While multiplex audiences perhaps didn’t take to it in the numbers that the studio executives would’ve liked, Denis Villeneuve accomplished a rare feat with “Blade Runner 2049“: he made a blockbuster with a distinct, artistic stamp. It’s not easy to get that done in today’s tentpole climate, where something like Rian Johnson expanding the boundaries of the franchise rulebook in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” can earn ire in certain quarters. However, Villeneuve seized the opportunity to make his mark in his biggest film to date, a quality he admires in another contemporary filmmaker.
Speaking with Indiewire, Villeneuve turned the light on another director when discussing his career trajectory, and how he aspires to approach his work. “Christopher Nolan is a very impressive filmmaker because he is able to keep his identity and create his own universe in that large scope,” he explained. “To bring intellectual concepts and to bring them in that scope to the screen right now — it’s very rare. Every movie that he comes out with, I have more admiration for his work.”
In Villeneuve’s more recent pictures — “Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049” — we see that ambition of trying to fuse big ideas inside mainstream pictures. So, perhaps it’s no surprise that directors who have been important to him, come from both the arthouse and blockbuster worlds.
“There’s two filmmakers that are massive sources of inspiration for me: Ingmar Bergman and Steven Spielberg, for different reasons,” Villeneuve said. “Ingmar was one of the big artistic shocks in my life. Spielberg because, from the beginning, I was inspired by his genius as a film director.”
Villeneuve’s aim to marry artistry with popcorn appeal isn’t lost on his collaborators either, with “Arrival” star Jeremy Renner recently singing the praises of Villeneuve to the South China Morning Post.
“He’s kind of like Kubrick and Spielberg had a baby. He can direct the phone book and it’d be captivating. He’s just a wonderful man,” he said.
“Dune” is next for Villeneuve, as he again grapples with big sci-fi ideas in a major, brand name property. But true to form, his sex and swearing filled take on “Cleopatra,” could be another opportunity for the director to keep us on our toes.