‘Aquaman 2’ director James Wan dives deep: DCU changes, Amber Heard, and more

“This is definitely at the rear of the curtain!” Nicole Kidman remarks as she stops by to greet EW on the set of Aquaman and the Misplaced Kingdom. The shoot for the sequel to the 2018 DC blockbuster, which starred Jason Momoa as drinking water-fueled superhero Arthur Curry, is having area at London’s Leavesden Studios just one afternoon in Oct 2021. While the sequence is total of opportunity spoilers about the titular Dropped Kingdom and a mysterious and highly effective “Black Trident,” Kidman is really referring to the weather conditions.

The filming of present day exterior scene is an nearly all-star affair, showcasing Momoa alongside Kidman’s Atlanna, Patrick Wilson’s Orm, Amber Heard’s Mera, Dolph Lundgren’s King Nereus, and a ball on a stick symbolizing the CG character of the large crab identified as the Brine King. The placing is a tropical island, not at all equivalent to the wet and wind-swept working day that truly surrounds them in the U.K. — which has prompted the Hours Oscar winner to established off her character’s crown with a considerably less obviously regal black puffy coat. “Everyone’s been telling me, ‘You should have been right here past calendar year. Previous 12 months, the summer was great!'” franchise director James Wan says afterwards in the working day, which marks the 80th of the film’s shoot. “I experienced no summer at all. My god!”

Unhelpful English weather conditions apart, spirits appear significant on established between the principals tasked with building this observe-up to Aquaman, a bona fide blockbuster that grossed $1.1 billion all-around the earth and continues to be DC’s most commercially thriving movie. Even even though Wan admits directing a superhero movie throughout a pandemic is an exhausting procedure, he too appears written content with the way matters are continuing. “Creating motion pictures is challenging plenty of, building a huge tentpole movie is even tougher. Throw on top rated of that a existence-threatening pandemic just takes it to a whole diverse amount,” he says. “But we have been shooting for a even though now, and it truly is been a fairly sleek procedure.”

It is good to say that, in the practically two several years considering that EW’s set check out, the easy sailing of Aquaman and the Dropped Kingdom has been interrupted by choppy waters. The film was to begin with owing to arrive in theaters past December and then, for a spell, was supposed to appear out in advance of Warner Bros.’ multiverse odyssey The Flash, but is now hitting theaters on Dec. 20, many thanks to many COVID-19-induced delays and calendar reshuffles. Not to mention, the system of the DC Universe has essentially improved: Aquaman producer Peter Safran is now co-captaining the studio’s future slate of movies and exhibits with The Suicide Squad director James Gunn — which may possibly or may possibly not include things like much more Aquaman. Experiences have also surfaced about intensive reshoots on The Misplaced Kingdom, though 1 of its stars, Read, experienced been embroiled in a extremely publicized defamation demo with ex-spouse Johnny Depp.

When EW catches up with Wan before this 7 days, through Zoom, the director are unable to support but confess that a good deal has adjusted in the earth of DC because that rainy day in London 23 months prior. “Clearly, I have to be conscious,” he suggests. “If I am residing in a house, and the property is getting renovated close to me, it really is tough for me to not choose observe, simply because the roof, the ceiling’s missing, appropriate? But the magnificence of this film, this Aquaman globe, is that, incredibly early on, we generally mentioned that we are our personal separate universe. My objective was often: If we could spin off a Seven Kingdoms universe, that would be my excellent desire. So, what we do, finally, does not get afflicted by all that things, all that sound.”

On established in 2021, Safran is particularly eager to chat up the onscreen dynamic in between Momoa and Wilson in the sequel, which is published by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick. At the close of Aquaman, Arthur defeated his scheming half-brother Orm and grew to become King of Atlantis, whilst Wilson’s character was led absent to jail. In Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, the feuding siblings kind an uneasy partnership to choose on one more of the 1st film’s big bads, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Black Manta, a vengeance-seeking and now massively powerful supervillain in possession of the Black Trident, which presents him the capability to command an historic evil.

Safran compares the connection concerning the brothers to the partnership of Nick Nolte’s cop and Eddie Murphy’s convict in 1982’s motion-comedy vintage 48 Hrs. “They’re forced to perform alongside one another, but they have no desire in getting alongside one another,” states the producer, whose many credits ahead of ascending the DC Studios throne contain the Conjuring universe films, the Peacemaker sequence, and the two Shazam! titles. “There is a humor in this film that is far larger than even existed in the initially.”

