During our recent webcam chat (watch above), director Denis Villeneuve reveals that he was inspired to adapt Ted Chiang‘s short story “Story of Your Life” into the new film “Arrival” because “of what it was saying about the world, and the idea that in order to evolve as a species, we should find a new form of humility.” This Paramount Pictures release stars Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist recruited by the US military to assist in translating alien communications when giant spaceships appear across the globe. “I knew there was the material there to make a very poetic and powerful movie,” he adds, but only if “I was doing my homework correctly.”
Villeneuve, whose films “Prisoners” (2013) and “Sicario” (2015) have made him a hot commodity in Hollywood, has wanted to direct science-fiction for quite some time, but was waiting for the right material. “The idea that the main tension of the story will be communication really appealed to me,” he divulges. “I felt that was so relevant with what’s happening today.” While he took great pains to make sure that Dr. Banks’s approach to communication “would make sense for a linguist,” he admits that “for me, the movie’s not necessarily about language, but about the limits of language, the idea that when you are beyond words, the only thing you can rely on is intuition.” It’s a quality he feels “we are not using enough today.”
He was also attracted to the story of a mother mourning the loss of her daughter, and how “the more this woman will learn that alien language, the more her perspective about the world will change, and one of them will be about a relationship with death.” This concept “was at the heart of this project” for the director. “That was the idea that inspired the way the spaceships would look, the way the aliens would look, the way they will express themselves,” and “the quality of their presence.”
“Arrival” could return Villeneuve to the Oscar race for the first time since “Incendies” (2010), which competed for the Foreign Language Film award. Can he snag his first nomination for directing this year? Check out our full interview above for more, including some insight into his highly-anticipated “Blade Runner 2049,” a sequel to Ridley Scott‘s sci-fi classic.
Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. How do you think “Arrival” will do with academy voters? Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how this film is faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on January 24 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.