For a decade and a half, the closest comic book fans got to an Aquaman movie was the fictional Vincent Chase starring in one on HBO’s comedy Entourage. Then Warner Brothers announced a real Aquaman movie, but first they’d get to meet Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) in Batman v Superman and Justice League.
In his own movie, Arthur returns to Atlantis with Mera (Amber Heard) to take his rightful place on the throne and stop a war with the surface. Director James Wan and stars Jason Momoa and Amber Heard gave a press conference in New York and Dream Alliance listened in remotely. Aquaman is playing in China and opens opens Friday, December 21 in the U.S.
Q: Visually, what was the most important thing for you to get right?
JW: Probably one of the biggest visuals I wanted to get right was that costume. Aquaman himself and that was definitely something we worked hard and long on, to really nail down the look, to see if we could take this classic comic book look and see if we can translate that to the big screen. That was definitely a big part but of course just the overall world. I really wanted to capture the vibrancy of Atlantis and all the underwater kingdoms, really doing the comic book justice and obviously filtering it through my own sensibility and adapting it for the big screen.
Q: How cool was it to see yourself in the costume, Jason?
JM: That was surreal. The best part of wearing the suit, my first experience was really beautiful and I’ve never told James this, but I put it on, I didn’t have a mirror. I put it on and I could just see his face. He’s extremely passionate and he lets you know right away, but the absolute joy, it looked like a kid when he beamed, like, “I did it. He looks amazing.” He was super proud. He didn’t say anything. I could just see it on his face. Then the second moment was when I Facetimed my kids and I took a picture of it too because they’re like, “Ohhhhh” and their eyes were just blown away.
Q: What was the moment you first felt like Aquaman?
JM: Well, I definitely feel that it was in Justice League where sitting on a Batmobile, sitting there staring at Affleck and Wonder Woman. I’m like, “I’m sitting on a Batmobile. I’m surfing the Batmobile, this is the coolest thing ever!” And my kids looking at me that same way too. That definitely sunk in on Justice League.
Q: Could you relate to feeling like you’re from two worlds?
JM: I mean, we’re actors so it’s not really necessary. To play Drogo, I don’t need to have to go through what Drogo did to become him. The cool thing is just being able to relate. It is neat to relate as someone who is half truly two different cultures and each one of those cultures, don’t know about the other one. Hawaii definitely doesn’t know anything about Iowa and Iowans don’t know anything about Hawaii. That was something I could draw upon and then also, the other thing that helped me a lot was just being raised by a single parent. I think a lot of kids now, I just had me and my mother my whole life, which I could play for me and my father being that close and then running very far away. Running just like she did to go very far away and then come back to my roots, those were very relatable things.
Q: What do you think fans with half Asian or Hawaiian heritage will get from this?
JM: Coming from Polynesian islands, there are so many water gods that we have and so much folklore and so much mythology about how the islands came about. From Kanaloa to Tangaroa and Maui, it is the Poseidon and I get to play that and honestly be the first mixed race superhero is just, in 2018, you’re like really? Is there not one? It’s a huge honor. To play it really close to who I am and all of his imperfections, I don’t have to be Superman. Don’t judge me. I have to play it in a way where he’s really split between those two worlds. I’m excited for the world to see if and if I was a kid, being able to see Aquaman, you’re in Fiji or Tahiti, it’d just be like wow, man, this is so cool. It’s an honor. I’m actually waiting to see it because it’s the first time I’ll be able to watch something with my kids for the first time. I’m going to be really emotional and affected. Being able to hold their hands, it’s going to be a really cool moment to be a dad with a 10-year-old and 11-year-old. It’s pretty special.
Q: What were you most proud of about Mera, the way she was written and the way you portrayed her?
AH: I feel really lucky to have worked with filmmakers and people who wanted to maintain the integrity of the strength of the original character. Mera is and never wasn’t anything other than a badass and a superhero in her own right. She is no damsel in distress and I’m lucky that I worked with people that wanted to maintain that integrity instead of compromising all of those aspects of strength and integrity and individuality and agency by way of compromising that for palatability and sexuality and other things that can sometimes take the place of other aspects. Those are far more interesting to me. Mera’s a kickass, badass woman and doesn’t need any help from anyone and I feel really lucky I get to play her.
Q: What was your most challenging stunts?
AH: I trained for a long time but I realized way too long into filming that I had been training for fix, six months at this point. It was the most covered up I’ve ever been on any set. I was like, are you kidding me? He’s the one who’s topless all the time. I trained for a long time. Just by how large the scale of this movie required so many different teams and participants and people, sometimes we would be in the lunch tent, you’d look around and see four or five doubles of yourself that are required on various sets for various reasons, because it’s just so massive in scale to make a movie like this. All the different stages would have things going on. In my case, I did work my ass off but I’m very thankful to the stunt team and the crew that we had. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.
Q: What difficulties did you run into directing a movie with so many water effects?
JW: You hear it all the time from filmmakers that make movies with water. It’s not the most pleasant thing. It’s uncomfortable and it really just slows down the filmmaking process. The irony is, any of the stuff that is actually fully submerged underwater, anything that’s in the underwater world was actually shot dry for wet. That’s literally what it sounds like. You use the process dry for wet. We shoot in these rigs that simulate swimming, floating and all that. We did play with a lot of water as well. I don’t think you can make an Aquaman movie and not have anyone get wet. The irony is, when we’re actually above water, when we’re dry, that’s when I have to drench the actors nonstop. When they’re actually out of water, that’s when they’re dripping with water but when you’re underwater, the irony is people actually look dry so that’s why we shot it without water. I would say that the biggest water set that we had in this film was the submarine sequence at the start of the film. That was a huge set piece that we built the submarine over a water tank that we just submerge again and again and again. You know, we would play out the scene, we would submerge it and then we would bring it back out of the water tank. We would dry it down, blow dry it down and then do take two and then take three. It was quite a laborious process. It’s a bit of a pain.
Q: What do you hope fans take away from Aquaman?
JW: For me, I definitely wanted the fans to know that I’m a fan myself and I really respect the source material. For the fans out there that have stood by Aquaman all these years while people made fun of him, made fun of his comic book, made fun of all the characters in his world, I want them to see that this is finally the opportunity to get revenge. By that, I mean that this movie is made with a lot of love, a lot of passion. I really love this film and love these characters and the world these characters reside in. I really want them to know that I was very respectful to the source material. On the other side, I want to introduce all these guys to a whole new generation of kids that never grew up with this character. I want the two separate worlds to come together.