TORONTO â€” A restless Denis Villeneuve got up at 5 a.m. in Los Angeles on Tuesday, watched the sunrise and waited for the Oscar nominations to pour in.
Momentum had been building for his Quebec-shot alien-invasion drama “Arrival” for several months and Villeneuve admitted he found himself “caught in the maelstrom of this madness,” believing his film would be recognized.
But even he was surprised at the staggering eight nominations the visceral, thought-provoking story got, including for best picture and a directing nod for himself.
“That’s huge for me, because to be recognized by the academy members, by my peers, the people who are my colleagues, the filmmakers from America â€” that means a lot,” he said in a conference call with reporters.
“It’s a very tough, very intense competition. The competition was very strong this year with very strong filmmakers and a lot of strong newcomers and I’m very honoured to a part of that group.”
Villeneuve was crestfallen, however, that “Arrival” star Amy Adams got snubbed in the best-actress category after getting nominated for a Golden Globe and British Academy Film Award.
“If you had asked me yesterday what were my expectations, I would have said (a nomination for Adams was) a given,” he said.
“It was a great disappointment for our team this morning. So we celebrate with a heavy heart.”
The dreamy musical “La La Land” has a leading 14 nominations while “Arrival” tied “Moonlight” for the second-most nods.
“It’s a movie about humanity and it’s a very deep and very profound and moving story and that’s what I think made the movie cross the bridge,” said Villeneuve, whose other films include the Oscar-nominated “Incendies,” “Prisoners” and the buzzy upcoming “Blade Runner 2049.”
The recognition for “Arrival” was seen as a triumph for Quebec, the home province of many of the film’s crew members. Several Canadians also got Oscar nominations in the technical categories for their work on “Arrival.”
“If you take apart the main actors and producers, the rest of the crew … was from Quebec,” Villeneuve said.
“We were able to do it with the skills of the French-Canadian technicians that are able to do more with less.”
Shawn Levy, a producer for the film who hails from Montreal, also remarked it was “a big day” for the city.
Levy was celebrating from the “upside down” dimension on the Atlanta set of “Stranger Things,” where he’s a producer and part-time director.
“The vast majority of my ‘Stranger Things’ actors have given me big hugs and congratulatory phone calls, so it’s been a very happy day here on the set,” he said.
Meanwhile, champagne was flowing in Montreal as key members of the “Arrival” sound team celebrated the nominations.
“It was a lot of joy,” said Bernard Gariepy Strobl, a sound mixing nominee alongside his collaborator Claude La Haye.
As one of cinema’s modern auteurs, Villeneuve wanted “Arrival” to stand out from the typical sci-fi thriller.
Even the sound design had to strike a unique tone, from the subtle hums of the spaceship to the vocalization of the aliens’ mysterious visual language.
“Denis never wanted to do any kind of an action film,” said Sylvain Bellemare, who was nominated in the sound editing category.
He noted the movie is primarily about the personal journey of Adams’s character.
“This is a story about one person.”
Villeneuve celebrated with some of his editing crew in L.A. by “doing pancakes, coffee and with champagne.”
“It’s not a good idea to mix both in the same time, espresso coffee and champagne, at 5 a.m. It’s a bit intense as a cocktail. That moment is always a very magical celebration. It’s a bit like Christmas.”
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Victoria Ahearn and David Friend, The Canadian Press