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Pedro Pascal on Wonder Woman 1984: 'It's a movie to remind us what it feels like to see a movie'

The actor, who stars as Maxwell Lord in the new film, speaks to us about his role.

IT’S BEEN AN amazing decade for Pedro Pascal. The Chile-born, mostly US-raised actor has been in the business for many years, starring on TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Mentalist, and Law and Order: Criminal Intent. 

But in June 2013, his star really started to rise when he was cast as Oberyn Martell in the fourth season of the globally successful Game of Thrones. Martell’s cocky attitude and bloody death brought attention to Pascal’s acting chops – though he’s joked in the past that he often ends up dead on screen – and saw him cast two years later in the Netflix show Narcos.

Fast forward to 2020 and Pascal is part of two major franchises. He’s now in the Star Wars universe, playing the titular Mandalorian in the Disney TV show, and hitting the big screen today in Wonder Woman 1984 as the complicated baddie Maxwell Lord.

‘It’s very emotional’

It’s the latter that TheJournal.ie chats to Pascal about on Zoom, as part of a busy press tour. It’s been a strange year for cinema, and just days previously word has already broken that Warner Bros, the studio behind Wonder Woman, will be releasing its 2021 slate of films in the US on HBO Max streaming and the cinema simultaneously.

Here in Ireland, we get to see Wonder Woman 1984 in the cinemas from today, and it is certainly the type of action film you really need to see on the big screen. 

This topic is clearly on Pascal’s mind as when he’s asked how he’s feeling about the release, he says: “It’s amazing. The thought of everyone getting a chance to see this, particularly now, is… it’s a very emotional one. I wanted to see this in the movie theatre, I wanted everyone to see this in the movie theatre, but, you know, 2020 is what 2020 is.

“And that being said, I also know that I – whether I was involved with it or not – would really need it. I need these couple of hours. Maybe repeatedly. Some escapism, some genuine entertainment, a movie that is literally tailored to remind us what it feels like to see a movie, you know?”

Source: Warner Bros. Pictures/YouTube

Wonder Woman 1984 is the sequel to (you guessed it) Wonder Woman, which came out in 2017 and was based on the DC Comics superhero story. Israeli actress Gal Gadot plays Diana Prince (Wonder Woman), who was raised among the Amazons. While that film was set during the first World War, this latest film situates Prince in 1984, where shoulder pads reign supreme. 

Prince is now trying to live a normal life, but hadn’t counted on coming across a few new foes, including Kristen Wiig, a mousy colleague of hers at the Smithsonian museum who transforms into Cheetah, and Pascal’s Maxwell Lord, a megalomaniacal businessman with a sad side. 

The film is crammed with big setpieces, and Pascal gets to enjoyably chew the scenery as the OTT bad guy. But director and writer Patty Jenkins and her co-writers Geoff Johns and David Callaham ensured that Maxwell Lord had an interesting backstory, so Pascal wasn’t just playing a one-note guy, he says. 

“It was incredible for me to play a character that wasn’t one-dimensional. I think that I credit Patty Jenkins so completely,” says Pascal. He points to Jenkins’ past films as evidence of her approach to ‘baddies’. Before the WW franchise, she directed Monster (2003), about the serial murderer Aileen Wuornos. Wuornos, played by Charlize Theron, was depicted as a complex character.

“There’s so much evidence to it in everything that she’s ever made. So [Lord's character] didn’t come as any kind of surprise. Maybe the size of the role is a surprise to me. And once I understood, you know, the kind of instrument that this character was in the story, it made perfect sense to me that I and we would have to risk fleshing it out and making it so whole, because that’s what [Jenkins] does,” says Pascal. 

“If you can remember her first movie Monster, Aileen Wuornos – [is a] classified serial killer, and [yet] it’s one of the most heartbreaking movies I’ve ever seen.”

That is some Jenkins magic. And unapologetic honesty in storytelling. And I love that. I credit her, I credit her 150% for it.

Asked if he had much input into the character, Pascal says that he didn’t have to give too much of it due to the hard work of the “geniuses” in the team around him.

“I knew the kinds of hands I was in as far as his aesthetic was concerned. So I loved being able to deliver myself into that so completely.”

Asked about influences for Lord, Pascal goes straight to Gordon Gekko, the suited and booted trader played by Michael Douglas in Wall Street (1987). He says he mentioned this to Jenkins, and “she said,’yeah, you know, it’s a component, you know, there’s part of it, but it’s not all that  -there’s a lot more’”.

“My initial instinct was to really go into what the references were. And then we steered away from all of that, because the goal was to achieve something that exists independently, original, although the image of it is so familiar to us, obviously, in very obvious ways. And I think that is either a conscious or unconscious way of keeping things sort of unpredictable and keeping you guessing, in terms of who you really do get to know and what ultimately motivates the character.”

He says it was unexpected what a “creative challenge it turned out to be”, and how “hard I had to work  – deliciously so – but how theatrical and simultaneously human we had to make this character”.

‘Power to the people’

Pascal was born in Santiago, Chile, to activist parents who had to flee the country due to being involved in the opposition movement against Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship.

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The family settled in the US, and Pascal has spent the last two decades in New York after being raised in both California and Texas. After studying acting, he worked on stage before getting his first credited TV role in 1999, which lead to his first film role in 2005. 

In a world that rewards the young, it feels like someone of Pascal’s age (45) achieving the level of fame he now has is somewhat unusual. And yet it is what it is – the culmination of hard work and some good breaks.

Another interesting factor is that he’s a close friend of Oscar Isaac, and it’s notable that both men are representing Latin American countries in the Star Wars franchise. 

PastedImage-90369 Source: Instagram

Pascal is clearly a politically engaged person, no doubt inspired by his own parents. A look at his Instagram shows his support for Pride and LGBT+ activists, Black Lives Matter, feminism and more. While Instagram and social media generally is an important thing for stars to leverage, seeing a high-profile actor like Pascal using this space not as a vanity tool but instead as a space to share ideas and beliefs feels quite radical.

Indeed, when asked about this, he immediately interjects with: “Power to the people.”

He continues: “It’s an interesting thing. I think that social media is something that I’ve come to kind of later in life and and also started to engage with before I was experiencing any kind of exposure.

“And I think there’s just sort of a stubborn part of me that, you know, I’m fully cooked, and I’m coming to these sort of experiences as a fully-formed person.”

So he’s not a star who’s going to leave his politics behind in an attempt to bolster his fame. “There are certain things that won’t be adjusted. And my heart is my heart,” he says. “And my background is my background, and I’m really proud of it.”

Hollywood can feel like a sanitised place, so it’s refreshing to know that there are stars like Pascal who exist – happy to be themselves and to advocate for others… but also happy to play a bad boy in an action-packed superhero film when needed.

Wonder Woman 1984 is in cinemas now. Check your local cinema for details.

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