Denis Villeneuve says Blade Runner 2049 was ‘worth the risk’

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Dune director Denis Villeneuve reflects on making a follow-up to somebody else’s film with Blade Runner 2049, and admits he probably won’t ever do so again.

Denis Villeneuve is currently riding high with the release of Dune: Part Two. Not only is the film earning him the kind of critical praise that he’s become used to in his career, but it’s also performing well at the box office, further cementing the filmmaker’s reputation as one of a handful of Hollywood visionaries who can be trusted to use huge budgets to create blockbuster films.

With the third film in Villeneuve’s Dune trilogy all but confirmed, the filmmaker has been reflecting on his previous experience working on a hugely expensive science fiction project that already possessed a cinematic footprint in the minds of audiences: 2017’s Blade Runner 2049.

While a cinematic predecessor already existed to Villeneuve’s Dune films, the filmmaker’s involvement in Blade Runner 2049 was further complicated by the fact that it was a direct sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 film, hailed by many as a masterpiece. Scott has said in the years since Blade Runner 2049's release that he was keen to make the sequel himself but couldn’t due to scheduling conflicts.

Read more: Dune: Part Two is all about the women

Scott did serve as a producer on the film however, and working in the filmmaker’s shadow to create a sequel to the legendary original film couldn’t have been easy for Villeneuve – something he’s chatted to The Hollywood Reporter about.

Blade Runner is one of my favourite films, and it’s absolutely a masterpiece,” Villeneuve said. “Ridley Scott is one of my favourite filmmakers, and even though he had given his blessing, it was very important for me to hear it and see it in his eyes that he was OK with me doing the movie at the time. But I was constantly thinking about the original film as I was making Blade Runner 2049.”

“It was impossible not to,” he adds. “So 2049 was really a love letter to the first film, but it was by far one of the most difficult projects I’ve ever done.”

Given that both before and after the project, Villeneuve has always afforded himself greater creative freedoms (even when working with an adaptation in the form of the Dune novels) his comments suggest that working within the confines of a sequel to another filmmaker’s film was difficult for him. That doesn’t even take into account that Villeneuve’s film manages to pull off the impressive feat of being a credible sequel to all three cuts of Scott’s film, despite the different narrative possibilities that each version of the film presents.

Read more: Dune: Part Two review | Bleak, beautiful blockbuster filmmaking

Still, the process was enough for Villeneuve, who suggests that he won’t be quick to play in somebody else’s toybox again, adding: “I don’t think I will ever approach someone else’s universe again. I still wake up sometimes at night, saying, “Why did I do that?” I’d declined a few other projects of that scale, but at the time, I said to myself, ‘It’s a crazy project, but it’s worth the risk of losing everything.'”

We’d argue that the gamble paid off, with Villeneuve’s trademark world-building and hauntingly beautiful visuals living up to those of the original film. The Blade Runner mythos is set to be continued in an upcoming TV show from Amazon, but true to his word, Villeneuve won’t be involved and (at least according to his words) it seems like his time in the Blade Runner universe is over.

Read more: David Lynch’s Dune | How conflicting ambitions resulted in a flawed cult classic

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