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Christopher Walken as Emperor Shaddam IV in ‘Dune: Part Two’ Is a Missed Opportunity for MENA Representation

A picture of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and Chani Keynes (Zendaya) in Denis Villeneuve's 2021 movie Dune.

Actor Christopher Walken will join the already star-heavy cast of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune adaptation as production on Part 2 gets going. Deadline is reporting that Walken will be playing Emperor Shaddam IV. The role was previously played by José Ferrer in David Lynch’s Dune and Giancarlo Giannini in the 200 SyFy series.

Emperor Shaddam IV is the ruler of the known universe at the beginning of the Dune series. His insecurity surrounding Duke Leto Atreides’s popularity, and having no legal male heirs, makes him feed tensions between House Atreides and their arch-enemies, the Harkonnens. In “gifting” Duke Leto the planet of Arrakis, Shaddam is directly responsible for the slaughter we see in the late-middle part of Dune: Part One.

We also see his personal forces, the Sardaukar, take part in the attack with the Harkonnen forces. Shaddam IV is a small antagonistic role, with a huge impact, and will end up being another name on Paul’s revenge list in the second film. Walken is a great actor who has been seeing his career continue to flourish in television. That being said, it has continued to be disappointing to see no Middle Eastern or North African actors in a film that is so heavily based on the cultures of those people.

The character’s name is Shaddam and comes after a hereditary line of Padishah Emperors. Padishah is a Persian word, and Shaddam is very similar to the Arabic name Saddam, which means “one who confronts.” It would have been great to see Alexander Siddig, F. Murray Abraham, or Ghassan Massoud in this role. Same goes for the role of Princess Irulan. Florence Pugh is fantastic, but what an opportunity this would have been for an unknown or less-known MENA actor.

Dune: Part Two currently has a scheduled release date for October 2023. Villeneuve will be returning to direct along with star Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, and … a lot of spoilers.

(via Deadline, 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.