‘Aquaman’ Director James Wan Calls VFX Oscars Snub ‘A F***ing Disgrace’

Director James Wan directs a scene in the 2018 film Aquaman with Jason Mamoa and Amber Heard.
Jason Boland / Warner Bros.

Aquaman director James Wan is not impressed with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for overlooking the special effects in his latest superhero film. In mid-December, the academy put out a shortlist of 10 films that will be involved in a “VFX bake-off” to determine the five official nominees for the Best Visual Effects Oscar. While a number of Marvel and Disney films made the cut, Wan’s effort for DC did not, despite impressive underwater special effects making up the bulk of the movie.

Nothing was made of the oversight in public when the shortlist was announced, but eagle-eyed internet fans, via The Wrap, recently noticed James Wan had let his true feelings on the matter show in a Facebook comment to Aquaman visual effects supervisor Kelvin McIlwain.

“You and your department are the unsung heroes of this film,” Wan wrote. “The fact that your VFX peers in the Academy aren’t recognizing or appreciating what we / you’ve all contributed to the film and cinema is a f***ing disgrace.”

“I’m with you, James,” McIlwain replied. “It was a complete shock to everyone that we are not in the final 10 films that will be presenting at the Academy VFX Bake-off. The selection process is very flawed in my opinion and too open to influence.”

The 10-film shortlist for the VFX Oscars includes Ant-Man and the Wasp, Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Christopher Robin, First Man, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Mary Poppins Returns, Ready Player One, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Welcome to Marwen.

Director James Wan, Amber Heard, Jason Momoa, and Patrick Wilson attend SiriusXM's Town Hall With The Cast Of 'Aquaman' on December 4, 2018 in New York City. (
  Cindy Ord / Getty Images for SiriusXM

Making an Aquaman film required leaping hurdles much higher than just erasing the character’s goofy reputation. As the Hollywood Reporter notes, two-thirds of Aquaman takes place underwater and the special effects required for even the simplest of scenes were extensive.

“It’s a very technically challenging shoot to be on,” Wan said during production in 2017. “Working with water, and even the dry-for-wet sequences are very complex. Our equivalent of two people sitting around chatting in the underwater world is super complicated. You have to think about CG with the hair, and how their clothing moves, how are they floating, what kind of rig we put them on and all that stuff.”

Even without official recognition from the academy, Wan and McIlwain can take solace in the fact that Aquaman is a massive hit for Warner Bros. Box Office Mojo reports it is expected to top the U.S. box office for a third weekend in a row. The movie’s performance overseas has been great as well, with the film already grossing over $846 million worldwide. Once considered a joke character by casual and hardcore comic book fans alike, Aquaman is now expected to become the first DC Extended Universe film to break the $1 billion mark.