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Why Willem Dafoe Isn’t Returning for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

Willem Dafoe in Aquaman

Although Willem Dafoe played Arthur Curry’s mentor Vulko in 2018’s Aquaman, the character won’t be returning for the sequel. Now, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom director James Wan has explained why.

In an interview with EW, Wan was asked whether Dafoe was returning as Vulko. “Willem is not in this one, no,” the director explained. “Part of the reason was because his schedule did not work out for us. But what that allowed me to do was expand on Atlanna’s role. Atlanna in this one ultimately becomes Arthur’s advisor. Because Arthur’s not from this world, she helps him better understand the world and the politics of how things work.”

Related: Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom Trailer Teases an Epic Battle, Team-Up Between Old Enemies

Dafoe’s Vulko was a major part of Aquaman and helped him to better navigate his conflict with King Orm, Curry’s half-brother. It’s not clear at this time how the movie will explain his absence, and I’m sad to know Dafoe, an actor whose work I always enjoy, will be absent the movie. Instead, Wan has made clear Dafoe’s role will be filled by Atlanna, played by Nicole Kidman. In the context of the film, Atlanna is the mother of both Curry and Orm.

The original Aquaman made major ways at the box office, earning more than $1.44 billion at the worldwide box office against a budget of between $160 and $200 million. However, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is releasing under a completely different context for the DC Extended Universe, which has recently seen a string of box office failures in The FlashBlack Adam, and Blue Beetle. Just whether the appetite is there for another Aquaman film remains to be seen.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is set to debut on Dec. 20. The film is said to have a budget of approximately $205 million.

About the author

Liam Nolan
Liam Nolan is the Managing Editor of The Escapist. After getting his Master of Arts in English in 2016, he began writing about comics, television, movies, and video games, with his work appearing at such outlets as, CBR, and The Mary Sue. When he's not writing on pop culture, you can find Liam working on his creative projects or traveling. He's been with The Escapist since 2023. You can follow him on Twitter @LD_Nolan or on Bluesky