Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins became one of the last decade’s most prolific director/cinematographer pairings thanks to “Prisoners,” “Sicario,” and “Blade Runner 2049,” all three of which earned Deakins Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography. Deakins won the Academy Award for “Blade Runner 2049.” The success of the Villeneuve/Deakins partnership made the news that the two would be splitting up on “Dune” a bit of a disappointment. While “Dune” is in great hands with “Lion” and “Rogue One” cinematographer Greig Fraser, Villeneuve says there’s a bit of Deakins in the tentpole regardless, as the lessons he learned from Deakins loom large over the movie.
“When I am working with you, I’m going to be in a position where I’m going to learn about filmmaking every day,” Villeneuve told Deakins during a visit this week on the “Team Deakins” podcast. “I’m in a learning process working with you. It’s very rewarding and exciting. Right now I am doing VFX on ‘Dune,’ and I found myself talking about light and asking for things and I’m like, ‘I know it’s Roger.’ I know that I can do things [because of Roger].”
Villeneuve continued, “I realize how much sometimes the amount of things I’ve learned from you. I’m not saying you’ll agree with me when you see the thing, but I just know of sensibilities that I strongly increased being with you and working on ‘Blade Runner.’ It was a formative experience. To design the movie from the storyboards until the very end by your side, it’s insane the amount of things I learned.”
While Villeneuve’s time working with Deakins on “Blade Runner 2049” helped him in the making of “Dune,” the 2017 science-fiction epic is not a movie that Villeneuve has gone back to rewatch since it opened in theaters to critical acclaim and disappointing box-office returns.
“It’s a movie that I was not able to watch again,” Villeneuve told Deakins. “It takes time to be able to digest and make peace with [your own movies]. For me, when I make a movie, there’s a lot of deep joy and pain and anger linked with the process. When it’s done, it takes me years until I am able to watch it again and see the movie for what it is. I am not there with ‘Blade Runner.'”
As for the daunting task of mounting two ginormous science-fiction tentpoles back to back with “Blade Runner 2049” and “Dune,” Villeneuve said he’s feeling the burnout and is “definitely dreaming” of going back to a smaller-scale production whenever it comes time to follow-up “Dune.”
“It would be healthy for me to do something small,” the director said. “It will be good to go back to the size of something like ‘Sicario’ where I am not having to dream about the design of a car or the design of a wallet or gun for months before. I can just embrace the scale for what it is. It will be nice to go there.”
Villeneuve remains in post-production on “Dune,” which Warner Bros. is set to release nationwide December 18.