Arrival Scribe Eric Heisserer Reflects On How Interstellar Forced Him To Tweak The Film’s Ending

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It’s no secret that Arrival‘s finale was executed rather beautifully. Told through the eyes of Amy Adams’ Louise Banks, Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi fable used linguistics and the power of language to engineer one of the more gripping third acts of 2016, and it’s a credit to screenwriter Eric Heisserer that all of the necessary pieces fall into place with grace, allowing the audience to decipher Arrival‘s story and messy inkblots almost in tandem with its lead characters.

However, it seems Heisserer initially had a different idea in mind when it comes to the finale of Arrival, and it was only upon viewing Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar that the screenwriter was forced to tweak his ending. Adapted from Ted Chiang’s short Story Of Your Life, it’s important to remember that a big-screen rendition of Chiang’s page-turner had been kicking around for years before Villeneuve officially climbed on board, and though it’s a relatively minor edit in the grand scheme of things, Heisserer’s decision to doctor the script looks to have been for the best.

“I would say the only real significant change is the gift that the heptapods leave us with. In earlier versions, they were leaving sort of the blueprints to an interstellar ship, like an ark of sorts. And then Chris Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’ came out and all of us got together and said, ‘Well this doesn’t quite work now.’ So we focused more on what we had there in front of us, which was the power of their language.

“…it was always that in three millennia we would end up being in a place to help them, and in order to have that happen we needed to start colonizing. We needed to start getting off Earth.”

Given Arrival excels as an intimate character portrait of Louise, we struggle to imagine a scenario in which Villeneuve’s feature could have introduced an all-powerful interstellar ship without taking the focus away from what really mattered – that being the deeply human story at its core.

Widely considered to be one of 2016’s very best genre films, Arrival has been nominated for eight Oscars – Best Picture and Best Director for Denis Villeneuve included – ahead of this month’s awards ceremony. It’ll take place on Sunday, February 26th, when Villeneuve’s cerebral sci-fi will be squaring off against La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester By the Sea, and many more.

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