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Who Is Christopher Walken Playing in ‘Dune: Part Two’?

Christopher Walken as Frank Sheldon in The Outlaws

The official trailer for Dune: Part Two dropped on April 3, 2023, and saw the highly anticipated return of Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides and Zendaya as Chani. It also offered glimpses at some of the new A-list actors joining the film, including Austin Butler as Feyd-Rautha and Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan. Unfortunately, the action-packed trailer didn’t give us a peek at Christopher Walken’s character, Shaddam IV. It remains to be seen how the Academy Award-winning actor’s take on the royal character will compare to José Ferrer’s interpretation of the role in David Lynch’s Dune, released in 1984.

While Shaddam IV wasn’t spotted in the trailer, his daughter, Princess Irulan (Pugh), appeared prominently. Similar to her role in the books, she is seen recording and documenting the major events of Arrakis, musing about the fall of House Atreides and the possibility that Paul may still be alive. Irulan may serve as an important narrator in Dune: Part Two as she tracks Paul’s rise to power among the Fremen. However, in the books, Paul’s rise to power forces Irulan to take a more active role when he rebels against her father.

Emperor Shaddam is expected to play a pivotal role in Dune: Part Two. In fact, even though Walken never appears in Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 film, his character actually directly instigated its events. Dune: Part Two will really just put a face to the character who has been influencing the story since the beginning. Here’s what you need to know about Walken’s Shaddam IV.

Who is Shaddam IV in Dune?

Jose Ferrer as Shaddam IV in Dune
(Universal Pictures)

While not shown in 2021’s Dune, Emperor Shaddam IV is mentioned. He is described as the “Padishah Emperor,” meaning that he is the sovereign ruler of all of the Known Universe. In the Prelude to Dune prequel trilogy by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, it is revealed that Shaddam actually played a role in the murders of his father and older brother to ensure his rise to the throne. This desperation for power is later seen in Dune: Shaddam is the mysterious ruler who sends Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) to Arrakis in the first place.

Before being sent to Arrakis, Leto was the rising ruler of his home planet, Caladan. When Shaddam IV appoints him fief ruler of the planet Arrakis, the only planet to supply the rare, valuable “spice,” it seems like a very lucrative deal on the outside. However, Shaddam IV knew that Arrakis had long been ruled by the House Harkonnen, enemies of the House Atreides, and Leto’s arrival on the planet reignites the longstanding feud between Houses.

This was all part of Shaddam’s scheme to eliminate Leto and thus extinguish any threat that may arise to his position as sovereign ruler. In both the books and movie versions of Dune, Shaddam’s scheme initially proves successful in that Leto is killed by Vladimir Harkonnen. What Shaddam didn’t anticipate was that Leto’s concubine, Lady Jessica, and their son, Paul, would survive and receive aid from the Fremen, the formidable natives of Arrakis, whom the Atreides family realized were overlooked and underestimated by the Known Universe.

Potential spoilers for Dune: Part Two below

Paul and the Fremen end up working together, aiding each other in increasing their strength and fighting skills underneath the noses of those who underestimate them. Eventually, Shaddam recognizes the threat they pose to the Known Universe and spice trade and sets out to crush the uprising. However, he and his elite military force are defeated by Paul and the Fremen, leaving Shaddam at the mercy of Paul’s demands. Paul demands that he take Irulan’s hand in marriage and succeed Shaddam as the Emperor. Forced to concede, Shaddam ends up living and dying in exile after Paul’s ascension to the empire.

It is anticipated that Dune: Part Two will cover Shaddam’s attempts to crush Paul and the Fremen’s uprising, meaning this man who holds power so tightly will be forced to show his face in the sequel.

(featured image: Prime Video)

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Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.