Denis Villeneuve has been slowly rising the ranks in Hollywood with acclaimed and profitable dramas like “Prisoners,” “Sicario” and this year’s eight-time Oscar nominee “Arrival,” for which he’s earned his first nomination for Best Director, but he’s about to become an even bigger household. On October 6, he’s bringing Ridley Scott’s iconic science-fiction drama “Blade Runner” back to the big screen for a sequel starring Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling, and he recently was confirmed to be taking the reigns on Legendary Pictures’ “Dune” reboot. If we had to name a master of science-fiction right now, it would definitely be Denis Villeneuve.
The director recently joined Variety’s Playback Podcast, hosted by Awards Editor Kristopher Tapley, to discuss the making of “Arrival,” but the duo couldn’t help but get into Villeneuve’s exciting cinematic future. The Oscar nominee is currently in post-production on “Blade Runner 2049,” working with composer Johann Johannsson on the original score, and he’s certainly feeling the pressure about continuing the universe of one of the most beloved sci-films of all time.
“I feel [the pressure] every day,” Villeneuve tells Tapley. “At the same time, I’ve never been that inspired and excited. I love risk. All of my projects have come with a certain amount of artistic risk, or sometimes a risk of how you portray reality.” His previous films have tackled a school massacre (“Polytechnique'”), the Lebanese Civil War (“Incendies”) and the U.S-Mexican border (“Sicario”), but he openly admits that “Blade Runner” carries a pressure that is “by far the biggest ever.”
“I think the movie we are doing, we will need to find our own identity and territory, and at the same time be faithful and linked to the first project,” he says. “It’s that equilibrium we are trying to find.”
Working with 13-time Oscar nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins has helped Villeneuve remain faithful by using as much practical effects work and in-camera tricks as possible. “Roger was insanely impressive in how he was able to create landscape with tricks,” he says. “I think I can count on one hand how many times I saw a green screen in all of those months of shooting. There will be CG enhancements, of course, but as much as possible it was in-camera.”
Villeneuve goes on to say that he thinks the film marks “Roger Deakins’ best work.” We’ll have to wait a couple months to see if that’s actually true, though the first teaser trailer did show off some jaw-dropping imagery in just a couple seconds. “He was deeply inspired by the project,” the director says of Deakins. The two recently collaborated on “Sicario,” which earned Deakins an Oscar nomination, so could they re-team for the upcoming “Dune” project?
The jury is still out, though Villeneuve reveals the adaptation is his biggest passion-project yet. He’s been a fan of the Frank Herbert novel ever since he was 12-years-old, and he told a producer after the success of “Prisoners” it’s what he wanted to do next.
“I guess I’m lucky that Mary Parent from Legendary got the rights and offered it to me,” he tells Tapley. “I can’t say no to that. I have images that I am haunted by for 35 years. I will not say no to that. That’s going to be the project of my life.”
Before these two sci-fi blockbusters get released, Villenueve will be heading to the Oscars on Sunday, February 26. For more from his interview with Tapley, head over to the Playback Podcast.