CS Interview: Patrick Wilson on Playing Aquaman’s Ocean Master
Director James Wan’s superhero epic Aquaman swims into U.S. theaters this week, and ComingSoon.net had the chance to speak with Wan’s frequent co-star Patrick Wilson (Insidious and Conjuring franchises) on playing Orm/Ocean Master. Check out our interview with Wilson below!
From Warner Bros. Pictures comes an action-packed adventure that spans the vast, visually breathtaking underwater world of the seven seas. The film, starring Jason Momoa (Justice League, Game of Thrones) in the title role, 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.
Aquaman also stars Amber Heard (Justice League, Magic Mike XXL) as Mera, a fierce warrior and Aquaman’s ally throughout his journey; Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe (Platoon, Spider-Man 2) as Vulko, counsel to the Atlantean throne; Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring films, Watchmen) as Orm/Ocean Master, the present King of Atlantis; Dolph Lundgren (The Expendables films) as Nereus, King of the Atlantean tribe Xebel; Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Baywatch, The Get Down) as the vengeful Black Manta; and Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours, Lion) as Arthur’s mom, Atlanna. Also starring is Ludi Lin (Power Rangers) as Captain Murk, Atlantean Commando, and Temeura Morrison (Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Green Lantern) as Arthur’s dad, Tom Curry.
Directed by Wan from a script by Will Beall (Gangster Squad) and David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick (The Conjuring 2), from the story by Geoff Johns, Wan and Beall, the film is being produced by Peter Safran and Rob Cowan, with Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder, Rob Cowan, Jon Berg, Walter Hamada and Geoff Johns serving as executive producers. The movie is based on characters from DC’s Aquaman created by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger.
ComingSoon.net: Well if it isn’t Jason Momoa’s younger brother.
Patrick Wilson: Yes. Even though I’m a few years older, yes.
CS: That must be very flattering.
Wilson: Right? My boyish look, or good makeup, either way. It’s totally fine. I’m the youngest of three brothers, so it’s a very easy role to assume, when you’re working with someone taller than you. It’s very simple. You’re taller than me, you must be older.
CS: Awesome. And obviously, Zack and Deborah Snyder were sort of tangentially involved in this movie. How making “Aquaman” different from your experience working with them on “Watchmen”?
Wilson: I can’t say enough good things about Zack and Debbie. Zack may argue this, but I believe Debbie is probably the one who led the charge in casting me for “Watchmen.” At least that’s the story I was told. She saw “Little Children.”
CS: Clearly. She cast a few “Little Children” people in that movie.
Wilson: That’s right, me and Jackie. Jackie may disagree, but that’s okay. The difference… I mean, every movie, every experience is so, so different. I will say from the get-go, just the sheer nature of my “Watchmen” experience was very practical, visceral. I was not at a lot of green screen stages. I didn’t do very much green screen work at all. So of course, this is a much different beast, hanging in wires and various harnesses and acting like you’re swimming underwater. I suppose wearing a mask and wearing a cowl are pretty close. But yeah, there aren’t that many similarities.
CS: Did Zack give you any input going into the project?
Wilson: Into this? Into “Aquaman”? I haven’t talked to Zack in quite a while, so no. Yeah, I didn’t talk to him before then. I remember running into him at the “Batman v. Superman” premiere, and at the time James wasn’t really signed, sealed and delivered that he was on, but knowing James like I do and then knowing Zack… I know he wanted me for it, but I wasn’t like, “Hey, I’m going to be Ocean Master.” This was several years ago. I remember briefly singing James’ praises to Zack. Sort of a, “For whatever it’s worth, I love the guy. He makes really awesome movies.”
CS: And obviously you’ve become the Bobby De Niro to James Wan’s Scorsese over the years, but in a very different context of horror. How was working with him on a huge superhero tentpole like this different from the horror pictures you’d made together?
Wilson: Right. I like that you went that way versus the usual Russell to Carpenter. By the way, any time you’re even saying the words De Niro/Scorsese, even Russell/Carpenter and you’re including me in that sentence… hey man, I’m good to go. You know, I get this question a lot, and the reality is it doesn’t feel any different. I mean, sure, we have more time. There’s more time to make movies now, when you’re working on this kind of budget. There’s obviously more money and more toys. But weirdly, at least from my point of view, not more cooks in the kitchen or stress. I think when you hire James or when James hires people, he’s a great visionary, knows what he wants to do, but he also wants to work with people that are going to push themselves. If you go onto a James Wan movie, he’s going to push every single department to do the best you can do. So you don’t get caught up in the, “Oh my gosh, this project is so big.” You just try to fulfill his vision and do your job. So that’s one side of it. The other side is, I never really viewed him as just a horror director. I like horror movies, just like I like Westerns, and yeah, they keep saying the say the same thing. His frame of reference, he rolls really deep in a lot of film. We both are children of the 80s and love to talk about all kinds of movies. So it never really surprised me, like “oh, now he’s doing this kind of movie,” like he always said he wanted to. He just needed his horror movies to perform well so he could get the opportunity to take over the reigns of an action franchise, which of course he did with “The Fast and the Furious” and even more so with this.
CS: And you’re a great singer.
Wilson: Thank you.
CS: I kept thinking about that because your performance as Orm felt operatic. Is that fair to say?
Wilson: Yeah. Sure. I think there’s a theatricality. You can Google on image of Ocean Master and see the insane mask and go, “Okay, you have two choices: You either fill that mask and make this character larger than life, or you run from it and apologize for it and judge it and try to bring it down and simple.” And like, why do that? I don’t understand that second choice. That’s a similarity with horror films. You can’t damn a demon back to hell casually and naturalistically. It has to be melodramatic. That doesn’t mean it’s not grounded. British actors do that very well because they’re used to growing up with Shakespeare and panto and high intensity acting styles. With Americans it’s a little more naturalistic and casual. I’ve certainly done a lot of movies like that, so I love getting out of that comfort zone and being very theatrical and Shakespearean, like you’re doing some strange Greek tragedy, hanging in wires. I have a line about, that’s not even a huge line, but there’s some line I have about “flaccid poets” and what on earth am I saying? This is crazy. So I love that James and our writer David Leslie Johnson just want to put the most over the top dialogue in my face and see if I can say it. I think he’s just messing with me, but I’m ready for it.
CS: Can you talk a little bit about the environmental motivation of Orm to attack the surface world? Because obviously that’s a pretty strong and relevant motivation.
Wilson: Well, it’s strong, it’s relevant, it’s topical. It’s also very real. And it’s understandable. I could even go as far to say it’s sympathetic. For me one of the joys of the movie is you’re introduced Orm in this struggle to become Ocean Master, and you see him trying to get these armies together. Is he just a maniacal leader? And then he’s got this issue with his half-breed brother. But when you get to Atlantis and Arthur’s there and Orm presents his argument, I think most people would agree and understand, yeah, for centuries we have been destroying the oceans and this guy wants to do something about it. Once you start from a very organic place and from a place that people can relate to, even if you’re not that environmentally conscious or savvy, I think you get it. You know? And you can go as far as you want. I love that they left that up to the villain versus to Aquaman. It enables a little more of an irrational and violent response, you know? That’s fun to play.
CS: Absolutely. Your character’s basically Captain Planet if he was driven too far.
Wilson: That’s right. Exactly.