Denis Villeneuve Turns His Eye and Attentions to Female-Led Features

By  · Published on April 3rd, 2014

Warner Bros.

Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is a busy guy – after all, the frequently lauded director is steadily lining up compelling new projects after the one-two punch of his last two projects (that would be last year’s Prisoners and this season’s Enemy, both of which bowed back in September at TIFF, making it clear that the Incendies director had arrived in a big way) – but the new heat on his career doesn’t mean he’s cutting corners. He’s not getting sloppy. He’s not picking up films about monster trucks or winged aliens or whatever it is that Hollywood is throwing at emerging filmmakers. Villeneuve is making his own way.

But is that going to include finding a female muse to match the relationship he’s cultivated with Jake Gyllenhaal, who quite memorably starred in both of Villeneuve’s latest projects, in very different roles?

Villeneuve currently has three films in various forms of development, and whereas both Prisoners and Enemy focused on wrenching stories told from a male perspective, all three of Villeneuve’s latest projects are centered on women and their perspectives.

First up, Deadline reported just yesterday that Amy Adams is “in early talks” to star in Villeneuve’s Story of Your Life. The film is described as a sci-fi thriller that focuses on the fallout from an alien invasion. The project is based on Ted Chiang’s award-winning short story of the same name, and has been adapted by Eric Heisserer (who has cut his teeth adapting some beloved horror franchises for new reboots, like The Thing).

The film is very much a female-centric outing, with Adams potentially starring as Dr. Louise Banks, a talented linguist who is brought in by the government to study the language of aliens who have recently hit the Earth. It’s not an easy task – the aliens have two different forms of communication, one spoken and one written, and while the spoken version of their language is far looser, their written take is very, very defined (and it might hold the key to explaining why they are on Earth).

The story also weaves in big details about Louise’s own life, and Chiang’s original story is penned in a way that makes it obvious early on just who the “you” is in the title (it’s not who you’d expect!). The film sounds like it could be tonally similar to something like Gravity, and Adams sounds like a fine fit. If you want to read it, you can check it out here.

But Story of Your Life won’t be Villeneuve’s next project – that will be another film about a strong female in some dire situations. Yesterday’s news about Story of Your Life was followed by a piece over at Variety that shares that Emily Blunt is in her own talks, to star in Sicario, which Villeneuve is slated to film next.

Penned by Taylor Sheridan, the “story follows an officer from Tucson, Arizona who travels across the border to Mexico with a pair of mercenaries to track down a drug lord.” Villeneuve will film this project this summer, with Story of Your Life to follow. Blunt, who has started making the jump to more action-heavy fare, like the upcoming Edge of Tomorrow, sounds like a solid fit for the role.

But Villeneuve is not quite done with his strong-leading-lady films, as he’s long been working on yet another female-centric film – American Darling, which has long had another rising star attached: Jessica Chastain. The starlet has been attached to the Russell Banks adaptation since 2011 – back then, it was described by The Playlist as such: “set in Liberia and the United States over a period of 16 years from 1975 to 1991, Musgrave is a political extremist who operates as a member of the Weather Underground. She’s forced to flee America for West Africa, where along with her Liberian husband she befriends a warlord who eventually pts her family and life in peril” – and although the project didn’t pan out then, Villeneuve is still making it. Chastain is, reportedly, still involved.

That one, however, has obviously had a long road to the screen, so it’s fair to wonder if either Adams or Blunt could take over the role if they hit it off with the director. Even if Chastain does stay on for the film, Villeneuve is assuredly building up a resume packed with both big star power and meaty roles for his actors – especially for some of Hollywood’s biggest female stars.

Related Topics: