Dune is 'the most difficult thing' director Denis Villeneuve has ever tackled

Tom Butler
·Senior Editor
·3-min read
The title treatment for <i>Dune</i>. (Warner Bros.)
The title treatment for Dune. (Warner Bros.)

Dune director Denis Villeneuve has described adapting Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel for the screen as his biggest ever challenge.

“It’s a book that tackles politics, religion, ecology, spirituality—and with a lot of characters,” Villeneuve tells Vanity Fair. “I think that’s why it’s so difficult. Honestly, it’s by far the most difficult thing I’ve done in my life.”

The Blade Runner 2049 filmmaker explains that splitting the lengthy 1965 book into two parts was the key to bringing it to the screen, and luckily studio Warner Bros. concurred.

“I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie,” says Villeneuve. “The world is too complex. It’s a world that takes its power in details.”

The first film is scheduled to arrive in cinemas in December 2020. It tells the story of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), a young man with special powers who moves to the desert planet of Arrakis when his family takes control of the planet.

Read more: First look at Timothée Chalamet in Dune

The House of Atreides has been entrusted with running the planet, the galaxy’s only source of spice, a drug with mystical properties, but a rival house has other ideas in mind. The book has been hugely influential in the world of science fiction, with its influence felt in Star Trek, Star Wars, and Game of Thrones, and has been adapted once before as a film in 1984 by David Lynch, and as a TV series.

The filmmaker revealed the first details of the film in Vanity Fair’s May issue, which also details some of the difficult conditions under which the film was made.

Chalamet recounts filming in bulky costumes in remote regions outside Abu Dhabi where temperatures would often reach 48C (120F). “In a really grounded way, it was helpful to be in the stillsuits and to be at that level of exhaustion,” the Lady Bird star says.

The preview also reveals that Baron Harkonnen, the film’s overarching antagonist, portrayed by Stellan Skarsgård has been “created with full-body prosthetics” and “is like a rhino in human form.”

Oscar Isaac and Rebecca Ferguson play Paul's parents Duke Leto and Lady Jessica Atreides, while Josh Brolin is Gurney Halleck, a veteran soldier schooling Paul in the ways of war.

Dune comes to cinemas in December.