Why Arrival’s Director Had No Idea How People Would Respond To The Movie

Amy Adams Arrival Puts On Her Containment Suit

Arriving in the middle of the fall season last year, Arrival wound up being one of the biggest surprises of 2016. Not only did it receive overwhelming positive praise from critics, but it also made $100 million at the domestic box office and earned eight Academy Award nominations. It was considered by many to be one of the best movies of the year, but thanks to an absolutely grueling post-production process, director Denis Villeneuve truly had no idea that it would manage to get the response that it did.

Thanks to the recent release of Arrival on Blu-ray and DVD, I recently had the incredible pleasure to sit down with Villeneuve for a one-on-one interview during a Los Angeles press day -- and his interesting perspective on the release of the movie came up early in the conversation. When the film made its way into theaters last November, the director was still in production on the upcoming Blade Runner 2049, and managed to throttle his perspective and expectations for the surprise blockbuster. Said Villeneuve,

I couldn't dream of a better welcoming, the way the movie was received. To be honest, if you had said that to me a year ago that we would be Academy Awards with eight nominations I would have laughed at you. And then maybe insult you! It was such a difficult movie to finish and to do, to find the right pacing. [Editor] Joe Walker and I, we worked so hard, I remember we were like [pretends to pull out his hair]. So when it was released I had no idea how the world would react to that movie.

Stressful as the entire experience was overall, Denis Villeneuve did note that being completely preoccupied during the initial release did actually provide him "mental sanity" -- and he actually expressed the desire to send all of his films to theaters in similar fashion.

So what was it specifically that made post-production on Arrival so difficult? It's all tied up in the movie's big, unexpected twist ending. Without going into spoilers, it has the effect of changing the way that you look at the film as a whole, and this specifically put a lot of pressure on Denis Villeneuve and Joe Walker to make every screening of the movie valuable. When I noted the rewatchability of the blockbuster, the director responded,

That's what was so difficult with the movie in the editing room. It's specifically a movie that needed to work for somebody who sees it the first time, the second time, the third time, the fourth time. It needed to be deep, so in the cut we were not allowed to cheat. So it was a long process.

Fortunately, Arrival very much does come together as a film worth seeing multiple times -- and now everyone has the opportunity to do just that. The movie is now available on Blu-ray and DVD in stores everywhere, and be sure to stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more from my interview with Denis Villeneuve!

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.