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Denis Villeneuve on Needing Two Movies for Dune: “It’s a World That Takes Its Power in Details”


Timothée Chalamet in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune angst

Vanity Fair continues to deliver unto us the Dune content that makes my little nerd heart sing. The magazine spoke to director Denis Villeneuve about tackling a film adaptation of the science fiction masterpiece, and he’s already being my hero for stating that he only agreed to make the movie if it could be done in two parts.

As I stated in my previous piece on the film, the book Dune has been adapted twice, by David Lynch in the ’80s and in a mini-series in the 2000s on Syfy, but neither of those versions really attained mainstream success befitting the novel’s stature. There was an attempt to adapt it in the ’70s by filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky that never happened. This is why Villeneuve’s adaptation is such a big deal, both for fans and the director himself.

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

In speaking on what he thinks about the book, Villeneuve sees it as a call to action about the future of the Earth.

“No matter what you believe, Earth is changing, and we will have to adapt,” he says. “That’s why I think that Dune, this book, was written in the 20th century. It was a distant portrait of the reality of the oil and the capitalism and the exploitation—the overexploitation—of Earth. Today, things are just worse. It’s a coming-of-age story, but also a call for action for the youth.”

He also mentioned that the reason he cast Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir is because “the baron was flirting very often with caricature and I tried to bring him a bit more dimension. That’s why I brought in Stellan. Stellan has something in the eyes. You feel that there’s someone thinking, thinking, thinking—that has tension and is calculating inside, deep in the eyes. I can testify, it can be quite frightening.”

I am already seeing Dune and Star Wars comparisons online, so I just want to make this very clear: Dune came out in 1965. Star Wars came out in 1977. Dune is not “ripping off” Star Wars just because they both have chosen ones on desert planets and a similar-ish color palette (and yes, I know I made a desert planet joke yesterday, but I love Dune, so it’s fine). Could they maybe have not made Paul look like he’s doing a Kylo Ren cosplay? Yes, but still.

Also, no MENA actors in a 2020 adaptation of Dune? Guys, come on. Come on.

It’s hard to take one of the bestselling science-fiction books of all time, one of the literal grandaddies of the genre, and adapt it. There is so much that has already been taken from it, and despite not being a great adaptation, the David Lynch version was still very visually compelling and enjoyable in its own way. I will absolutely see Dune, but in an era where celebrity draw isn’t as big as it used to be (with a handful of exceptions), they need to work hard in order to make people see this, being something that’s not Star Wars. This breaks my heart, but sadly, I am but a nerd loser.

Still, it feels like Villeneuve understands the weight of the book’s legacy, and hopefully, as he does the second film (and leads the charge on the miniseries), he will understand the importance of calling out the imperialism and colonization of the book—especially since that ends up being a really important aspect of the books as the series progresses.

I’m looking forward to seeing the movie and seeing how it addresses the complicated brilliance of its source material.

(via Vanity Fair, image: Warner Bros.)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.