Why one major Aquaman character isn't returning in the sequel, according to director James Wan

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom trailer made waves earlier this week, but one actor is conspicuous by their absence. Yep, Willem Dafoe – who played Arthur’s mentor Vulko in the 2018 original – isn’t returning for the under-the-sea sequel. 

According to director James Wan, it’s simply a case of scheduling conflicts – though the lack of Vulko has allowed storytelling opportunities to open up elsewhere in Atlantis.

"Willem is not in this one, no," Wan told Entertainment Weekly. "Part of the reason was because his schedule did not work out for us."

What that does do, however, is part the sea for Nicole Kidman’s Atlanna to make a splash. In the same interview, Wan hinted at the former queen of Atlantis having a bigger part to play in the DC sequel.

"What that allowed me to do was expand on Atlanna's role. Atlanna in this one ultimately becomes Arthur's advisor," Wan said. "Because Arthur's not from this world, she helps him better understand the world and the politics of how things work."

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is all set to hit cinemas on December 20, 2023. It’s also going to be the 15th and final movie in the DC Extended Universe. What’s next for Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is unclear, though a previous video from the actor hinted that big moves were being made in regards to him and his place in James Gunn and Peter Safran’s new cinematic universe. DCU Chapter One will begin with Creature Commandos, with Superman: Legacy to follow on July 11, 2025.

For more, check out the new superhero movies you have to look forward to in the coming years.

Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.