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Film & screen,
Aquaman makes a splash on the Gold Coast
Sarah Ward | October 2, 2018
Aquaman arrives in cinemas on December 26, bringing the D.C. Comics hero to the big screen in his first standalone film — and showcasing the Gold Coast’s filmmaking prowess in the process.
Directed by Australian filmmaker James Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring films, Fast and Furious 7), the Warner Bros. Pictures production marks 77 years since the character’s debut comic book appearance, with the movie filmed in 2017 at Village Roadshow Studios and at other Gold Coast locations.
First playing Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and 2017’s Justice League, Jason Momoa returns to the role in an adventure that explores the figure’s origins. Half-human, half-Atlantean, Aquaman becomes caught between his life on land and his heritage under the sea. Australia’s Nicole Kidman features as the character’s mother, the Queen of Atlantis, while New Zealand actor Temuera Morrison (Once Were Warriors) plays his human father.
Also starring Amber Heard (Magic Mike XXL), Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man 2), Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring films), Dolph Lundgren (The Expendables films), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (The Get Down) and Ludi Lin (Power Rangers), Aquaman boasts a 2100- strong contingent of cast, crew and extras — 1700 of which are Queenslanders.
It’s the latest in a string of Gold Coast-shot Hollywood productions in recent years, including Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Unbroken, San Andreas, The Shallows and Thor: Ragnarok. Dora the Explorer is also currently shooting.
“We’ve had constant work, so crew have been able to stay here,” says Tracey Vieira, CEO of Screen Queensland. “We’ve seen some of our big international crew who’ve moved elsewhere many years ago all moving back home.”
“In many ways, we’re a lot like Hollywood in that everything is within a close proximity. You’ve got world-class infrastructure, crew who can do the biggest movies in the world, but equally you can be in jungle or beaches or desert, or in the safety of a soundstage.”
Aquaman location manager Duncan Jones, an industry veteran based on the Gold Coast for more than 20 years, drew upon the Gold Coast’s versatile landscape to help create the comic book character’s rich world.
“We go to several different countries — we achieve Canadian looks on the Gold Coast, we replicated parts of the Sahara desert, we went into the Italian Alps. It’s quite amazing that within a very short area, we could achieve so many different geographical looks that the film needed.”
The Gold Coast is also home to three water tanks, including Australia’s largest purpose-built facility, which “played a big part in the decision for Aquaman to film at Village Roadshow Studios,” says Village Roadshow Studios president Lynne Benzie.
Executive producer Rob Cowen had also filmed at the Studios before on San Andreas, and had a great experience — and was happy to bring Aquaman back to the Gold Coast to film, Benzie explains.
In partnership with Screen Queensland and Village Roadshow Studios, attracting productions to the area is the key aim of the City of Gold Coast’s Film Attraction Program, which supported Aquaman.
Beyond growing a sustainable local industry, bringing Hollywood productions to the Gold Coast provides significant economic benefits, with Aquaman spending more than AU$100 million. Vieira equates film shoots to a major event. “We accept that major events are here for a period of time, people come to them, they spend while they’re here and they go. Films do that, but they do that for a much longer period of time.”
Leveraging long-term tourism benefits after filming wraps up is among the City of Gold Coast and Screen Queensland’s other aims, endeavouring to attract more visitors to the region.
“If you think about places you go on holidays — a lot of our decisions about places we want to go, whether it’s for a cultural asset or for relaxation, often it’s because of the visual images that we’ve seen in movies and television,” notes Vieira.
See Film Gold Coast for more.