Total Film

Knives Out

DUNE I Denis Villeneuve and a fighting-fit Timothée Chalamet bring Frank Herbert’s seminal sci-fi classic back to the screen.


When Denis Villeneuve’s long-awaited adaptation of Frank Herbert’s genre-defining opus Dune was delayed by the best part of a year last October, the Quebecer director behind modern masterpiec­es Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 was in two minds. “Frankly, the pandemic was a curse,” says Villeneuve, who found remote editing particular­ly troublesom­e. “But a good way to see it is that we had more time to finish the movie exactly the way I wanted it to be. We’ve been finished since maybe March. Definitely, it was good for the movie.”

Those extra months may have made all the difference, but for Villeneuve they were a drop in the ocean. After all, he’s dreamt about bringing Dune to the screen for 40 years. Falling “deeply in love” with Herbert’s epic, ecological­ly conscious far-future saga about feuding families on the hostile desert planet of Arrakis while a self-confessed “nerd” in his early teens, as the decades went by, the idea of adapting Dune was never far from Villeneuve’s thoughts. “When people were asking me [what I’d love to make], it was always Dune,” the director tells Teasers over Zoom. “It was really something that I kept in the back of my mind of what would be my ultimate dream.”

When the opportunit­y to finally make Dune arose in late 2016, Villeneuve had some conditions: it would need to be shot on location in Wadi Rum, Jordan – the only place on Earth that could conceivabl­y double for the mesmeric, endless desert of Arrakis; the expansive story would need to be told over two films to do it justice; and there was only one choice for Paul Atreides. “We said, ‘It’s Timothée [Chalamet].’ We didn’t have a Plan B,”

Villeneuve notes. “Honestly, if he had said no, I don’t know what I would have done. There would be no Dune, maybe.”

Villeneuve was confident that Chalamet had the charisma and “deep intelligen­ce” to convincing­ly take his childhood hero from the young heir of House Atreides to the future Kwisatz Haderach. But Paul is also a skilled combatant, who uses his wits and speed to go toe-to-toe with fierce fighters, as seen in our exclusive image in which Paul squares off against the Fremen Jamis (Babs Olusanmoku­n), crysknife in hand.

“Of course, [Paul] has all of those techniques that make him a very dangerous fighter, but it doesn’t rely on external muscles,” Villeneuve explains, before a pause, and a smile. “How can I say it? I was like Paul. I looked like Timothée when I was 16 years old. So maybe it’s like vengeance [laughs]. I created my hero. He looks like what I used to look like, and he’s kicking the ass of the big guys, you know? It’s like Revenge Of The Nerds.” JF


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