Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve — whose cinematic resume includes the critically acclaimed Sicario and Arrival — may not quite be dreaming of electric sheep. It’s clear, though, that the techno-centric future world of Blade Runner has occupied the majority of his waking moments over the past several months as the release of director’s sequel Blade Runner 2049 loomed ever closer.
Joining CBR and a small press roundtable, Villeneuve made it abundantly clear that he’s given considerable thought to just about every facet of filmmaker Ridley Scott’s groundbreaking and profoundly influential screen adaptation of sci-fi icon Phillip K. Dick’s seminal short story. So much so, in fact, that – as he reveals – the thought of sequelizing one of film’s most enduring, ambiguous and increasingly relevant touchstones didn’t phase him as much as one (including Villenuve himself) might suspect.
What gave you the confidence to do a sequel to a movie that is so beloved? What reassured you about this project?
Denis Villeneuve: Three things. First of all, I had the Ridley Scott blessing. That was the first thing I asked [for] once I said yes. I said, ”I will do it.” There were some conditions, and the first one is to make sure, firsthand, to be in front of him, looking at him in the eyes, having him saying, “You can do it.”
Second thing: The screenplay, I felt, had strong ideas in it. I’m not saying it was a perfect screenplay. I’m just saying that I understood why Ridley felt there was the potential to do a strong movie there.
And the third thing is, I’ve heard a lot of movies in my life, like sci-fi. I always said to myself, “It’s dangerous to do those big movies.” There’s a lot of pressure when you make those big movies. I said, “If I do it one day, it will be for something that is really worthy, that is really meaningful artistically for me.”
The first movie, it’s one of my favorite movies. I said to myself, “Okay, they will do it. No matter what we think, this movie will move forward.” I said to myself, “I don’t know if I will succeed, but I know I will give it all my love and all my skills because I will work so hard.” I didn’t want it to fall into the hands of someone – at least I will be passionate about it, and I will give my blood to make sure that it respects the spirit of the first movie.
It was a bit arrogant, basically. [Laughs] I was very afraid to see a sequel of Blade Runner. I said, “At least if I do it, then I have some control over it.” That’s the truth. At least I can blame only myself.
You’ve got a powerhouse cast for this film. How important for you was it to get the people that you got?
In any movie, one of the most important parts of the film process is casting. You need strong actors – that’s a thing. I’m a very different director from Ridley Scott, but it’s the thing that both of us we have in common. We always aim for excellence with the actors in our casting. It’s like, there’s no compromise. With the casting I’ve done, one thing I’m sure is that the performances in the movie are very strong – very strong. Because I had the chance to do a massive casting around the world where I chose among the best working actors, young actors.
One thing I love in the screenplay is that there’s a lot of strong female parts. Femininity is very important in the second movie, like it was in the first movie. I had the pleasure to meet actors that sometimes are well known in their own countries, but less known in North America sometimes, like Sylvia Hoeks, and Ana de Armas and Carla Juri. There’s Mackenzie Davis, also, from Canada. Those young actresses are strong artists. They brought a lot to the movie. It was a long casting process.
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