Denis Villeneuve Thought His Career Was Over After 'Blade Runner 2049'

Denis Villeneuve on the set of 'Blade Runner 2049'Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
A box-office bomb is often the last time you see that director’s name attached to a big-budget film, so how did Denis Villeneuve survive?

Blade Runner 2049 landed in theaters in October 2017, and the public’s reaction wasn’t great. The film only grossed about $92.1 million domestically and $260.5 worldwide, losing the studio as much as $80 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The film fell flat, leaving director Denis Villeneuve confused and scared about where his career would go from there. 

In an interview with MTV’sHappy Sad Confused” podcast, Villeneuve opened up about Blade Runner 2049 bombing at the box office. After the movie failed to break even with the film’s budget, Villeneuve was convinced that he would never be able to make another movie again. 

Villeneuve said on the podcast, “The miracle for me about Blade Runner 2049 is the following: I’m still making movies and you’re still talking to me.” 

The filmmaker put himself in dangerous waters by making a sequel to the beloved 1982 Blade Runner.

Villeneuve said, “I knew that when I did this movie I flirted with disaster. I put myself in massive artistic danger. That was walking, as Christopher Nolan said to me once, walking on sacred territory. It’s true. It was sacrilegious what I did.” 

Luckily, the film was acclaimed by critics and the film community for its impressive craftsmanship. It is because of the community of filmmakers' appreciation for Blade Runner 2049 that Villeneuve is still making films.

Denis Villeneuve on set of 'Blade Runner 2049'Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The director’s Dune adaptation hits theaters and HBO Max on Oct. 22 and has already begun to bring in impressive box office numbers. In an interview last year with IndieWire, Villeneuve talked about how different his approach was on Dune in comparison to Blade Runner 2049. 

In the interview, Villeneuve says, “With Blade Runner and Dune, it’s two different pressures. With Blade Runner, I had to be respectful of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece. It was more an act of love. Here it's totally different. I’m dealing with the pressure of the dreams I had as a teenager... That teenager in me is totalitarian and I had to please those dreams. That was the biggest challenge.” 

Villeneuve has been very outspoken about his approach to his Dune adaptation, and how it is driven by how teenage him pictured the film in his dreams. Villeneuve’s adaptation will have no stylistic similarities to David Lynch’s 1984 Dune adaptation but hopes to perform well enough in the box office to get the green light from Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment to make the two-part Dune adaptation. 

While the film critics and film community have raved about Villeneuve’s Dune, it will be interesting to see how the general public reacts to it. Hopefully, the pacing and overall tone of the film will be engaging enough for the public to fill the seats on opening weekend. 

What would you think if Villeneuve were to stop making films? Let us know in the comments below!      

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I started to watch Blade Runner 2049 with my teen son and both fell asleep at 10 minutes. Tried to watch it later on streaming and just couldn't finish. There is a cult with this film I can't understand. It is totally opposite to the original; an atmospheric baroque visual feast! This was simply boring and absolutely no atmosphere. Dune on the contrary is a beautiful film. Perhaps the clean atmosphere of a desert set up fits better the style of Dennis Villeneuve.

October 15, 2021 at 6:24AM

Javier Diez

Blade Runner 2049 completely fails to tell a story. A truly horrible film. Watching it to the end was a torture I endured for educational purposes.

High concept ideas are not a story per se, obviously. Villeneuve´s remarks about "sacrilege" to explain the BR2049 disaster totally miss the point.

Dune fails to tell a story, too, although granted it is visually much more interesting than BR2049. It has a great, immersive world building which carried me just well enough through the first half of the film. But then Dune really started to drag, because it is a mere chain of events, never a story. Where is the protagonist´s conflict? What is his aim? What set him on this journey? Can the plot test his flaws and drive him right into hell? A dream about a girl with blue eyes is no conflict. A mere survival "story" is no story. Obstacles only become real obstacles when the hero has a clear intention beyond survival. Father loves him, mother loves him, everybody loves him except some wild guys in the desert and some weird guys on a grey planet. No conflict.

Villeneuve could have done a very good job with a good script. But he made the same mistake as with BR2049: Doing an expensive movie with a screenplay with no real story. His craft is good but that is nothing without a deep understanding for story.

After 2.5 hours the film finishes with no sign of a real conflict, of a story. And the girl with the blue eyes whispers: "This is just the beginning". Frankly, no, this rather looks like the end for Dune.

October 17, 2021 at 4:31AM

Tobias Mennle

Had less desire to see Dune before this. Now I've got none. Who asked for this remake?

October 19, 2021 at 8:17AM

Sketkh Williams

BR2049 was a brilliant film on every level. I just saw Dune and was not so impressed, but it’s only really half a film so we shall see what happens next.

The original BR was also deemed a box office failure; the public are not the arbiters of taste, all too often they are just the opposite.

October 21, 2021 at 4:26PM

Lee Harris
Photographer & videographer