December 23, 2016 at 06:30 AM EST

To say that Ryan Gosling enjoyed working with director Denis Villeneuve on Blade Runner 2049 is a bit of an understatement. “If you made a list of all the characteristics you hoped for in a director and sent it to Santa Claus, there’d be a Denis Villeneuve under your tree Christmas morning,” he says. “Maybe a little drunk on eggnog, but he’d be there!”

Production on the sequel to the 1982 classic began last summer in Budapest on the large-scale practical sets that Villeneuve insists upon. This minimizes the amount of green-screen CGI work and helps him and his actors feel truly immersed in the story. “It’s really incredible,” Gosling says. “I was so overwhelmed by the scale of them and how specific and, although, beautiful they are.”

He likens working with Villeneuve and famed cinematographer Roger Deakins (who previously worked with Villeneuve on Sicario) to going to film school every day. “Roger is a master. If there’s a Mount Rushmore of DPs, he’d be right there in the middle. He goes about his work very modestly and quietly, but you learn so much from just looking. You realize that once you are in one of his shots, half your job is already done.”

For more on Blade Runner 2049, including exclusive photographs and interviews with the filmmakers and cast, pick up Entertainment Weekly‘s First Look Issue, on stands now, or buy it here — and subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

Stephen Vaughan

Blade Runner 2049 opens in theaters next October. Head here for more from EW’s cover story on the film.

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