Screenwriter Eric Heisserer was nominated for an Oscar this past award season for his work on Arrival. While he continues to write for Hollywood, with films like Lights Out and future films like Van Helsing, he’s also started writing for comic publisher Valiant. During a recent visit to WonderCon in Anaheim, California, we talked to him about his transition in comics and his upcoming film projects.
GameSpot: You adapted Arrival from a story by Ted Chiang, and it’s a very science fiction movie that isn’t so science fiction. How far did you dive into linguistics and how language works for the film?
Eric Heisserer: I took what I learned from the novella, from Ted’s work, and I dove in with a lot of reading and research on my own and got to where I was like, “Yeah, I know this s*** really well.” Then I sat down with linguist and I was like, “I don’t know anything at all. I’m not that smart.”
The best thing to do in these kinds of situations is surround yourself with the people that do these kinds of things and just let them talk. Listening to how a theoretical physicist and a linguist talk about their work is a little bit like you and I talking about a new comic we love or a new movie that came out which we’re infatuated with. For them, it’s ideas. It’s theories. It’s whatever part of their work that they’re really grappling with or excited about.
In a sense, would you say that it was a bit overwhelming with the intelligence in the room with you while working on Arrival?
It was! Here I am writing characters that are way smarter than I am, and they’re facing the challenge of a lifetime. To try and make that believable was so intimidating to me. I didn’t want to mess that up. The best thing I could do would…
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