Behind the Scenes of ‘Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom!’ As soon as they step onto the set of ‘Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom,’ Nicole Kidman remarks, ‘This is definitely behind the scenes!’ The shooting for the 2018 DC blockbuster’s sequel, in which Jason Momoa portrayed the water-wielding superhero Arthur Curry, is underway in London’s Leavesden Studios on an October afternoon in 2021. Kidman, playing the enigmatic and powerful ‘Black Trident,’ is actually discussing the weather.
Today’s exterior scene is almost an all-star affair, featuring Kidman alongside Aquaman’s Atlantean, Patrick Wilson’s Orm, Amber Heard’s Mera, Dolph Lundgren’s King Nereus, and a cricket ball-sized representation of Willem Dafoe’s CGI character known as ‘Crab.’ The setting is a tropical island, impervious to the rainy and windy days that could easily halt production in Britain – a fact that has inspired the Oscar-winning actor to don his character’s regal coat with faux black flowers more comfortably. “Everyone keeps saying to me, ‘You should have been here last year. Last year, the weather was so nice!” Director James Wan of the franchise jokes later in the day, who’s a substantial part of the film’s 80% completion. “I had absolutely no summer. Oh God!”
Leaving aside the British weather’s ineffectiveness, on the set, where they are working on the next installment of Aquaman, the enthusiasm among the principals is palpable. It’s a true blockbuster, having grossed a staggering $1.1 billion worldwide, and stands as DC’s most commercially successful film. While Wan acknowledges that directing a superhero film during a pandemic has been a daunting process, he is content with the way things are progressing. He says, “Making films is tough, making a tentpole film is even tougher. And on top of that, a deadly pandemic takes it to a whole different level.” “But we’ve been shooting for a while now, and it’s been quite a smooth process.”
It’s fair to say that, since the planned journey of ‘Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom’ began nearly two years ago, much has changed in DC’s world due to choppy waters. The film was originally slated to hit cinemas in December of the previous year and then, in a magical twist, it was scheduled to be released before Warner Bros.’ ‘Multiverse Odyssey.’ Now, it’s premiering on December 20th, shifting due to various COVID-19-related delays and calendar shuffling. Needless to say, DC Universe’s course has been significantly altered: Aquaman producer Peter Safran is now co-captaining the studio’s upcoming films and shows with James Gunn, the director of ‘The Suicide Squad’ – which could possibly include more Aquaman and maybe not. Reports have also surfaced about extensive reshoots for ‘The Lost Kingdom,’ while one of its stars, Heard, was embroiled in a highly publicized defamation case alongside her ex-husband Johnny Depp.
When ‘Aquaman’ and director Wan met virtually earlier this week, it was clear that much has changed in the DC world since that rainy day in London 23 months ago. “Obviously, I’m going to have to be careful,” he says. “If I’m living in a house and the house is being renovated around me, it’s difficult for me to pay no attention because the roof, the ceiling is gone, right? But the beauty of this film, this Aquaman world, is that from the very beginning, we’ve always said we’re our own universe. My goal has always been: If we can make the seven kingdoms of the universe, that would be my ideal dream. So, what we do, ultimately, is not affected by all those things, all those noises.”
In 2021, on set, Safran is particularly eager to discuss the on-screen chemistry between Momoa and Wilson in the sequel, penned by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick. At the end of ‘Aquaman,’ Arthur defeated his scheming half-brother Orm and became the king of Atlantis, while Wilson’s character was imprisoned. In ‘Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom,’ the feuding siblings, along with the addition of Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Manta, a vengeful and now supremely powerful antagonist under the control of the ancient evil known as the ‘Black Trident,’ form an uneasy alliance that allows him the power to command an ancient evil.
Saffron has compared the dynamics among the brothers to the 1982 action-comedy classic ’48 Hrs.,’ starring Nick Nolte as a cop and Eddie Murphy as a convict forced to work together, but with no real interest in staying together,” producers say, whose DC Studios conjured the universe of films, a mosaic series and two Shazams before climbing onto the throne. “The humor in this film is even more than the first one.”
Sain Francisca’s average roads saw Arthur and Orm arguing on a journey much stranger and encountering even weirder characters along the way than Redneck keepers. In the context of the film’s commitment to imaginative adventure, production designer Bill Brajesky’s special effect-drenched work on vintage films with Ray Harryhausen looms large, such as 1958’s ‘The Voyage of Sinbad’ and 1963’s ‘Jason and the Argonauts.’ Brajesky says, “James has turned it into his version of Harryhausen’s film.” “There are issues and challenges that modern audiences can relate to, but there’s also a grand quest and a monster in it.”
Today, Wan emphasizes that his approach to ‘Aquaman 2′ has remained consistent from the outset, despite what you may have read in the press. The Hollywood Reporter published an article in July of this year about the alleged difficulty of post-production on the film. It claimed that Wan had conducted three rounds of reshoots, most recently just a month ago, and that changes had been made to accommodate footage of Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton for Batman’s planned appearance. Warner Bros.’ release slate.
Asked whether Affleck and Keaton were indeed part of the film, Wan replied, “The tricky thing in the beginning was not knowing whether Aquaman or [The Flash] would come first. So, we just had to be ready. In the end, what I can say about this film is that it’s not connected to any of those films in any way. That’s the final word.” (Affleck, Keaton, and Momoa all appeared in The Flash, which was released in theaters last June.) So, does Batman not appear in Aquaman 2? The director says, “For now, no comment.”
Wan doesn’t dispute the report on The Hollywood Reporter, which claimed that Gunn had “locked” Aquaman’s sequel but producers also assert that the final product remains very much his vision. “I’ve known James for a long time, alright?” he says. “We’re scary guys, and that’s why I’m certainly open to ideas. But, at the end of the day, this is my film.”
