Denis Villeneuve Thinks Christopher Nolan Is A 'Master,' Doesn't Consider Himself On That Level

Christopher Nolan was arguably the quintessential filmmaker of the 2000s, but if there's any filmmaker who could give him a run for his money in the 2010s and 2020s, it's "Dune" director Denis Villeneuve. With thrillers and sci-fi epics like "Prisoners," "Enemy," "Sicario," "Arrival," and "Blade Runner," Villeneuve has established himself as one of the most exciting new auteurs to come along in the last decade or so. However, while fans might enjoy debating the merits of Villeneuve versus Nolan, Villeneuve himself doesn't see himself as a director who's in the same league as Nolan. Not yet, anyway.

In an interview this week, The Hollywood Reporter asked Villeneuve how he felt about him and Nolan being "mentioned in the same sentence as two of our greatest living filmmakers." Villeneuve replied, "I will say that I'm a massive fan of Nolan's work. He's a master, but I don't consider myself at the same level." He continued:

"It's not false humility, and I must be careful with what I'm saying here. It's just that I like to think that I'm still learning my craft and that every movie is a learning experience. If one day I feel that I'm in control and that I've totally mastered the tools, then maybe I could be called a master, but it's not the case right now. I'm learning too much. (Laughs.) I think that Chris is a contemporary master, and each time he raises the bar so high. So ... it's a beautiful compliment to be associated with a filmmaker of that caliber, but I don't listen to that, frankly."

Villeneuve vs. Nolan: Choose Your Money Horse

Villeneuve, who is French Canadian, made several French-language films like "Incendies" before crossing over into English features in 2013 with "Prisoners." In his filmography, he did a bit more revving up than Nolan before he had his big breakthrough. Nolan first got started with the black-and-white indie feature "Following" in 1998, but the innovative structure of his sophomore effort, "Memento," became such a touchstone for turn-of-the-millennium filmmaking that, by comparison, his career looks like an overnight success. Then, of course, there was his stewardship of Batman on film and everything that followed after that.

"Dune Part Two" is scheduled for 2023, and at that point, we'll be able to look back at the full ten-year run Villeneuve has had, from "Prisoners" to "Dune Part Two." If you stack up the seven movies he'll have made during that time, and compare them to Nolan's six-movie run from "Memento" to "Inception" from 2000 to 2010, I wonder who will stand triumphant in the eyes of cinephiles as the more masterful filmmaker?

Naturally, it's all relative, and this would discount later films Nolan made like "Dunkirk," but it's always fun to entertain such fan debates. Since Villeneuve had a later start than Nolan, maybe he'll always be a little behind, or maybe we can settle for calling them both contemporary masters and leave it at that.