Black Adam's Aldis Hodge On Training With Dwayne Johnson And Developing Hawkman's Moves [Exclusive Interview]

After more than a decade in development, audiences are finally going to see "Black Adam" on the big screen this month. Dwayne Johnson, who plays Teth-Adam/Black Adam, has been known to say that the hierarchy of power is going to change in the DC Universe, but that shake-up doesn't just involve his character. There are other heroes on the rise, including Hawkman, played by Aldis Hodge. Carter Hall/Hawkman is the latest reincarnation of Prince Khufu Kha-Tarr, and he's one of the movie's breakout stars.

As you can see from the "Black Adam" trailers, Hawkman and Black Adam aren't exactly on good terms. They have a very contentious relationship and different ideas about the morality of killing. On the other side of things, Hawkman and Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan) are best friends, having both been around for longer than a regular mortal lifetime and serving together in the Justice Society of America. 

I recently got a chance to chat with Hodge about the training he did, his (fictional?) wings, how he worked out moves without them, what he learned from his biggest co-star, and how he and the team behind the film created a fighting style that would encompass Hawkman's very long history and study of techniques. 

'I've been baking this since the day I found out I got the job and that I wanted to put these styles together'

Hawkman and Black Adam have this really contentious relationship. How do you strike a balance in terms of how that comes across?

I think they're best friends. I think they're buddies. I think they go hiking on the weekends ... no, honestly, I'm just playing what was on the page in terms of the value of what it means. I think these two men are warriors. There's eventually a sort of seed of respect that they find for one another, but the conversation that's had through their battles is really about justice. What is justice? What does it look like? 

Just because our versions of justice are different, does that make either of us wrong or right? There's a very layered context to why they're in conflict, which I can really appreciate. I think they're just trying to figure themselves out as they deal with one another. 

The fight scenes in this movie are so good. I know you studied martial arts, and you talked before during a trailer event about how old this character is. Can you talk about creating a fighting style to encompass the training you already had and then the character's history?

Sure. So Chris Brewster, who's our fight coordinator, TaeKwonDo champ multiple times, a really, really quite a gifted athlete. And then I have my stunt double, David Charles Warren III, who's also a — he's almost like a freak of nature, he's insane. I've studied multiple styles coming up. So the style of kung-fu, muay thai, kali escrima, capoeira, wushu. So when it came to these styles, I talked to Chris. I said, "Look, I have an idea in my head. I've been baking this since the day I found out I got the job and that I wanted to put these styles together, so we can take some of the principles from each foundation and create a style for Hawkman to represent the fact that he's been fighting for ages."

He's picked up styles along the way. He had to have, right? In the various forms of battle that he's been through. So we should do something that reflects that. So even though we're here and we get a piece or a taste of what his battle style looks like on the ground, we still get a sense of how he moves and how he uses the mace, to a degree, almost like a baton or a kali stick. You know what I mean? So it was really finding the best bits of all those styles that I love and studied coming up and putting those together to create something that we can build on. If we get to have the opportunity to continue telling Hawkman's story, we're going to get to expound on that style in really creative and awesome ways that we've never seen on screen.

I'm sure I'm not the first to say this, but I vote for a solo Hawkman movie. 

Oh, thank you so much.

'The idea for the powers was that they were an extension of him'

How did you end up incorporating his powers into the style?

The idea for the powers was that they were an extension of him. So it's not that the powers defined him as a warrior. He, Carter Hall, is the weapon. When he dons the armor, he's just going to work, but he uses the powers and the wings just like he uses his weapons. They're an extension of him, physically and mentally. So we wanted to bring a nature to it that has not yet been seen before. Even when it comes to the wings and how they move, they move like an actual bird. We haven't seen wings used in this way before. And even when he's in the fight — well, let's say he does use his wings for multiple things. I don't want to give away spoilers.

We just wanted to use it as an extension to a degree. It's almost like if somebody has a bo staff and that staff, long as it may be, six foot or whatever, is an extension of one's arm. So that's how we think about the wings.

So obviously you don't have real wings — that I'm aware of. So when you're training, how do you incorporate that? Do you have a framework you put on or ... 

Well, actually it's not true. I do have real wings!

Oh, nice! [laughs]

They're fluffy and furry. [laughs] No, so I don't put on any wings. When we train, we mimic movements knowing that the wings are there. And then what they do is they videotape us training, creating these fights, and then they put it into pre-vis, where they show a digital mock-up of what the fight looks like, and how the wings would move and things like that before we get to set. So as we're moving and creating, it's simply me twisting or twitching a specific way, where I know I'm moving my wing for something very deliberate. That's how we go.

'I want them to see every single moment'

I know you've said you were working out with Dwayne, and obviously you both have a history with training and martial arts and all of that stuff. Was there an exchange of information, an exchange of styles or moves, or things like that?

Well, with DJ, the thing that I most asked him when I started working out or training for this — I was training, I was getting bigger, but wasn't getting very specific about cutting fat. So with that, I hit DJ about nutrition. So he introduced me to some people — a nutritionist who can actually teach me about the metabolic science of working out, eating very specifically so that I can achieve the results that I wanted to.

And then after that, it really came down to being with the stunt team. I got down to set two months early, right after I finished a job, and two months before we started shooting, I was working with the stunt team. We'd wake up at four in the morning, we would go to the gym, and we would weight train until about eight o'clock. And then from eight until four in the afternoon, we would do fight choreography, stunt training, movement, mobility work, and all that. And we did that for two months straight, every day, until — well, maybe a day or two of rest. We'd get our rest days, but we would do that all the way up until filming, and we even trained throughout filming. One of our stuntmen, he's on DJ's team, his name is Miles, who is a fantastic brother, so knowledgeable about the body, he's the one who really helped me get into physical shape, teaching me all that he knew. 

Is there a specific moment in the film, stunt-wise, that you want people to see, that you really want people to focus on? Which fight? Which move?

Oh, that's tough, because I want them to see every single moment. There is no one that I can choose. I have a favorite thing about every single one, but I think the thing that people will get a big kick out of is there's a fight scene that happens with the character, Amon [Bodhi Sabongui], in his bedroom, that I think people will really enjoy. So yeah, look out for that.

"Black Adam" will hit theaters on October 21, 2022.