×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Director Denis Villeneuve on ‘Blade Runner 2049’ Pressures, Why ‘Dune’ Is the ‘Project of His Life’

Director Denis Villeneuve says he’s been in two “parallel universes” the last several months, promoting his Oscar-nominated film “Arrival” and soaking up the awards season adulation, while also shooting and then editing his next project, the hugely ambitious “Blade Runner 2049.”

Speaking recently on Variety‘s “Playback” podcast, Villeneuve called the sequel to Ridley Scott’s revered 1982 original the riskiest project of his career.

“I feel [the pressure] every day,” Villeneuve says. “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. I did a movie once about a school massacre and I had a huge responsibility to the victims of those events. I did a movie about a conflict in Lebanon, so there again, you have a strong responsibility to reality. When I did ‘Sicario,’ I felt responsible to how I would portray the Mexican society there. So I’m used to pressure. For ‘Blade Runner,’ it’s artistic pressure, and by far the biggest ever.”

He’s reticent to go in depth too much because he doesn’t like to discuss projects until they are completed. That’s particularly so on the topic of the film’s music, which he and composer Johann Johannsson are currently working through. Given the aural iconography of Scott’s film — the complex sound design in addition to Vangelis’ original score — there are big shoes to fill.

“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,” Villeneuve says. “It’s that equilibrium we are trying to find.”

That sense of equilibrium also includes not overburdening the new film with CGI effects. The first “Blade Runner” made notable, landmark use of practical wizardry, inspiring everyone from James Cameron to Christopher Nolan. Villeneuve says it’s not only important to maintain that connectivity, but a major inspiration for him as an artist to work in that way.

“I’m very old school,” Villeneuve says. “I wish I had the chance to do my ‘Aliens’ as animatronics. That was my dream at the beginning [of ‘Arrival’]. We were dreaming to put them in a gigantic aquarium with gigantic beasts that would be moved by puppeteers. But sadly, it would have been too expensive. I hate green screens. It sucks out all my energy. I get depressed. I have an admiration for directors who can work with that on a daily basis. For ‘Blade Runner,’ we tried our best to do as much as possible in-camera, building everything.”

He takes a moment to praise cinematographer Roger Deakins’ work on the film, which, judging by the trailer alone, promises some of the most striking images of the 13-time Oscar nominee’s illustrious career.

“Roger was insanely impressive in how he was able to create landscape with tricks,” Villeneuve says. “For me it was beautiful. 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. Having witnessed what he’s done for months, I think it will be Roger Deakins’ best work. He was deeply inspired by the project.”

Meanwhile, if Villeneuve is uncomfortable discussing a project he’s in the midst of finishing, you can imagine he’s not keen on digging into what he has on the horizon. His next film will be an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s towering sci-fi novel “Dune,” but he wasn’t expecting to be in the saddle so soon. Nevertheless, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“I was able to do ‘Blade Runner’ thinking I would do nothing after, because there was a rhythm in the past few years that was very exciting and I learned a lot as a filmmaker,” he says. “But I got slowly a bit more and more tired physically. And as I was doing ‘Blade Runner,’ which was a very long shoot, I remember thinking, ‘That might be my last movie. I’m going to bed for like three years.’ Now that I’m editing, I’m finding back my energy. And since I was 12 years old there was a book I read, which is ‘Dune,’ which is my favorite book, with ‘1984.’ After ‘Prisoners,’ the producer of Alcon asked me what I would like to do next. I said, ‘Dune,’ spontaneously, that if anyone could get me the rights for ‘Dune’ — and I knew it was very difficult to get those rights. For me it was just a dream, and I guess I’m lucky that Mary Parent from Legendary got the rights and offered it to me. 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.”

“Arrival” is nominated for eight Oscars, including best picture, best director and best adapted screenplay. “Blade Runner 2049” hits theaters Oct. 6.

More Film

  • International Film Festival and Awards Macao

    Macao Festival Signs Double Deals With Shanghai

    The International Film Festival & Awards Macao on Sunday signed twin agreements with institutions in Shanghai. The IFFAM, which is building towards its fourth edition in December, struck a collaboration agreement with the Shanghai International Film Festival. Separately, it is solidifying an existing informal arrangement with the Shanghai Film Art Academy concerning an exchange of [...]

  • wanda Movie Metropolis Qingdao

    Why Simon West Is Making Movies in China (EXCLUSIVE)

    British director Simon West (“Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” “Con Air,” “The Expendables 2”) is set to dive further into the Middle Kingdom at the helm of his second Chinese action-adventure blockbuster. The Wanda-backed “The Legend Hunters,” hits theaters next summer. West was brought onto the project by veteran producer Eryong, who had approached him about [...]

  • The Eight Hundred

    Chinese Research Group May Have Caused Cancellation of 'The Eight Hundred' Premiere

    Chinese authorities may have abruptly yanked the $80 million patriotic war epic “The Eight Hundred” the day before its opening-night premiere at the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival because it didn’t portray rivals of the ruling Communist Party in a sufficiently negative light, local reports said. Huayi Bros., which produced the film, had on Friday attributed [...]

  • Simon West

    Simon West Directing Chinese Tomb-Raid Movie 'Legend Hunters' (EXCLUSIVE)

    British director Simon West, who made the Angelina Jolie-starring “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” is now co-directing a Chinese tomb-raiding film. “The Legend Hunters” is the next installment in the “Mojin” universe, based on the popular fantasy novel series “Ghost Blows Out the Light.” Backed by Wanda Pictures and Beijing-based Saints Entertainment, the film is set [...]

  • Emu Runner

    Sydney Film Review: 'Emu Runner'

    Writer-director Imogen Thomas’ debut feature “Emu Runner” has and probably will play in designated family-themed strands of film festivals, and given its story of a 9-year-old Aboriginal girl who deals with grief in the wake of her mother’s death by bonding with a lone female representative of Australia’s largest native bird species, this programming strategy [...]

  • Sophia Antipolis

    Locarno in Los Angeles Film Review: 'Sophia Antipolis'

    There are two Sophias in French director Virgil Vernier’s clever, cunning, chilling fifth feature. The first is its setting, the eponymous “Sophia Antipolis,” a technology park in the south of France, a place self-consciously designed as an experiment in social engineering, where an international community of professionals would, it was hoped, create an environment of [...]

  • I Lost My Body

    Netflix Pickup ‘I Lost My Body,’ ‘Buñuel,’ ‘Away’ Top Annecy Festival

    ANNECY, France  — Fulfilling expectations, Jeremy Clapin’s “I Lost My Body, the subject of one of the highest-profile Netflix deals at this year’s Cannes, won this Saturday the Annecy Festival’s top Cristal Award of best feature plus, in a relatively rare Annecy double whammy, the festival’s Audience Award. The first was expected, the second a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content