looks like I watched nothing but what my buddies did, like "Zulu," but I just never saw. The stuff that I've seen is because of my mom.

I just love stories and I love movies, learning and seeing the world. Growing up in Iowa, it was like, you wanna see the world? Movies can help you do that. And now that I've worked in the business for so long, I know how to do it, and I want to tell stories, and it's hard to find good stories and I'm not at the top of the list to get into those great stories, so I'm like fuck it, I'm going to make it myself, and I'm going to find the funding and do those acting gigs, but make my true art, to tell the stories I want to tell.

Is it a way for you to get to do the kind of roles that you want as well?

Not so much. The one I did for "Road to Paloma" wasn't really an amazing role -- it's more about the people in it. The directing was what I was focusing on. I didn't really have to stretch for the character. But the next one I'm gonna do is pretty big. It's a historical piece I'm going to do in Hawaii, set in the 1890s, so it's really dear to me. It's going to be honoring the tribe, and that will be fun. I've got some of the script already done but I need some more time. 

So, aside from working with Terrence Malick on his next movie, what type of roles would you want for yourself next?

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Well, I would love for "The Red Road" to go a second season because he's a great character. When people see the first six episodes, it'll be like "wow!" I'm having a lot of fun doing that. This role that I wrote, it's amazing and I think that's the beauty of being in this business, there's stuff that you can't even fathom yet. I wouldn't have known about Drogo, even though it's out there. If Terrence Malick reads this article, when I get big enough, maybe he'll hire me.

What's the Hawaiian film about?

It's a whole historical piece based on true events. There's this character called Koʻolau who was a ranch hand, and he got leprosy and so did his son. When they were going over to the other side of the island to take him away, they wouldn't let him bring his wife, so according to police records, he basically shot the sheriff to be with his family.

They called in martial law, brought in howitzers and cannons and basically bombed the island to get this guy out of there -- this one guy against an army. He just wants to die with his family, and his wife ends up burying him and their child. She comes out four years later and writes the whole story. The white man brought the disease in, they're taking their land, this is when the provincial government was just starting, so it's a pretty gnarly story. Jack London wrote a short story about it, but the story's never otherwise been told. It's uplifting, it's not victimizing, it's beautiful. It's kind of like a "Braveheart" to my own people, and I would love to do that.

This article is related to: Television, TV Interviews, Interviews, Jason Momoa, The Red Road, SundanceTV