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Denis Villeneuve’s Creature Designer on the ‘Arrival’ Alien Idea That Didn’t Make the Cut

Moviegoers might not recognize the name Carlos Huante, but anyone familiar with the works of Denis Villeneuve most certainly loves his work. Huante is a creature designer who has worked on Villeneuve’s “Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049,” plus countless other films such as “Star Trek Beyond,” “Prometheus,” and “Hellboy.” In a recent interview with HN Entertainment, Huante confirms he’s already met with Villeneuve to talk “Dune.” But the most interesting thing about Huante’s interview are some tidbits on the work that went into creating the “Arrival” aliens.

The aliens in Villeneuve’s 2016 cerebral science-fiction movie “Arrival” are known as Heptapods. The film features two such creatures, nicknamed Abbott and Costello. The Heptapods look like a cross between a squid and a spider, but Huante said that wasn’t always the case. During the creature design development phase, Huante said he tried to push an abstract design of the aliens as far as possible.

“We went through periods on ‘Arrival’ where the designs for the creatures were very conventional,” Huante said. “As we started and stopped through the year, Denis gave no-holds-bars parameters so I went very esoteric. He gave me two days to go nuts and I gave him two pages of little thumbnails of ideas that were aliens that were really far out concepts.”

One such concept was an alien that moved like “folding paper.” As Haunte describes it, “It would constantly be unfolding itself which is the way it would walk and move. It was a giant, it wasn’t necessarily paper but it felt like it. There were no eyes on it and no face, eight feet tall and it looked like it had multi-limbs but no limbs per se. And that’s how far off I went for some of the ideas.”

The idea was a bit too far out to make it into the movie, but it was the beginning of what ended up being the final Heptapod design. Haunte said, “We then mixed that thinking with the conventional stuff and that’s when I came up with the idea of what ended up in the film, which was the bizarre upper-torso kind of a thing, an anthropomorphic whale creature with the spider hand creature at the end of an umbilical cord. That was a really bizarre alien. I can’t believe it made it into the film.”

“Arrival” was released by Paramount in November 2016 and received critical acclaim. The movie earned eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Haunte collaborated with Villeneuve again on “Blade Runner 2049” and created the creatures encased in glass that are seen in the lobby of the Wallace Corporation. Head over to HN Entertainment to read Haunte’s full interview.

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