The characters played by Nolte and Murphy bickered on the necessarily mean streets of San Francisco. Arthur and Orm do so whilst traversing significantly more weird terrain and encountering people substantially weirder than redneck bar patrons together the way. Generation designer Invoice Brzeski compares Wan’s sequel to the vintage films labored on by special effects legend Ray Harryhausen, like 1958’s The Voyage of Sinbad and 1963’s Jason and the Argonauts, in phrases of the movie’s dedication to fantastical journey. “James has turned this into his version of a Harryhausen motion picture,” Brzeski states. “There are issues and concerns a modern day audience could relate to, but it really is obtained a terrific quest and monsters.”

Nowadays, Wan emphasizes that his strategy for Aquaman 2 has remained the exact same given that the starting, inspite of what you could have read through in the push. The Hollywood Reporter posted an post in July of this 12 months about the film’s allegedly tortuous publish-production. The piece claimed that Wan experienced overseen 3 rounds of reshoots, the most latest using place just the thirty day period just before, and had been forced to individually film footage of Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton for a prepared overall look by Batman in the movie, for the reason that of the variations in the Warner Bros. release slate.

Requested if you will find truth of the matter to filming both Affleck and Keaton, Wan replies, “The challenging factor early on was not being aware of irrespective of whether Aquaman would come out first or occur out just after [The Flash]. So, we just experienced to be prepared. At the finish of the working day, the greatest issue I would say about this movie is that it is not connected in any way to any of those movies. That is the base line.” (Affleck, Keaton, and Momoa all experienced appearances in The Flash, which debuted in theaters this previous June.) So, Batman does not seem in Aquaman 2? “Which is a ‘no remark,’ ideal now,” the director says. “You’re heading to have to wait around for the movie to appear out.”

Wan isn’t going to dispute THR‘s reporting that Gunn experienced “weighed in” on the Aquaman sequel, but the filmmaker also asserts that the close product is pretty much his eyesight. “I’ve recognised James considering the fact that way back again, proper?” he suggests. “We’re horror guys, and so I’m undoubtedly open to ideas. But, at the finish of the day, this is my motion picture.”

On the subject of reshoots, Wan insists, correctly, that such additional pictures has become a regime aspect of generating massive-funds motion pictures and that he directed a comparatively little volume of new materials immediately after the key shoot. He clarifies of the predicament, “We have massive actors in this motion picture, and everyone’s routine is actually really hard. So, we experienced to break up our taking pictures agenda into sections. We will shoot a bit listed here now, mainly because this actor’s readily available, and then we are going to do a different shoot now, due to the fact this guy’s out there. People are like, ‘Oh, they’re performing a entire bunch of unique shoots!’ No. If we in fact combined them all alongside one another, it is really basically not that lots of range of days at all.”

Wan has sort when it arrives to making one thing exclusive with supplemental photography. A person of the supernatural antagonists in his 2018 horror film The Conjuring 2 was supposed to be what the director recently described to EW as “this big demon.” (“I shot it that way, and then when I received into publish-generation, it just felt way too significantly.”) The director in its place made the character of the Demon Nun, played by Bonnie Aarons, amid reshoots. That character would go on to star in her have thriving spinoff, 2018’s The Nun, as well as its sequel, The Nun II, which is currently the No. 1 movie in the state following the film’s release previous 7 days. Currently, the director claims, for him, “supplemental images is by no means a negative matter.” He elaborates, “I come across new items and I occur up with new tips. The Conjuring 2 was the perfect illustration of me putting the total motion picture together and then bing! a lightbulb went off in my head and I go, ‘I know what I will need to do.’ Very same below as effectively.”

Wan is circumspect when talking about the other shadow looming around his movie, which involves Amber Read. The actress claimed in May well 2022 that her aspect in the superhero sequel experienced been “pared down” as the outcome of the publicity encompassing her breakup with Johnny Depp. Read was testifying in a Virginia courtroom as aspect of a defamation demo instigated by Depp above a 2018 Washington Submit short article written by the actress in which she chronicled her activities as a domestic abuse survivor. Depp initial missing his libel go well with in the U.K. in opposition to tabloid The Sun for describing him as a wife beater just before taking a defamation claim towards Read to U.S. courts. Though he won on all a few counts of defamation (he was awarded $15 million in damages, which was lowered to the quantity of $10.35 million thanks to a Virginia law cap on punitive damages), Heard also won 1 of her three defamation counterclaims and was awarded $2 million in damages. They settled in 2022 and dropped their respective appeals.

