How 'Interstellar' Changed The Ending Of 'Arrival'

The ending of Arrival is of a piece with the rest of the movie: a meticulously thought-out, beautifully understated gut-puncher that brings the entire story full circle. But as revealed by its Oscar-nominated screenwriter Eric Heisserer, it almost had a very different finale. It turns out that in a way, we've got Christopher Nolan's Interstellar to thank for the finale we got. Click through to find out how Interstellar changed the Arrival ending. Obviously, spoilers are ahead

Speaking with Collider, Heisserer revealed how Interstellar indirectly led to the Arrival ending that we got.

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' (laughs). So we focused more on what we had there in front of us, which was the power of their language.

Midway through the the movie, the heptapods tell Louise that they're visiting humanity now because they'll need our assistance in the future. Heisserer explained how the spaceship would have helped us help them:

[I]t 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.

In the final version of Arrival, the heptapod language itself is the gift. Those who learn it, like Louise, gain the ability to perceive time differently, seeing the past and future as part of a cohesive whole instead of experiencing time linearly like we do now. As a concept in a sci-fi movie, it might not be as sexy and as flashy as an interstellar ark, but I think it suits the movie better. So much of Arrival is about the importance of communication. What better way to tie the whole film together than by returning to that same theme?