Photo by Lisa David/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Aquaman has undoubtedly made a big splash on Philippine seas, thanks to the leading cast Jason Momoa and Amber Heard and director James Wan's fan-centric visit to Manila on Tuesday, December 11. (READ: IN PHOTOS: 'Aquaman' stars Jason Momoa, Amber Heard in Manila)
During the separate events, the trio indulged their audience in a variety of topics, ranging from costumes, mixed race identities, female superhero representation, and of course, their love for their Filipino fans.
The three were of high spirits, considering that they just came from China beforehand, as part of their four-continent Aquaman premiere tour.
Jason acknowledged the importance of fan and press events to him and James, as it resonates mostly because of their nationalities. “As far as I’m concerned, the Philippines is like the 10th island for Hawaii," Jason chuckled.
"There are more Filipinos in Hawaii than there are Hawaiians. We’re kind of basically family.”
The solo DC superhero film Aquaman revolves around Arthur Curry who is from two separate worlds: Earth and the underwater kingdom, Atlantis. As part human and part Atlantean, Aquaman finds himself struggling to reconcile both worlds, which he must for the sake of both.
This wasn't the hero's only struggle though – Arthur also had to learn how to come to terms with his own mixed identity.
“I think we’re pretty dead-on similar,” Jason said about identifying with the King of Atlantis.“My upbringing was 100% two different worlds. One race, and another race. I can identify with it. I love both places very much, I’m surrounded by people who love their homes and never want to leave it.”
“I’m just one of those people that wanders. I can totally understand it. It’s not necessary as an actor to need that, but it’s really cool to play a superhero like that. This is something I can relate to, to pass down to children who may come from the same parents. It’s really cool that he's mixed race, its neat to be the face of that, and to come from that. It’s perfect timing, it was meant to be.”
"I feel like it’s an honor to be here and to also represent someone with the same mythology, the same history, and James does too. It's very important for me.”
Even director James Wan had something to say about his own personal “mixed” background, sharing that this was something he intentionally incorporated into the story. “I was born in Malaysia but grew up in Australia. Culturally I am from two separate worlds as well, and for me, growing up you kind of push one aside and embrace the other one more,” he said.
“But I realized as I grew older, I’ve been embracing my other side just as much. I think that’s something we’ve worked into the script and story. A hero who is from two separate worlds and he doesn’t feel like he belongs to either world. But what he ultimately discovers is that he is the best of both worlds - he ends up embracing his identity. That's something I've learned too, growing older.”
The kick-ass princess
Mera, the red-haired Atlantean princess who does the female superhero name justice, is played by Amber Heard, who couldn’t be happier to play the bad-ass role, both as an on-screen hero and as a real-life translation of strong women today.
“That’s part of why I’m so happy to have the chance to play this character, Mera,” Amber told the audience. “Mera is a warrior, she’s a princess, but that’s just a title. She’s active, driven, strong, fierce, bad-ass, kick-ass, tough, intelligent, warrior, a superhero in her own right… who just so happens to be, yes, a woman."
"I love that about her. I love that she’s all of those things. Truly a kick-ass superhero on her own, and I get to play that and speak to a growing demand that we’re finally starting to meet in the entertainment industry – one that speaks to the lack of roles that are offered or are available to women, which paint a fuller, larger, bolder, stronger more accurate depiction of the female experience."
"We need more representation in all aspects of the industry, especially in the comicbook superhero world. It’s incredibly thrilling and energizing for me to be able to answer that demand and be a part of the change as we start to see our demands being met - our demands for increased representation across the board."
"To do it in a movie where I wasn’t compromised, my strength wasn’t compromised, to me, speaks to exactly what we need to be calling for, demanding for. I love that I can be this woman now. It’s one thing to play a kick-ass, cool character anyway, but to be to able to be one in this day and age is incredibly important for me, both as an actress, and as a person.”
“Mera is like Wonder Woman – empowered, strong, and has her own narrative. In our story, Mera is the driving force for the whole story. She is what makes Arthur Aquaman. She not only allows him to realize his destiny, but she figures everything out first, she acts on that, and she acts on it with strong will and decisive force. She is no damsel in distress. We really need a lot more roles like this with women. Girls and boys need more people like that to look up to growing up, and so many more heroes to admire."
Did she feel the same affinity towards her costume, though? “It looked so cool and effortless but in reality, it’s the opposite," she laughed. "It’s a skin-tight, scaly, aquamarine vacuum-sealed corseted condom… It’s as unforgiving as you can probably imagine.”
They were also asked if they believed they were anyone's superheroes in real life.
“Probably to my kids,” Jason said. “For a couple more years.”
“To no one! Maybe to my little doggies? Or to Annabelle," Wan laughs, who is also known for his work on popular horror film franchises, The Conjuring and Insidious.
James also shared how his roots in the horror genre helped play a part in the making of Aquaman, which is on horror's opposite end, being that it is a family-friendly movie. “Every movie I make, regardless of its genre, I learn stuff from it and I carry it on to my next project."
"What I want from making scary movies is creating characters that people really care about, that’s super important. If your audience cares about your characters, they get scared when I put them in scary situations, because the audience cares about them and feels the same way they do. It’s the same approach to this film - creating likeable characters, finding the best actors, and finding interesting drama within the characters themselves to cultivate that sort of emotion. It’s story-telling. It doesn’t matter what genre it’s in.”
With the hype and approaching success of the newest DC film, is there a possibility for a sequel? “We’d all be so excited if the movie did really well," Jason said. "We’ll do our best to try to make that happen.”
Their visit to Manila ended on the evening of Tuesday, December 11, as the stars took the time to take selfies with fans, sign memorabilia, fan art, and basically, just interact with them during the packed Fan Event.
“I’m so overwhelmed. Thank you, Manila,” Jason Momoa told screaming fans while on stage. “I’ve never received this much love in my life.”
“Kumusta! Thank you, Manila," Amber Heard also chimed in.
“Salamat, Manila!” James Wan shouted.
Jason, with much energy, addressed the crowd with all his heart. “It’s the biggest honor to represent the islands, to represent diversity, and to represent mixed race. It’s very much a pleasure and I hope you love it. It means the world to me. I love you guys!”
Photo by Lisa David/Rappler
"I’m rarely awestruck. Thank you so much, I love you guys. Enjoy this movie." – Rappler.com
Aquaman is showing in Philippine cinemas nationwide, starting Wednesday, December 12.
If she’s not writing about food, she’s probably thinking about it. From advertising copywriter to freelance feature writer, Steph Arnaldo finally turned her part-time passion into a full-time career. She’s written about food, lifestyle, and wellness for Rappler since 2018.