About Heard’s remarks about her job in Aquaman and the Shed Kingdom, Wan insists that he constantly intended the focus of the next movie to be the connection amongst Arthur and Orm and not concerning Arthur and his paramour Mera, as was the situation in the 2018 movie. The director recalls, “I often pitched this to anyone from the get-go. The 1st Aquaman was Arthur and Mera’s journey. The second motion picture was generally going to be Arthur and Orm. So, the 1st was a romance motion-adventure motion picture, the 2nd a single is a bromance action-journey movie. We will go away it at that.”

In a separate instance previous month, an impression appeared on Wan’s Instagram web page of the director in a healthcare facility mattress. “It has been an particularly tough and frightening pair of times and nights,” browse the accompanying concept. “You by no means want to hurry to ER in the center of the night time and then have to stay in the healthcare facility. Cedars Sinai is definitely the greatest!!” The publish was swiftly taken down, and Wan declines to detail what prompted the hospital go to. On the other hand, he denies that it was caused by the force of producing this certain movie.

“That’s a individual matter that has absolutely nothing to do with Aquaman,” he suggests with a laugh. “Every single motion picture kills me as a director, okay? You can quotation me on that one. Every single movie kills me. If a film doesn’t eliminate you as a director, you might be not performing your task ideal adequate.”

Unsurprisingly, Wan is substantially happier discussing the film by itself than the damaging push the movie has attracted. The director is delighted when EW mentions creation designer Brzeski’s comment about the Aquaman sequel getting echoes of a Ray Harryhausen movie and confirms that his movie continues to be a legitimate experience tale.

Owning demonstrated the film to a handful of persons by the time of EW’s conversation, Wan notes the responses has routinely been that the film “won’t come to feel like your standard superhero movie, it feels like an old-college Ray Harryhausen motion picture.” He notes, “That’s the most important compliment, mainly because that is the spirit that I was heading for.”

Admirers acquired a taste of the film’s wild visuals in a teaser which was launched on Sunday and characteristics Wilson’s Orm being grabbed by the arm of an enormous equipment. (The very first total trailer will arrive tomorrow.) Wan reveals to EW that the product is known as an “Octobot” and arrives from the mysterious Misplaced Kingdom, which is the seventh underwater principality that fashioned from the sunken remains of Atlantis but had mysteriously vanished, as pointed out in the initial Aquaman.

“One particular of the funnest things for me about this movie is creating the Misplaced Kingdom,” he suggests. “We see what the Dropped Kingdom is, we see this culture, and within it we see the cars and the toys and the weapons and all that. The Octobot is just one of their touring motor vehicles that go in and out of the water. Every little thing about the Dropped Kingdom came from my really like for the Silver Age Aquaman comedian ebook, which is the 1960s comic guide. So, almost everything about it has a pretty retro sense.”

The teaser also featured the sight of Aquaman and an octopus taking pictures out of the h2o atop a big sea horse. Wan confirms that Arthur’s steed is Storm, who initial appeared in the Aquaman comic again in the mid-’60s, though his 8-legged pal is Topo, the exact same octopus that was briefly observed taking part in the drums back again in the initial movie. The director explains that Topo will have “a much better presence in this movie. He’s an precise character in this 1.”

As for the long term of the franchise, Wan thinks that the second motion picture properly sets up a likely third film, should really audiences desire it.

“What I like in between this a single and the initial a person is, you definitely do see the progress of Arthur,” Wan says. “He begins off as this variety of wanderer, and in the next just one he last but not least has more of a path of what he desires to do with his lifetime. If and when there is a third a person, which is what it need to be it must be developing these figures since I assume we’ve set up particular items in a good area in the 2nd film that you can definitely attract on in a 3rd. I really don’t have any stories, but increasing the people is the biggest thing that I imagine the future Aquaman film should be about.”

Gunn has currently produced obvious that any DC superhero titles they want to pursue but that don’t match in their connected cinematic universe will be considered a standalone “Elseworlds” entry, very similar to the Robert Pattinson-led The Batman. And would Wan be intrigued in directing a third Aquaman film? “Oh, buddy,” he states. “I do not know. This movie has taken up so, so much of my life, so a great deal of my time, all I can assume about now is using a very long break.” Somewhere not too close to the ocean, most likely.

Aquaman and the Misplaced Kingdom will be released in theaters this Dec. 20.