LOS ANGELES — The sudden arrival of a dozen enormous and quixotic spacecraft in locations around the globe is the kickoff of “Arrival.” The new film (opening Friday) stars Amy Adams as a top linguist key to unraveling both the mystery of the huge pod-shaped alien vehicles — and the outer space travelers who have arrived in them.
Adams admitted that being involved in the movie “was a challenging journey, all the way along. That goes back to the beginning when the screenwriter [Eric Heisserer] tried to get it made. His pitch was about this being a female-driven sci-fi film about aliens arriving on Earth.
“For so long, he couldn’t get anyone to sign on, but then fortunately he pitched it to the right people — and they fought to get it made the way it was intended.”
While Adams doesn’t speak any other languages than her native English, the actress admitted, “I was very happy to learn that for not all linguists is speaking many languages their speciality. Being a linguist is all about the understanding of language — the structure of languages. Though, of course, many of them do know multiple languages, that field is really about the understanding the history and sociology of languages, and how they all fit together.”
Adams did work with a linguist, but laughed when she revealed that academic provided her with a large pile of books on linguistics.
“Unfortunately, they were all from the college level, so I had to tell her, ‘No, I need something simpler.’ What she had given me went completely over my head,” said Adams with a smile. “Fortunately, there are lots of documentaries out there about linguistics, and that helped me much more.”
Unlike so many sci-fi films involving the arrival of alien creatures on Earth, “Arrival” does not portray a species that is out to kill humankind or consume us as food.
“It’s really all about trying to communicate. They are communicating with us out of service to us, but also out of service to themselves,” said the actress, keeping quiet about the key twists and turns of the storyline. “The film does show us how we need each other — so our societies can move forward and evolve.”
Adams said it was impossible to make this kind of movie without contemplating the existence of life on other planets outside of Earth. “I love to believe there is other life in the universe. After all, it is so big! That would be cool.
“Plus, it also takes a lot of hubris to believe we’re the only life form in the universe. Of course, life forms may take very different shapes or ways of existing from what we think of when we talk about living things.
“Frankly, I love looking at the night sky and thinking about the vastness of the universe. It keeps things in perspective for me.”
For Adams’ co-star, Jeremy Renner, who plays a renowned scientist, the possibility of life elsewhere “is something that is quite intriguing. … I don’t speak to people in those terms — ‘Hey! Do you guys think there are aliens out there?’ But it is something I think about occasionally and it is something I do believe in.”
Like Adams, Renner appreciated the fact the “Arrival” aliens are not portrayed as bad beings. “This whole film is so much more intelligent than so many earlier sci-fi films. This is much more thoughtful than the usual ones. … Plus, it’s the kind of film that sneaks up on you for quite a while after you watch it. I think people will keep thinking of things — be reminded of certain scenes and moments — the next few days or even weeks after they first saw the movie.
“There’s a lot of interesting moving parts here. That’s something I really liked about the script.”
As he delved into the project, Renner was reminded of something from his youth: “Things I got ‘A’s’ in back in school were courses in science classes that dealt with astronomy. So this movie really connected with me on that level too!”
For Adams, being in her second film with Renner was a real treat, especially “because this time we actually did work with each other — rather than in ‘American Hustle,’ where we worked around each other, in scenes where there were a number of other actors to whom we specifically spoke to!”