Coming out this week from Warner Bros. Pictures is its upcoming action adventure “Aquaman,” helmed by James Wan (“The Conjuring” films, “Furious 7”). Jason Momoa stars in the title role, returning to the character he plays in this fall’s “Justice League.”
The film reveals the origin story of half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry and takes him on the journey of his lifetime — one that will not only force him to face who he really is, but to discover if he is worthy of who he was born to be… a king.
The film also stars Amber Heard as Mera, a fierce warrior and Aquaman’s ally throughout his journey; Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe as Vulko, counsel to the Atlantean throne; Patrick Wilson as Orm/Ocean Master, the present King of Atlantis; Dolph Lundgren as Nereus, King of the Atlantean tribe Xebel; Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the vengeful Black Manta; and Oscar winner Nicole Kidman as Arthur’s mom, Atlanna. Also starring is Ludi Lin as Captain Murk, Atlantean Commando, Djimon Hounsou as the Fisherman King; and Temeura Morrison as Arthur’s dad, Tom Curry.
For Patrick Wilson, best known lately for his role as demonologist Ed Warren in the supernatural horror films The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2, he gets to reunite that franchise’s director James Wan as well as get back in the comic book world. In 2009, Wilson worked with Aquaman producer Zack Synder when he played Nite Owl in Watchmen.
Blackfilm.com spoke exclusively with Wilson on his role in Aquaman.
How did this role come about for you? Is this something that they came to you and offered?
Patrick Wilson: Yes they did. James asked me to do it probably via text. I guess we were shooting maybe “Conjuring 2”, or something like that. It was a couple of years ago. I heard he was getting ready to do “Aquaman”, or he was almost signed on I think at that point. But there was no script, but I know he had ideas. And he just said, “What do you know about Ocean Master? Have you ever heard of Ocean Master?” Of course I Google him, and saw this crazy mask, and thought “I’m in.” It didn’t take much.
How much did you know about Aquaman going in?
Patrick Wilson: Not very much. I did not know a whole lot. I didn’t read a lot of comics growing up. My real introduction to comics was in my 30s doing “Watchman”, so I set the bar pretty high. But since, then I’ve read quite a few. But I didn’t know Ocean Master, and I didn’t know any of that storyline, so that was that was all new to me. And so once we figured out it was really the closest to the New 52 version of Orm, then I could find a good way in, and read everything I could after that.
So for fans who know the character from the comic books, how much different is he from the comic books to what we’re seeing on screen?
Patrick Wilson: Right. Not a ton. I mean, to be fair, we haven’t explored all of his powers. We don’t know quite how, and he has a different set in the comics. Throughout the years he’s had different abilities depending on which comic, which storyline, and really which Orm. I mean, originally he was the one that was half Atlantean, and half surface dweller, so I like that in the New 52 they made him a pure bred Atlantean. But other than, there’s still a lot in there that we haven’t explored, so it’d be interesting to see if there is life after “Aquaman” for Orm, what sides of him we bring out.
People like to say to that playing the villain is more fun than just playing the good guy. Is it?
Patrick Wilson: Well, I think it depends on the role. I know people say that a lot. I don’t think it’s quite the blanket statement, because I’ve played some good guys, some heroes that were pretty fantastic. I think what you look for with a role, and it often comes with great villains, is a journey. You know, usually a villain is very dead set on … He’s very focused on some task at hand, and it’s usually nefarious or it’s usually very violent. So those are certainly fun to explore.
With this one, what makes Orm great to play is not the fact that he’s a villain. I think the fact that he’s complicated, that his is really this eco-warrior, this very damaged soul, and very environmentally conscious. So he’s certainly very complex. But I don’t know, I’ve played some bad guys that weren’t very fun to play. So it all depends on the complexity of the role versus if they’re a villain or a hero.
In watching this movie, there’s a lot packed in here, and a lot of it’s CGI. So how was that for you working with the green screen?
Patrick Wilson: Better than I expected, I will say that. I remember before, even on “Watchman”, which I did close to 10 years ago, I didn’t have a lot of green screen work. So I didn’t know what that was like. I thought it would feel sort of empty, but honestly what I found, even in just doing normal dialogue scenes without a lot of action, we were still floating around, or, well, there’s nothing floating about it. We were being flown around the room in harnesses, and different types of wires and devices to make it look like we were swimming. But what it did is made you concentrate on the dialogue, and the scene and the other actors because there wasn’t anything else to look at. So it really made you focus on if the scene works. So it felt like this sort of weird avant garde theater, honestly. But I liked it, I did.
You mentioned the “Watchmen”, so which costume was easier to get into? That one, Night Owl, or Orm?
Patrick Wilson: Probably Orm. Yeah, these costumes have come a long way, and it’s just a different material. I mean, “Watchmen” was pretty warm because it was hot. It was hot in there because the material then was a little thicker, and with the cowl covering your face and your head, it was constantly sweating and you couldn’t do a whole take of a stunt without having to take the lenses out of the goggles because you would just get so fogged up. Orm was a little easier in that regard. It was a much stretchier, thinner material. So it was like a Cirque de Solei suit, to be honest with you.
How is it working with this cast, from Jason to Nicole to Amber? Is it just work, or do you guys get to talk afterwards and become friends?
Patrick Wilson: Oh sure. You become friends. I mean, most of your time on set you’re not working anyway. So I got to know Jason more through the gym, and Yahya, and Amber as well. I got to know everybody more through our … We had a fantastic gym with a rock climbing wall, and we had drums and instruments set up. And so that was where we let loose. That was a ton of fun. Even though there’s a lot of work going on in the gym, but usually when you’re in the gym it means you’re not in costume, and you can relax a little bit. So, that’s where we got to know each other more than hanging out afterwards.
You’ve been doing “The Conjuring” for some time now, a different franchise. Did you ever think it was going to go this far, and you’d be playing that role over and over again?
Patrick Wilson: You know, I can’t sit here and say no, because to be honest with you, I thought if we got it right, we’d do a few. And James even said that to me, because just the nature of how … Now, I didn’t know there’d be all these spinoffs, but I thought if we got it right, we could do two or three or more of “Conjurings” because there are so many cases. And James knew that, because just the dramatic device of having your main characters not be the ones who are possessed, then you’re able to investigate different cases, and each movie can take on its own feel, and its own life. So I’m excited to see what the future holds for those, and as long as we keep pushing ourselves forward and trying to bring something interesting to the table, I know Vera and I would keep doing them. And James will always have a major, major hand in them, whether he’s actually behind the lens or not.
What goes into the roles that you say yes to? What’s the main attraction?
Patrick Wilson: I mean honestly, there’s never one answer. It does more than not, if it’s someone that I’ve never worked with before, then usually it sort of comes down to the script. How is the role? It’ll all narrow down to that, but everything that I do is filtered through my family, if it’s right for my family. How much time away, and then you start getting into director, and this and that.
I mean, with “Aquaman”, I knew they’d shoot in Australia, I knew that would be tough. And it was, being away for that long was really, really, really tough on me and my family. That being said, I knew that James would turn in a great movie, and it would be a really fascinating and fun role, which it was. So, I said yes to Orm before I even read a script. So I was not even worried about the script. I knew it would be in a great spot.
Clip | Aquaman vs Black Manta