For Pedro Pascal, this is the way to play a villain when you're also the coolest hero in the galaxy

  • Pedro Pascal steals some of the show as the villain in "Wonder Woman 1984."

    Pedro Pascal steals some of the show as the villain in "Wonder Woman 1984." Courtesy of Warner Bros.

 
 
Posted12/29/2020 6:00 AM

The plan was never for Pedro Pascal to simultaneously play a villain and save the galaxy, but here we are.

This month, the Chile-born actor is a part of not one but two heavyweight entertainment properties at their peak. Disney Plus's "The Mandalorian," the biggest thing to happen to the Star Wars universe since "Star Wars," wrapped up its second season on Dec. 18. And "Wonder Woman 1984," perhaps Warner Bros. and DC's most relevant superhero franchise, which finally made its debut in select theaters and the streaming service HBO Max on Christmas.

 

Pascal was pitched the lead role in "The Mandalorian" right after he began working on "Wonder Woman 1984" in 2018. But the planet-size expectations of these two worlds were not supposed to orbit so closely to each other. "Wonder Woman 1984" was scheduled for a worldwide theatrical release in June, but the pandemic caused a delay, before Warner Bros. made the controversial decision to debut it on big and small screens at the same time.

"I think more than ever in my life I wanted that to be shared and wanted [it] to be seen with a very, very, very wide audience and on a very, very, very big screen," Pascal told The Washington Post. Still, he is relieved that fans will finally see it, regardless of the form. "[The delay] was breaking my heart and then to come full circle and to know that especially now that we will be able to share it no matter what way or in the safest way possible, is very poignant."

It won't be a summer movie event. But perhaps it can be a holiday distraction.

"I know that I would need this right now," Pascal said. "Just two and a half hours of it, and for it to carry me through the rest of the day or the rest of the week or to see it again and to have a nostalgic experience -- like a good, classic, entertaining film, but also [with] just sort of the unapologetically open intention of giving people hope and humanity right now."

He added, "As soon as it's safe, I know that I personally am desperate to go back and to be with people and to be around people and to be an audience member with people, whether it be in a theater, whether it be watching a movie, a play, live music."

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In "Wonder Woman 1984," Pascal plays Maxwell Lord, a classic nemesis who debuted in 1987 in the pages of DC Comics. He's a powerful telepath, but in the film he finds other means to play with the minds of the innocent and not so innocent.

In the comics, Lord and Wonder Woman have a violent relationship. Their rivalry hits the big screen as a cautionary tale, with Wonder Woman (played once again by Gal Gadot) instantly recognizing Lord as someone who wants ultimate power and knowing how potentially dangerous that can be.

Pascal says when offered the role he envisioned more than just the bad guy.

"I saw such a whole character, and I saw something very special that they were after, to create the impact of villainy in a very original way," Pascal said. "Weirdly, it was stripping things away. Stripping the brooding, stripping the coolness away and playing somebody in a way kind of exposed, even though he's so full of lies."

The early '80s setting gives Pascal's evildoer an infomercial vibe, with Max Lord being the guy on the television who can make your dreams come true . . . for a price. (Some critics are comparing him to Donald Trump, though Pascal has downplayed comparisons.) It was a look and feel Pascal had no issues re-creating.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I was born in '75, and I absorbed the '80s like a sponge, for better or for worse," he said.

To help match his antenna-transmitted ambition, Pascal was asked to shave off his trademark swashbuckling mustache that has followed him through roles in "Game of Thrones," "Narcos" and the Star Wars universe in the rare moments he can take off his Mandalorian helmet (which he did for the second time in the series in the episode that aired on Dec. 11). Pascal is adamant the facial hair removal was real and not the digital disaster that was Henry Cavill's lip service in the widely panned "Justice League."

"I look like a senator," he said. "Or your aunt."

Regardless of any swag lost due to a razor, Pascal was so impressed with the first "Wonder Woman" movie in 2017 that in the sequel he'd have gladly played "a doormat." When he watched the now-famous "No Man's Land" scene, when Wonder Woman makes her superhero introduction on a World War I battlefield, "I remember being very aware that I was having an emotional experience to an action sequence," he said.

At this point in the Zoom interview, Pascal even got animated, moving his wrists in the same manner Gadot did when she was deflecting bullets from the enemy with her indestructible Amazonian bracelets. Seeing a war zone called "No Man's Land" and the woman who conquered it by tossing tanks and leading men was a cinematic moment he wanted to be a part of.

Pascal said, "Frankly, it made me cry."

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