Denis Villeneuve, one of the most talented directors of our time, celebrates his 55th birthday today.
During his career spanning over 28 years, he has won more than 90 awards and his films became synonymous with quality cinema. After “Blade Runner 2049”, a worthy sequel to Ridley Scott‘s neo-noir classic, he got the opportunity to transform Frank Herbert’s “Dune” to something spectacular, which he did in 2021. He will most likely continue to do so in “Dune: Part Two”, currently shooting in Budapest, Hungary. For his birthday, film news blog A hetedik sor közepe gathered 55 interesting facts about the director, exemplifing his respect and love for the cinema.
1 – He decided to become a director at the age of 14, after seeing Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner”.
2 – He worked together 3 times with actor Jake Gyllenhaal 3 times (including the upcoming mini-series titled “The Son”) and cinematographer Roger Deakins.
3 – He never uses music in the first cut of his films, ensuring that there is as much tension as possible before adding the score.
4 – His first name is pronounced “Denny”.
5 – His favorite film is “2001: A Space Odyssey”.
6 – For the movie “Arrival”, Villeneuve and screenwriter Heisserer created a fully functioning alien language.
7 – “Arrival”’s logogram bible contained a total of 100 different operative words, 71 of which were used in the film.
8 – In “Arrival”, changing the gravity inside the spacecraft and turning the walls sideways was an obvious and convenient solution for Villeneuve: he simply could not imagine an interior space in the alien craft where humans could easily navigate the steep and vertical walls.
9 – Villeneuve wanted “Arrival” to make the viewer feel as if it were happening on a bad Tuesday morning – exactly what he felt when he was a child, sitting on a school bus on a rainy day, staring out the window and daydreaming.
10 – As soon as the he finished working on “Arrival”, he immediately started focusing on “Blade Runner 2049”.
11 – For a long time, he was against the idea of a sequel to a classic like Ridley Scott‘s neo-noir sci-fi. His mind was changed when he read the script. He immediately said yes.
12 – He considers his sequel to “Blade Runner” the riskiest venture of his career, because he thought it to be almost impossible to impress the fans.
13 – Villeneuve‘s favorite version is the first of 8 different Blade Runner cuts, which is the one that Ridley Scott hates.
14 – The director insisted on one thing when casting for Blade Runner: He wanted Ryan Gosling to play the lead, because the character was written specifically for him.
15 – Denis originally wanted David Bowie to play Niander Wallace, but after his death, Leto was chosen, because he had similar rock star qualities.
16 – Although he prefers the original cut of “Blade Runner”, his film was a continuation of the 2007 “The Final Cut”.
17 – He hired Jake Gyllenhaal for the lead role of 2013’s “Enemy” without auditioning.
18 – The fictional movie that appears in “Enemy”, called “Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way”, is an old memory the director has of his high school teacher that reminds him that in life, he always has to work harder.
19 – His film “Prisoners” was first rated NC-17 for its tone and subject matter. The film’s torture scenes were later cut a few frames shorter, along with scenes suggesting pedophilia, thus receiving an R rating.
20 – The first version of “Prisoners” was 3 hours long.
21 – “Prisoners”’ screenplay was included in the 2009 “Blacklist”, a list of the year’s most popular yet unmade scripts.
22 – Denis Villeneuve chose Jake Gyllenhaal over Ryan Gosling for the lead role in “Prisoners”.
23 – When his 2010 movie Incendies won Best Film at the 2011 Adelaide Film Festival, he promised to name one of the characters in his next film Adelaide as a thank you. This has yet to happen.
24 – His 2009 film “Polytechnique” was shot in black and white, to avoid the presence of blood on screen.
25 – Before releasing “Polytechnique” to the public, he had the victims’ families watch it and ask for their blessing.
26 – Actor Raymond Bélisle last role was in Villeneuve’s “Maelström”.
27 – Villeneuve‘s zodiac sign is Libra.
28 – In 1991, he took part in the La Course Europe-Asie youth film competition, where he won the top prize.
29 – He began his career as a cinematographer in documentaries.
30 – His younger brother Martin Villeneuve is a screenwriter, director, actor, producer, artistic director and he was the voice of TED in 2013.
31 – Denis originally studied science, but his love of films led him to turn his attention to film studies at the Université du Québec à Montréal.
32 – Villeneuve‘s real breakthrough came with the Canadian film “Maelström” (2000), which he wrote and directed with Marie-Josee Croze. The film has been screened at various festivals, winning a total of eight Jutras, five Genie Awards and the “Best Canadian Film” award at the Toronto International Film Festival. It has received a total of 23 awards during its world tour.
33 – His wife Tanya Lapointe is a cultural journalist.
34 – After “Blade Runner 2049”, he wanted to adapt 2 novels: one was Frank Herbert’s Dune and the other is the upcoming The Son.
35 – When he thinks of the 1980s, the first thing that comes to his mind is the yellow-brownish color.
36 – His personal hero is Steven Spielberg, because he admires the worlds he creates and his compelling storytelling.
37 – When Villeneuve depicts violence in his films, it is only to express the effects of power.
38 – He doesn’t like to write screenplays because it is time-consuming work that he does very slowly.
39 – He loves James Bond movies and would like to direct one in the future. He thinks that the action genre is cinema itself, because when a spectacular film is well made, it can be very poetic.
40 – The Canadian-born director often felt uncomfortable as a child, because in his country, hockey is everything, but he was terrible at it. His mind was always wandering on the ice.
41 – She is troubled by the fact, that according to many, there are still no strong female characters on the big screen.
42 – Denis Villeneuve considers himself a social democrat.
43 – He always thought Hollywood was a superhero factory.
44 – He says the “problem” with cinema is that you can never predict what will happen in it.
45 – His works are often dark in tone and violent, but there is always a ray of hope and light in them, mostly coming from female characters.
46 – His favorite book is a dictionary.
47 – “Creating poetry with a camera” is what he considers the most important thing in his work.
48 – He frequently uses Radiohead songs in his films.
49 – Since 1994, his work has received 154 nominations and 94 awards.
50 – He frequently worked with composer Jóhann Jóhannsson until his unexpected death. Since then, Hans Zimmer was his main choice (and Benjaminn Wallfisch on “Blade Runner 2049”).
51 – He was a member of the Cannes Jury in 2018.
52 – According to his words, “Dune” was the most complex thing he ever did in his life. The stakes were high because it was a retelling of Frank Herbert‘s classic, and the success of the first chapter was key for the upcoming sequel.
53 – With “Dune: Part Two” currently rolling, this is the 3rd time the director is shooting a sci-fi in Budapest, Hungary.
54 – After Scorsese, he also slammed the Marvel films: “If we’re talking about Marvel, the thing is, all these films are made from the same mold. Some filmmakers can add a little color to it, but they’re all cast in the same factory. It doesn’t take anything away from the movies, but they are formatted.”
55 – He’s currently shooting “Dune: Part Two”, but he already got his next big project lined up, aiming to bring Arthur C. Clarke‘s “Rendezvous with Rama” to the big screen.