After decades as a pop-culture punch line, Aquaman is the reigning king of the DC Extended Universe. James Wan’s supersize aquatic adventure movie has earned more than $1.1 billion (and counting) since its Dec. 21 release, putting the bispecies hero (played by the biracial Jason Momoa) well ahead of DC’s Holy Trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Before 2018, almost no one would have predicted that Aquaman would emerge as DC’s most popular movie hero.
No one, that is… except James Cameron. Back in the summer of 2006, the filmmaker behind The Terminator franchise helmed an Aquaman movie that earned $116 million in its opening weekend, and kept on swimming to become the highest-grossing movie of all time, topping even his own megahit Titanic. “I thought I did a pretty good job on that,” Cameron tells Yahoo Entertainment, chuckling. “I thought I stuck the landing on that film.” (Watch our video interview above.)
Don’t remember Cameron’s Aquaman? That’s because it only exists in the Entourage extended universe. HBO’s behind-the-scenes-of-Hollywood series cheekily cast Cameron as himself for a recurring Season 2 and Season 3 storyline in which movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) scored the title role in the director’s first fictional foray into comic book movies. (Cameron’s first real comic book movie is Alita: Battle Angel, based on the popular Japanese manga. Directed by Robert Rodriguez, the futuristic sci-fi spectacle opens in theaters on Feb. 14.)
Besides Chase, the cast included Mandy Moore as Aquagirl, Ray Liotta and Sharon Stone as Aquaman’s parents (roles played by Temuera Morrison and Nicole Kidman in the 2018 film) and James Woods as the designated villain, Abaddon. Despite launching an entire franchise, neither the director nor the star returned for the sequel. As Entourage lore goes, Aquaman 2 swapped Cameron out for Michael Bay, while Chase was replaced by future Spider-Man nemesis Jake Gyllenhaal.
So what does the director of the “first” Aquaman movie think about Wan’s version? “I think it’s great fun,” Cameron says, adding that it’s a film he’d never have been able to direct, either in 2006 or today, not because of the degree of technical difficulty, mind you, but because of its deliberately fantastical tone. “I never could have made that film, because it requires this kind of total dreamlike disconnection from any sense of physics or reality,” he admits. “People just kind of zoom around underwater, because they propel themselves mentally, I guess, I don’t know. But it’s cool! You buy it on its own terms.”
To get a sense of what Cameron’s version of Aquaman might look like, he points to his prolific career as a deep-sea diver. “I’ve spent thousands of hours underwater. … While I can enjoy that film, I don’t resonate with it because it doesn’t look real.” The director also suggests his history of environmental activism would play a more prominent role than it does in Wan’s movie. “They did throw in a couple of things with whales and things like that to remind us that we are kind of using the ocean as a toilet and as a garbage dump,” he notes. “So I applaud the film for that.”
Cameron also applauds Wan for joining the billion-dollar club with Aquaman — a goal he previously reached with both Titanic and Avatar. At the same time, he can’t resist a little friendly competition with his fellow Ocean Master. “Come back when you hit your second billion and you’re on your way to your third — then we’ll talk,” he jokes. Better call the drum-playing octopus! Looks like we’ve got another match that can only be settled in the Ring of Fire!
Aquaman swims onto digital services on March 5 (pre-order on iTunes and Vudu) and on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD on March 26. (Pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Walmart.) View showtimes and tickets for Alita: Battle Angel at Fandango.
Watch: James Wan on shooting Aquaman’s most terrifying scene:
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