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Denis Villeneuve Totally Nerded Out Over Christopher Nolan The First Day Filming Prisoners. 10 Years Later, Nolan Did The Same Thing For Denis On Oppenheimer

 Hugh Jackman in Prisoners/Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer (side by side).
Hugh Jackman in Prisoners/Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer (side by side).

Denis Villeneuve and Christopher Nolan are two of the biggest visionaries in cinema today. Both directors are known for their high-concept ideas and complex use of  filmmaking techniques to make the big-screen experience as spectacular as possible. The influence each other have had on each other's work is likely easy for fans of both directors to pick up on, and it turns out this mutual admiration goes back years. Actor David Dastmalchian recently revealed that Villeneuve gushed over Nolan while making Prisoners and, 10 years later, Nolan spoke the same way about Villeneuve while making Oppenheimer.

David Dastmalchian has been a strong character actor for years and recently made his lead actor debut in the buzzy 2024 horror film, Late Night with the Devil. Over the years Dastmalchian has worked with a number of big-name directors and has become a go-to for both Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve. He spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about collaborating with the directors on projects like Prisoners, Dune, and The Dark Knight. While doing so, he revealed both directors were very complimentary of each other behind the scenes. He said:

One of the first things [Villeneuve] said to me [on the Prisoners set] was, ‘I want to hear about your experience on The Dark Knight. I want to know what it was like to work with Christopher Nolan. And then ten years after we made Prisoners, I’m now reunited with Christopher Nolan on the set of Oppenheimer, and we’re talking about how much he loves the work of Denis Villeneuve. He was the one now asking me questions about my experiences on set with our friend Denis. So to know that I’m a tiny little thread between these two artists, I found that to be a wildly fascinating life moment.

This is notable for many reasons. Not only does it show how the pair have had an admiration of each other that has spanned a decade, but it also speaks to their collaborations with David Dastmalchian as an actor shows this influence.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe alum likely appeared on people’s radar after his role in The Dark Knight, where he plays a sinister accomplice to The Joker. He doesn’t say much, but his scared neuroticism speaks volumes to the stakes of the movie and what the villain is capable of. You can see this casting influence with his role in Prisoners, where he portrays a similar character driven crazy from another source of evil. I'd like to think that the Batman flick likely played a role in star earning his part in Prisoners. And, based on Christopher Nolan’s praise of Denis Villeneuve, it may have influenced him to work with the actor again on Oppenheimer.

David Dastmalchian in The Dark Knight
David Dastmalchian in The Dark Knight

This admiration expressed on these sets isn’t too surprising, as both directors have been vocal about their mutual respect for each other's work. Denis Villeneuve expressed his love for Tenet, one of Christopher Nolan's most recent works. The Canadian filmmaker also praised Nolan's Oppenheimer for boosting the theatrical experience and being a positive for the film industry. For his part, the British director has been equally complimentary towards Villeneuve, calling the use of CGI in Dune “seamless,” and recently referred to Part Two as a modern day Empire Strikes Back. This shared creative appreciation has evolved into a friendship between the filmmakers, as Villeneuve was even invited to a special screening of Nolan's historical drama before its official release.

Show business is a competitive industry, especially when you have so many monster talents that are making films within the same genre. However, the two directors we're discussing here have used their shared style to uplift each other as filmmakers, improving themselves as creatives through influencing each other. They've put out some impressive work, and I hope that they're mutual respect for each other continues to blossom. Also, let's hope they continue to give work to the impeccable David Dastmalchian.

Fans can check out Denis Villeneuve’s first film with David Dastmalchian, Prisoners, which is currently available to rent on Amazon. You can also see the actor in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, which is streaming now for Peacock subscribers. For more information on other major films that have or will drop this year, like Dune: Part Two, make sure to consult our 2024 movie release schedule.