La­pointe’s book goes be­hind scenes

Montreal Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - T’CHA DUN­LEVY tdun­levy@post­

Tanya La­pointe and De­nis Vil­leneuve were eat­ing sushi in 2015 when she popped the ques­tion.

The (then-)Ra­dio-Canada TV jour­nal­ist and the Que­bec film­maker had been dat­ing for some time, but with the news that he would be di­rect­ing Blade Run­ner 2049 came an urge to take their re­la­tion­ship to the next level.

“When I found out De­nis was going to Bu­dapest for seven months for pre-pro­duc­tion as well as shoot­ing the movie,” La­pointe re­called, “I said, ‘I don’t know how you’re going to take this, but what if I went to work with you as your as­sis­tant?’ ”

It wasn’t a ques­tion Vil­leneuve was ex­pect­ing; and he of­fered some ini­tial re­sis­tance.

“He said, ‘I would have never dared ask you. You have a high­pro­file job at Ra­dio-Canada, in the arts world. To come to Bu­dapest in a new field of work…’ ” La­pointe con­tin­ued.

He said yes.

Soon after, she re­quested a year’s sab­bat­i­cal leave from Ra­dio-Canada, which she made per­ma­nent last fall. La­pointe and Vil­leneuve have worked side by side “seven days a week, 24 hours a day” ever since, giv­ing her a front-row seat to the mak­ing of the crit­i­cally ac­claimed, $185-mil­lion sci-fi block­buster.

Ever the re­porter, La­pointe took men­tal and phys­i­cal notes at ev­ery stage of the process, a com­pen­dium of which is ren­dered in the hefty, visu­ally ar­rest­ing and in­ter­est­ing fact-filled cof­fee-ta­ble book The Art and Soul of Blade Run­ner 2049, pic­tured above right, which checks in at 4.5 lbs., 14.6 inches x 11 inches (repli­cat­ing the widescreen of cin­ema) and a sub­stan­tial 219 pages.

“When I saw it — to hold it in my hands — to be hon­est, I cried,” La­pointe said, sit­ting in an Old Mon­treal ho­tel Wednesday af­ter­noon. “It’s a dream come true for me. When I was a kid, I loved books. I used to de­vour them. I told my­self, ‘I would love to write a book one day.’ But I needed some­thing to write about. I had a lot of things to write about this.”

La­pointe had a front-row seat to vir­tu­ally the en­tire film­mak­ing process, of which she quickly be­came an in­te­gral part. Though her ti­tle in the fi­nal cred­its is in­deed “as­sis­tant,” her role ex­panded and adapted ac­cord­ing to the sit­u­a­tion.

Es­sen­tially, she be­came the go­b­e­tween from Vil­leneuve to the var­i­ous other com­po­nents of the enor­mous pro­duc­tion team, as well as the direc­tor’s con­fi­dante and oc­ca­sional col­lab­o­ra­tor.

“As time went on, peo­ple un­der­stood I was the con­trol tower,” she said. “De­nis was be­ing so­licited by all de­part­ments. Ev­ery­one wanted time, and an­swers. I hap­pen to be very or­ga­nized. I said (to them), ‘I can help you. You need an an­swer? What’s your dead­line?’

“I’m very fa­mil­iar with dead­lines. Peo­ple were sur­prised I would an­swer emails so quickly. I can’t help it. It be­came very ef­fi­cient: De­nis would work on the cre­ative side, and I would work on get­ting an­swers to ques­tions from peo­ple who needed ac­cess to De­nis.”

Of ut­most im­por­tance to La­pointe was that she be seen as “part of the team, not the direc­tor’s wife.”

She knew she had pulled it

off when mem­bers of the props team walked up to her, after two months of work­ing to­gether, and re­lated hav­ing just found out the two are a cou­ple, after googling Vil­leneuve’s name to find a photo of the direc­tor and land­ing upon a pic­ture of the pair arm-in-arm on a red car­pet.

What she dis­cov­ered along the way, from her priv­i­leged van­tage point, was an ar­ray of in­sider in­for­ma­tion about the process of mak­ing what many have hailed as a clas­sic in its own right, in­clud­ing: that the film’s opening scene is an homage to a dis­carded opening scene for Ri­d­ley Scott’s 1982 original; that Ryan Gosling fleshed out the con­cept for and wrote the text — us­ing ex­cerpts from Nabokov’s Pale Fire — for his “base­line test”; that Vil­leneuve (with help from La­pointe) picked each of the film’s 2,500 ex­tras from stacks of head­shots; that the or­phan­age scenes were shot inside an aban­doned Bu­dapest power plant built in 1950 un­der Stalin; and that screens shown in the film were based on the imag­ined fu­ture of Scott’s film, and in­volved us­ing LED screens to cre­ate the ef­fect of cath­ode ray tubes as they might have evolved had the tech­nol­ogy con­tin­ued to be used.

“It’s a way of high­light­ing ev­ery­one’s ex­per­tise on this film,” La­pointe said of the book, “and we were work­ing with mas­ters, in all dif­fer­ent de­part­ments.”

Now that the movie is out, Vil­leneuve is in limbo as he waits to see which of his po­ten­tial projects — a re­make of Francis Her­bert’s sci-fi clas­sic Dune; the next James Bond film; a Cleopa­tra re­make; or an adap­ta­tion of Nor­we­gian au­thor Jo Nesbø’s 2014 crime novel, The Son — will get the go-ahead first. But one thing is cer­tain: what­ever path he takes, La­pointe will be right there with him.

“The ex­per­i­ment was very con­clu­sive,” she said. “I’ll be thrilled to work on his next pro­ject. … We make a great team.”

In the mean­time, she will be­gin work on a pro­ject of her own. La­pointe has started her own pro­duc­tion com­pany with friend Lau­rence Tré­panier, and the two will co-di­rect a doc­u­men­tary about women — ex­plor­ing “la femme sous tous ses an­gles” — this fall.


For­mer Ra­dio-Canada TV jour­nal­ist Tanya La­pointe pitched her part­ner De­nis Vil­leneuve on the idea of work­ing as his as­sis­tant on the Bu­dapest shoot of Blade Run­ner 2049.

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