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Shawn Levy: The Montrealer behind sci-fi thriller ‘Arrival’

Villeneuve’s new movie produced by a Montrealer
WATCH ABOVE: Arrival, a new science fiction thriller just released in theatres across North America is directed by Denis Villeneuve and produced by another Montrealer, Shawn Levy.

When aliens touch down unannounced in various parts the world, the challenge is communicating with them – this is the central story of the much-anticipated new sci-fi thriller, Arrival.

At the helm of Arrival are two Montrealers with a lot of Hollywood clout, director Denis Villeneuve and producer Shawn Levy.

“The movie is about Amy Adams’ character, Louise Banks, who has to figure out a way to understand and connect with an alien species and the challenge of that – but also the rewards of that,” Levy told Global News from his office in Los Angeles.

It’s a concept that really resonated with the producer when he first came across the story.

“What interested me was doing a science fiction movie that wasn’t just cerebral but was equally emotional,” Levy said.

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“From the tender age of six years old, telling stories has always been a driving force for him,” said the woman who raised him, his stepmom, Leigh Bacal.

“He was hard working, always loved the TV,” she said. “He had ‘sick days’ where he stayed home, enjoyed the TV immensely, but was a hard working student.”

She noticed his penchant for movies early on.

“His brother, Lewis, and he were always doing videos and always playing around, and talking about film and film school – it was part of their lives,” Bacal said.

Levy has had immense success in Hollywood, but clings to the values that he grew up with.

“I try to live in a menschy way – to invoke a very typical Jewish Montreal Yiddishy kind of phrase,” he explained.

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“As Canadians, we are brought up to be civil, to be respectful, to be open and friendly,” he said as he brought his latest movie to Montreal.

“To get to come to the set of Arrival, and to be in my hometown, was just fantastic,” he said. “I’m thrilled as a Montrealer to see how vibrant the film community is in Montreal.”

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Working with fellow Canadian director Denis Villeneuve on the film was a thrill as well.

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“All of his movies have a humanity – and a deep emotionality,” Levy said of Villeneuve. “They aren’t sentimental, but they are emotional, and they’re deeply human.”

It’s that human quality that shines through in Levy’s work, including a certain cult series everyone’s buzzing about.

Levy is also the producer of Stranger Things and his stepmom is a big fan.

“I watch everything I can,” Bacal said. “I overdosed on Stranger Things in one night.. couldn’t take my eyes off it.”

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She’s not the only one. Barack Obama reportedly binge-watched Stranger Things on Air Force One and that led to an invitation to the White House.

“It was so auspicious and thrilling,” Levy said. “And that dude, Mr. President Obama, he has a magnetism and a cool that’s unlike anything that I have ever seen on the biggest movie star in the world.”

It’s high praise from a man in the know.