As for the topic of reshoots, Wan firmly states that this kind of additional photography has become a regular part of big-budget film production, and he’s directed the introduction of new material in a controlled manner, between main shoots. He clarifies the situation, saying, “In this film, we have big actors, and everyone’s schedule is really tough. So, we had to split our shooting schedule into multiple parts. Now we’ll shoot some here because this actor is available, and then we’ll shoot some more because this guy is available. People say, ‘Oh, they’re shooting in different ways!’ No, if we were to get them all together, it wouldn’t be that many more days.”
When it comes to creating something special with additional photography, Wan has a formula that works. His 2018 horror film, ‘The Conjuring 2,’ saw one of the supernatural adversaries described by the director as a “big demon” recently introduced in a sequel. (“I shot it this way, and then when I got into post-production, it felt like too much.”) Instead, the director created the character of The Demon Nun during reshoots, as portrayed by Bonnie Aarons. He will reprise his role in her spinoff, ‘The Nun,’ and its sequel, ‘The Nun II,’ which is currently the country’s number one film after last week’s release. Today, the director says, “For me, extra photography is never a negative thing.” He elaborates, “I find new things, and I come up with new ideas. ‘The Conjuring 2’ was an ideal example for me of keeping an entire film together, and then – bingo! – a light bulb goes off in my head, and I say, ‘I know what to do.’ It’s the same here.
When talking about his film, Jason Momoa remains cautious when discussing the involvement of Amber Heard. In May 2022, the actress claimed that her role in the “Aquaman” sequel was reduced due to the negative publicity surrounding her breakup with Johnny Depp. Heard was testifying in a Virginia court as part of Depp’s defamation lawsuit against her for her 2018 Washington Post op-ed, in which she described her experiences with domestic abuse. Before Depp filed his defamation suit against Heard in US courts, he had lost his initial libel case in the UK in July 2020, where he was ordered to pay a $15 million judgment, reduced to $10.35 million due to Virginia law limits on punitive damages. In her three defamation countersuits, Heard won one and was awarded a $2 million judgment. She settled in 2022, dropping her and her ex-husband’s respective appeals.
When it comes to his role in “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” Momoa emphasizes that his focus has always been on the relationship between Arthur and Orm, rather than Arthur and his love interest Mera, as was the case in the 2018 film. He recalls, “I’ve always said it from the very beginning. The first ‘Aquaman’ was Arthur and my journey. The second one is all about Arthur and Orm. So, the first one was a romance action-adventure film, and the second one is a bromance action-adventure film. We’ll leave it at that.”
Last month, on a different note, a picture of director James Wan in a hospital bed was shared on Wan’s Instagram page. The accompanying message read, “These past few days and nights have been incredibly tough and scary.” “You never want to run to the ER in the middle of the night and then end up having to stay in the hospital. Cedars Sinai is the best, for real!!” The article was quickly deleted, and Wan refrained from explaining why he had to visit the hospital. However, he did deny that it was due to the stress of making this particular film.
He chuckled and said, “It’s a private matter that has nothing to do with Aquaman, really.” “Every movie kills me as a director, right? You can blame it on that. Every movie kills me. If a movie doesn’t kill you as a director, then you’re not doing your job right.”
It’s no surprise that Wan is more than happy to talk about the film’s buzz, as it has attracted a lot of attention from the press. When WB mentioned the buzz around the “Aquaman” sequel during production designer Brzeski’s comment on the film’s Lost Kingdom, the director was pleased and confirmed that his film tells a true epic story.
During the WB interview, when asked about people’s reactions after seeing the film, Wan said that the consistent feedback he’s been getting is that the film “doesn’t feel like your typical superhero movie, it feels more like an old-school Ray Harryhausen film.” He continued, “That, to me, is the biggest compliment because that’s what I was going for.”
The teaser released on Sunday gave fans a taste of the film’s underwater scenes and featured Wilson’s Orm gripping Arthur’s arm with a massive mechanical device. (The first full trailer will arrive tomorrow.) Wan revealed that the device is called “Octobot” and comes from the mysterious Lost Kingdom, a realm beneath the Seventh Sea that was constructed from the sunken remnants of Atlantis but mysteriously vanished. As previously shown in the first “Aquaman,” the story has revealed.
He says, “The funnest thing for me about this film is designing the Lost Kingdom.” “We get to see what the Lost Kingdom is, we look into that society, and within that, we see vehicles and toys and weapons and all sorts of things. Octobot is one of their transportation devices that operates both underwater and above water. Everything about the Lost Kingdom comes from my love of the Silver Age ‘Aquaman’ comics, which is from the 1960s. So, it’s a very retro experience.”
The teaser showed Aquaman and an octopus shooting out of the water on top of a massive sea horse. Wan confirmed that the horse is Storm, who first appeared in Aquaman comics in the mid-1960s, and his eight-legged friend is Topo, the same octopus briefly seen playing the drums in the first film. The director explained that Topo will have a “strong presence” in this film and that he is a real character.
Regarding the future of the franchise, Wan believes that the second film sets up a potential third film quite nicely, and audiences should demand it.
Wan says, “What I like about this and the previous one is that you really see Arthur’s development. He starts off as this kind of traveler, and in the second one, he ultimately has a direction of what he wants to do with his life. If and when there’s a third one, that’s what it should be about; it should be about developing these characters because I think we’ve put some things in the right place in the second film that you can definitely see in the third film. I don’t have a story, but in my mind, developing the characters is the most significant thing for the next Aquaman film.”
As for whether Wan would be interested in directing a third Aquaman film, he says, “Oh, friend, I don’t know. This film has taken so much of my life, my time. Now I can only think about a long break. Maybe not too close to the ocean.”
On December 20, “Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom” will be released in cinemas.