Momoa & Heard In Snyder-Helmed The Fountainhead? $1B Victory Lap: Aquaman NYC Junket Portraits

JM waxes, well, parafin, as he kens the totality of himself, as an idol. All images by Michael Vazquez c. 2019

By Michael Vazquez

GEAR: Pentax 645Z, PENTAX D-FA 645 MACRO 90mm F2.8 ED AW SR

Given the pre- and post-AQM conversations on superhero flicks, I’ll be posting an essay (that I’ve been working on for too long) on same. This weekend’s box-office news got me to finally upload these — converted (in MS Word!) from 50MB out-of-camera JPEGs to absolutely tiny 200KB files, by way of testing the IQ of Pentax’s worthwhile and affordable medium-format 645Z.

Awaiting Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson and director James Wan at the downtown Four Seasons Hotel, we got what a fellow attendee rightly dubbed “A full-on Comic Con vibe” — what with the school of real-life Atlanteans (scroll down for a gallery of 10 quickie-portraits shot in less than 2 minutes) travelling through the dark, aquatically lit gallery of AQM paraphernalia, the entire scene anchored by a life size Momoa-as-AQM-figure, holding it down like a bubble-blowing deep-sea diver figurine in a fishbowl, into which he walks, directly countenancing an existential self-confrontation of sorts, as he is inevitably the center of attention in a room wherein, before he even arrived, this formidable likeness of himself was already said center. Which is to say it was more or less another day at the office for the shambling gamer…

Caption contest: “I’d date me.” / “Damn, they made my feet kinda small.” Your thoughts?

One imagines Momoa has grown a little with each box-office knockout, feeling taller during every junket arrival, as he sizes-up against the outré anatomical proportions and also just the, well, bonanza media-property bossness this wax figure currently totems, as he gives a studio much-welcomed new meaning to the words “underwater movie”, knocking off blockbuster after blockbuster, and currently in the fight of his life, battling a formidable tag-team duo in the spot just above him — no, not Batman Versus Superman; he’s already taken them to the mat, ditto vache sacré, The Dark Knight.

The crown he seeks is for true oceanic supremacy, for which there will be a bloodier battle than any (edited-out) Shark VS. Seahorse throw-down, as AQM, currently swimming at a depth of #3 all-time box-office for an underwater movie, aims to surface and occupy the #1 spot, which is being viciously defended by a formidable tag team of life-aquatic OGs: Nemo and Dory. What could be greater than a king? In a word — per the equally, globally beloved clownfish and regal blue tang: an even more successful sequel/spinoff. ’Til then, these two still rule the sea.

A billion dollar sequel/spin-off— or in the case of AQM, given the costumes, and by way of a goofy, made-up compound-word— a “sequin-off”, gives AQM bigger fish to fry, and creates a really fun, creative challenge for AQM’s team, to which I’ve no doubt they’re equal, if they’re willing to tell bold(er) 21st-century stories to a global population, and cut no corners doing so.

Anyway, shooting this moment reminded me of the screening the night before when, arriving early, I — or rather, my ego — had to contend (for over an hour!) with the floor-to-ceiling enhanced visual of AQM onscreen…and so, twenty-four hours later, it was funny to watch Momoa try to stare down the myth-making — though of course, he’d certainly worked with this statue before at other junkets, and, being a gamer, modestly shambled up to the icon, of, well, himself, taking it in anew with the rest of us .

I found myself moronically musing on how, just as Andy Warhol’s Coke can was/is a great democratizer (giving him a buzz-up about the fact that a glamorous, poolside Marilyn Monroe was having the same can of Coke he was, in dreary Pittsburgh), thus also, is the two-story-high digitally-enhanced Aquaman facing us at the screening, ironically equalizing one with Momoa — specifically, in its dual (and humorous) intimidation (on at least one level) of the star himself, and the audience.

In-person, the affable Momoa unintentionally undercuts his Aquaman in a way that is relatable, real, even when he’s reaching, accommodating or engaging in the instant-ness of expectation during countless appearances. He’s as surprised — and yet also as completely unsurprised — by this level of success and stardom, as his fans are. The fans were always there; it just took a movie for them to be censused.

