Patrick Wilson has been directed by James Wan in five different films – including Aquaman – having played both a troubled father whose family is haunted by evil entities to a real-life demonologist whose job revolves around exorcising said entities. In Aquaman, however, Wilson takes on a decidedly different role within Wan’s genre-spanning filmography as Arthur Curry’s complicated half-brother Orm.
In Aquaman, Orm is attempting to claim the title of Ocean Master, while also attempting to keep Arthur from claiming his rightful title as King of Atlantis. However, considering Orm is a far cry from most of the everyman characters Wilson has played in the past, his approach took new forms of inspiration. During a junket interview for Aquaman, we spoke with Wilson about Wan’s approach to directing action blockbusters versus horror, Orm’s live-action influence, Wilson’s background in musical theater, and even the “gentlemanly” Hans Gruber.
This is not your first time playing a character who has good intentions that are kind of misplaced. I think of you in Little Children.
Sure. Nice. Good reference.
What is it about those characters that you’re drawn to?
I like a good problem child. I like… Whenever I play somebody – whether they’re on the surface, if they’re good or bad – I look for the opposite in them. I try to find that. To me, that’s always fascinating, you know? And for me, the great villains and screen villains, too, I’ll take the gentlemanly personality of Hans Gruber over some maniacal, screaming bad guy. So, I always love to sort of play the opposite and play with that. So, I look for that in a character. What’s the opposite? What’s the good if he’s a bad guy, what’s the bad if he’s a good guy.
And you’re no stranger to villains. You’ve worked with James in the Conjuring movies and Insidious.
How was your experience- How would you describe the difference in being directed by James in a horror movie versus a big action movie like this?
The easy is answer is “no difference.” Just more time, more money, more toys, more visual effects. I think a great director – kind of like a great actor – a great director can tackle any genre, and I think he’s always had that in him. I knew that since the first Inidious movie we did together. I just knew if he had the opportunity- you know, it takes the success of one genre to be able to- for somebody to take a gamble and say, ‘Alright, can you do it with this genre?’ And then he does that, and then you open it up. And it’s very hard, I understand; I’ve never directed a film, but I- you know, actors get- it’s easier for us. He used to tell that to me. I’d say, “I don’t think I want to do another horror movie.” He’s like, “Come on, you get to do four different kinds of movies a year! I’m doing one genre. I spend a year with a movie, you can spend like a week!” So, I was like, “Touché. Good point.” But I’ve never looked at him like a horror director. He always leads with his heart, so there’s a great romantic comedy in that guy, too. I hope I’m in it. But there is, because if you look at all of his films, there’s always- he knows that it comes down to character and story, and whatever the device is or the medium or the genre, it doesn’t even matter. I mean, literally, with Insidious or Conjuring or Aquaman, they’re all sort of strange family dramas; they’re just told through different devices. Because I think that’s what people- you know, you see a character in peril, you see what’s wrong with them… “Oh, I wish they can work it out.” Whether it’s this or a horror movie.
So, Orm has a very grand presence…
Was there… Which I love.
I love how people describe that. Grand, operatic. I’ve heard a lot of different- yeah.
Where did you get that influence for the character? Was there something that- Did you take that from something? Or was it strictly the comics?
I think it’s a little of both. I think it’s also the confidence from James to go for it. When you see- when you google “Ocean Master,” no matter what artist has drawn him – and you put on that mask – you’ve got to fill that mask. You just have to. If you can’t, you have no business doing this if you’re gonna judge it or try to make him small or intimate. I mean, you just can’t. You’ve got to- you have to go there. And I love that. You know, I did theater, musical theater; I love embracing that melodrama, because it gives you a challenge to fill it. I always say whether you’re being a clown or a Greek tragedy or you’re doing a Sam Shepard play, you’ve got to fill those words. But the emotion, the intention is always the same. So, you understand his plight. I can go as big as you want, which, of course, we do.