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Denis Villeneuve discusses his filmmaking experiences that led to “Dune” (1 of 2)

With a December release date, Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” may be one of the few movies we can (hopefully) say is a safe bet for release despite the mounting worries of a global pandemic.

On the “Team Deakins” podcast, Villeneuve reunites with Roger and James Deakins, who served as the director’s cinematography team on “Prisoners,” “Sicario,” and “Blade Runner 2049.”

Denis Villeneuve — The Early Years

“It’s like the priest who holds up the piece of bread and says, ‘This is the body of Christ.’ No, it’s a piece of bread, but we see the symbolism. That’s cinema.”

Denis Villeneuve

Working as a solo student, Villeneuve left his home in Montreal to travel the world. Camera in hand, he created nearly twenty-five short documentaries on subjects as varied as beetles and knife makers.

“Emersion in documentary changed my approach to filmmaking,” Villeneuve said of the period. “I always try to go back to that intimacy of camera and subject, not thinking about all the film crew.”

Though he made his bones in the documentary field, Villeneuve knew he’d end up in the director’s chair.

Roger Deakins joined Villeneuve in voicing the need for a “similar sensibility” between director and cinematographer.

“The relationship with the cinematographer is the most precious thing on the set,” Villeneuve said. “He is your eyes on the set.”

Villeneuve added, “Making movies is too hard, too many elements to not work with someone who you have a shared vision.”

Discussing Villeneuve’s 2009 film, “Polytechnique.”

Poster for the Denis Villeneuve movie "Polytechnique"

Suggested to him by a Canadian actress, “Polytechnique” dramatizes the 1989 Montreal Massacre.

Widely considered the first school shooting in Canada, its infamous killer was a (you guessed it!) misogynist who targeted only women.

 It was a taboo subject that caused a lot of pain.

Villeneuve wanted to make precisely this kind of movie, setting the stage for the examinations of humanity’s darker side prevalent in his later films.

Roger brought a moment of levity when he said, “You’re drawn to the human condition before you’re drawn to what it’s going to look like.”

Villeneuve replied, “I wish I weren’t. Then I could be rich.”

“Prisoners”

The conversation moved to the film that brought Team Deakins and Villeneuve together, the 2013 movie “Prisoners.”

Villeneuve explains his agent got him a meeting with a Hollywood executive.

He figured he’d go and enjoy the rite of passage experience of pitching to Hollywood, then get on the plane back to Montreal and forget about it.

His agent called Before he got on the plane for home and said the exec wanted him for the $50 million movie.

During the meeting, Villeneuve hadn’t asked about the budget. “If they had told me it was that much,” Villeneuve said, “I probably would have said no!”

Wanting to work with the best Hollywood had to offer, Villeneuve chose Deakins.


That’s all for part one. Hit up the “Thoughts from the Shed” blog for part two tomorrow!

You can find the entire interview at “Team Deakins” podcast.

In the meantime, here’s the trailer for Villeneuve’s “Polytechnique.”

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