Amber Heard on Not Being the Damsel in Distress in ‘Aquaman’
During a break in filming on the set of James Wan’s Aquaman last year in Australia, I got to participate in a group interview with Amber Heard. Even though she’d been working non-stop that day, when she sat down with us she couldn’t have been nicer and more excited to talk about her character. As most of you know from Justice League, Heard is playing Mera, a warrior of Atlantis who uses hydrokinesis to control water.
During the wide-ranging interview, Heard talked about what drew her to the character, how Zack Snyder pitched her the role, how she’s not playing a damsel in distress, the way Aquaman is a lot of different genres mixed together, the challenges of making a big budget superhero movie, how she’s not playing Aquawoman, and a lot more.
Check out what she had to say below. Aquaman will be in theaters December 21st.
Question: One of the things that’s cool that we learned about the film today is that there’s a lot of different tones, it is romantic comedy, there is an influence from Romancing the Stone, Raiders of the Lost Ark, can you talk about that aspect of the film?
AMBER HEARD: I actually liked that about this film as well. I was drawn to the script because it was— it didn’t sacrifice one element in order to achieve the other. It’s doing it all. It’s as much adventure as it is classic superheroes, as it maintains elements of rom-com. I mean, it has all of these elements. And, of course, done by a horror master. So I really like that our film kind of respects all these different genres. I was drawn to the adventure probably the most. The locations on this alone, I mean, the table read was fun. To just listen to it, it’s a real adventure, and that’s without any visuals, as you can imagine.
Peter told us that this isn’t so much of a love story between Aquaman and Mera, it’s more of a partnership. But with such beautiful actors, how do these characters not fall in love?
HEARD: That’s the thing, I know what you mean. He is really hard to look at, you know? We all know that. But you know, the thing I really like about this is I feel it has a more modern approach, I think, to what would otherwise be a more classic superhero formula. This is very much a story where they are equal partners. Because they come from different worlds, their strengths are very different. Where one excels in one world, the other is a fish out of water. Pun intended. [Laughs] I guess I’ll be saying that a whole lot. Just gonna get used to owning it! But it’s true. Mera, when she’s on the surface world, it’s very much an alien world to her. Same way that when Arthur is in Atlantis, he’s completely out of his element. But we both excel at being in our own worlds, and because we have our own identities and because our identities are tied up in who we are in our respective worlds, we share equal responsibility in the journey.
So it’s not like he comes in and saves her…
HEARD: Never. And what I really love is that it does not rely on this whole damsel in distress formulaic thing we see all the time, we’ve seen a million times. He doesn’t rescue the girl and then save the world. He doesn’t — in fact, I save him. Like I said, they go on this adventure as equal partners and they end it that way. There is an element of attraction there, but it is not the thing — because they have a job to do, they have a mission to fulfill and are equal partners in the success or failure of that mission, that takes a back seat to this. Their relationship, that element is not the driving force or what brings them together.
Can you talk a little bit about what Mera can and can’t do in this film?
HEARD: So I control water. Mera’s power, other than just being a warrior princess in Atlantis, is that she also can control water, a power that becomes in quite handy as you will see. Not only in this scene, but it plays throughout the mission, throughout their entire journey. She relies on hydrokinesis to kind of save the world and stuff.
You mentioned the strong identities for Mera and Aquaman, what drives Mera? What is her end goal besides trying to keep everything from getting destroyed?
HEARD: Mera is strongly tied to — she has a strong sense of duty and responsibility that’s tied to Atlantis and her role in Atlantis. She deeply cares about her position that she believes she was not just born to do, that she has worked her whole life to be able to do well. It’s not enough just to have inherited this position. Her sense of honor and duty is intrinsically tied to her place in leading Atlantis and doing the right thing for her people.
On the heels of Wonder Woman, a badass icon, what would you say makes Mera a badass of her own?
HEARD: Mera’s her own woman. She’s her own superhero. She’s not Aquawoman. She’s Mera. Part of what got me, you know…when I first talked to Zack [Snyder] on the phone about the prospect of doing this film, he said, ‘She’s a warrior queen.’ Basically, you get a sword and a crown. And I was like, ‘OK, you know how to pitch to your audience.’ Alright, I’m listening now. ‘Cause at first, I don’t want to be a damsel, I’ve played a range of characters, as diverse as I’ve been able to. Being a woman, especially a bit of a young woman in this industry, raising myself in this industry, it’s been limited, but I’ve done the most with what I can, especially considering that. The one thing, the one element they all have in common is that they’re driven or powerful in their own right. I’ve not been interested in playing reactionary women or weak female characters. Mera is the definition of a strong, driven, independent woman. Aside from the whole sword and crown comment, what really sold me on this project, I was doing my research and was reading the graphic novels, and in one of the first ones I read, there’s a scene, some natural disaster in open water, a tsunami hits on the land, and of course Aquaman comes in and saves the day and civilians are like, ‘Oh my god, it’s Aquaman!’ And they turn to Mera, who has done equal work in saving this village, and they’re like, ‘Who are you? Are you Aquawoman?’ And she’s like, ‘No, I’m not Aquawoman. I’m Mera, I have my own name.’ And I was like, I like this. I like this woman. I respect it as a character, I respect it as a person. I also respect it as the average modern woman, who is sick and tired of seeing the same old, two-dimensional, reactionary, passive roles that are limited to being rescued or enchanting the male protagonist. I feel I have a lot more to offer in life and I’m bored with those characters when I watch them.