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Film

Denis Villeneuve "salutes" Steven Spielberg in emotional speech

@Russellisation

With thanks to his 2021 science fiction masterpiece Dune, director Denis Villeneuve has become one of the most pertinent contemporary filmmakers in the industry, with his wild cinematic vision bringing inspired movies to the big screen. 

Of course, it would be shortsighted to consider Dune as his only project, with the Canadian filmmaker having brought his unique approach to epic, spectacular cinema with 2013s Enemy 2016s Arrival, 2013s Enemy and the remake Blade Runner 2049 from 2017. With each film introducing something new to its respective genre, Villeneuve is not a filmmaker who rests on his laurels, constantly striving to better his craft with every new release.

Continually inspired by the filmmakers of classic cinema, Villeneuve always keeps the masters of the art form in the back of his mind whenever he’s creating a new movie, pointing to the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Paul Thomas Anderson as some of his past favourites. Whilst films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Vertigo and There Will Be Blood often find their way onto favourite film lists, it is the influential films of the iconic American filmmaker Steven Spielberg that Villeneuve truly draws inspiration from. 

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This became clear recently when the filmmaker took to the stage at the 2022 Producers Guild of America Awards (PGA) and produced a heartfelt speech dedicated to the Raiders of the Lost Ark filmmaker.

Recalling his youth, Villeneuve described a period of time when friends and relatives talked about gigantic sharks and magical on-screen experiences, though passed off the conversations in fear of experiencing such a spectacle. “I wondered who was the magician who transformed trucks into bullies and station wagons into sharks,” the filmmaker stated, “Then I saw a film that moves me to the core by the kindness of his people coming from the stars and the humanist of a french scientist…this movie felt like home to me and as the credits rolled I knew that was the way I wanted to live my life”. 

Making reference to the 1977 science fiction movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind with Richard Dreyfuss and François Truffaut, the director further discusses the sheer influence of Spielberg’s cinema in the late 20th century. As Villeneuve recalled, with an emotional Steven Spielberg watching on in the crowd, when he was younger he played ice hockey with the name ‘Spielberg’ on his back to give him “courage against the enemy”. 

Concluding his heartfelt speech, the Canadian director spills his emotions on stage, announcing, “Mr Spielberg you are a giant for me, I’m here tonight because of you, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you brought and what you are still bringing to this day to cinema”. 

With a tearful Spielberg looking on from the crowd, the Dune director steps down from the stage with one final remark, “after all these years you are still a pure source of inspiration, so sir I salute you”.

See the clip, below.