Simply put, he’s got that exceptional everydude patina about him; that added mystique and profile of other exceptional everydudes-by-way-of-Hawaii — Keanu Reeves, Bruno Mars, Laird Hamilton, Barack Obama — who seem to emerge fully formed, with a charisma-slash-self-possession that, when exported, translates into a near-universal appeal. Beyond the leading man, I’ll be posting notes on the other actors and the director, in an upcoming essay.

Well done, Mr. Wan…’way to keep your wits about you on a high-stakes gig.

Zak Snyder Directing Momoa & Heard In The Fountainhead?

Apologies for the sensational headline, however, while there are varied ponderances about what the sequel in this franchise will be about, to my feeble mind, beyond superheroes, there may be gold (or, at least, bronze) of the literary adaptation variety to be found in the casting of Momoa and Heard.

Specifically, with Zak Snyder owning the rights to the very worthwhile The Fountainhead, who says Howard Roark has to look like Gary Cooper — well, other than Rand, whose characters’ physical attributes she describes with sufficient clarity to preclude Momoa, if following the letter of the text. However, casting someone different wouldn’t be the first liberty taken by a studio, for better or worse. And casting of a safely feral — by way of what? Chaps by Ralph Lauren? — rebel like Momoa as a 21st century architect, maybe an eco-savvy, green hero could be done, well, swimmingly — further manifesting the oft-quoted James Wan process-note about bringing AQM to Momoa more than Momoa to AQM, all of which is entirely apropos to such a casting for The Fountainhead.

After all, a rebel architect leaves ample casting latitude, and Momoa could work out nicely as the headstrong (and maybe even dreadlocked, ha!) individualist Howard Roark, alongside Heard, whose Deneuvian mug renders her suitable as his ally, Dominique Francon, the independent, moral-yet-cynical, highly passionate architecture critic who battles and consents on her own terms to trophy-wife status, in order to forestall her destiny with a rebel who she will watch pay an enormous price for his inviolable independence, integrity.

And while I personally don’t think Rand ever offered anything resembling a philosophy — indeed, I consider her a true nihilist, while the heart-strong, uncompromising Nietzsche always gets the bum rap — I have a special place in my eternally post-adolescent heart for most of The Fountainhead — the book and the movie, the latter of which I last saw on the now-gone Filmstruck.com (a very special “Thanks a lot!” to AT&T/Warner Media, whatever you wanna call yourselves…other than a monopoly that shouldn’t have been approved).

Some earnest journos….

When shooting the Atlanteans, I thought of their hustle and maybe romanticized a little bit about it, conceiving of them updating their résumés to include “Portrayed Atlantean, alongside Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, and James Wan for global promotion of Aquaman”.

‘Gotta give it up to the actors —I mean when did Emma Stone’s performance in La La Land win-over voters in various guilds? No one can say, of course, but I’m guessing that when she auditioned for the umpteenth time, and was turned down, being told in not so many words that her hard work simply wasn’t being seen, the film delivered a highly relatable moment, perhaps particularly for the SAG folks.

Anyway, herewith, a super-quickly shot portraits gallery of “The Atlanteans” — some of the hard-working, non-marquee actors that make films, events truly work…special thanks to the Atlantean lady who cat-called me.

Eyes closed unintentionally, and I decded to keep it, because it looks like he’s conuring aquatic powers.
Eyes closed intentionally.

All images by Michael Vazquez c. 2019 Gear used: Pentax 645Z, PENTAX D-FA 645 MACRO 90mm F2.8 ED AW SR

Notes on tone: this is a blog. My blog. You can start your own HERE

Extra-credit reading:

Melissa McCarthy on being a broke actor + now-gone NYC bookstores

PJ Harvey Plays Summerstage

Notes From A Time When Every day Was Record Store Day

Op-Ed on Cliff diving at the 2020 Olympics and pictorial from Italy

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