Denis Villeneuve, known for intense and weighty films such as Prisoners and Sicario, has made a recent transition into the world of science fiction. His latest movie, Arrival, which follows a linguist who tries to figure out how to communicate with recently arrived aliens and what they want before war breaks out, has just debuted at the Venice film festival. However, Villeneuve wasn’t in Venice for the debut, but was instead on set in Hungary, shooting the Blade Runner sequel. And thanks to an interview with Deadline, we have some interesting details on sci-fi film Arrival, why Villeneuve has shifted to sci-fi and even some bits of Blade Runner sequel news.
Denis Villeneuve on Moving to Sci-Fi
“It’s been 30 years that I wanted to shoot science-fiction but I never found the right thing.”
Villeneuve added that when he found Story of Your Life (the short story Arrival is based on), it was exactly the type of thing he wanted to do.
“I met the producers Dan Choen and Dan Levine after they saw Incendies and they asked me what I’d like to do and I said I’d like to to do a science-fiction film. They gave me the short story which I really thought was magnificent.”
He wasn’t able to start working on it right away as he was busy with Prisoners, but the producers had screenwriter Eric Heisserer write a script. Eventually, Villeneuve was able to come onboard, and he and Heisserer began reworking the script.
On Changing the Title
Villeneuve knew a title change was coming from the start, as they were making big changes to the story and adding completely new elements. The change was partly out of respect for Ted Chiang’s original story, but “also because we found the title worked very well for a short story, but in general people around me and myself reacted that it sounded more like a romantic comedy and not really a science-fiction film.”
After long brainstorming sessions and hundreds of titles, they settled on Arrival, suggested by a producer early in the project’s life. The title “seemed to me the best. Even if it wasn’t ideal, it was the best.”
On How Sci-Fi Film Arrival Relates to the Current Political Landscape
Sicario dealt with a number of political issues, including foreign policy. When asked about the politics of Arrival, Villeneuve responded “It’s not exactly foreign policy, but we see to what extent the world is fragile when the slightest event — which is not ultimately threatening — what interests me is the human reactions. Faced with (the aliens’) approach, there is a paranoia that develops and a tension that develops, a disequilibrium. They’re there to teach something, but they don’t have a hidden agenda like in the majority of science-fiction stories.”
He added that Arrival wasn’t meant to comment on the current political situation in America.
On Arrival’s Chances of Success
“Will Arrival be successful? I have no idea. I think it’s a film that has a beautiful poetry. It’s fragile on certain angles and I’m very nervous about on the release. I have no idea. Each film I feel like I’m taking a lot of risk and I really want to see what happens.”
And Finally, On the Blade Runner Sequel
As mentioned, Villeneuve wasn’t able to attend the festival because of work on the sci-fi sequel. “This is the first time I can’t come [with one of my films to a festival]. The (Blade Runner) schedule is so tight that I can’t leave the set; technically the film is so complicated I couldn’t move the days.”
When asked if he ever thought he’d get the chance at such a high profile sci-fi movie, he replied, “No, I never would have dared imagine that! I still pinch myself sometimes in the morning. It’s really… I’ve never been this inspired. Everyone on the team is really inspired. It’s a bit berserk that we’re taking this risk. It feels like you are flirting with disaster every morning. At the same time, I have actors that are really wonderful, who are really impressive. I am really impressed by Ryan Gosling.”
Trailer for Sci-Fi Film Arrival
So, there you have it. Arrival looks great, and it’s been well received so far. And based on how good Prisoners and Sicario were, I’m very excited for both Arrival and the Blade Runner sequel. (Also, if you haven’t yet seen Prisoners or Sicario, take the opportunity to watch both. They’re worth the time.) What do you guys think? Are these two sci-fi movies definitely worth looking forward to?
Featured Image: Paramount Pictures