This morning, Warner Bros. unveiled the first trailer for the most anticipated movie event of the year — the long awaited, big budget adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. Directed by visionary master, Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, Sicario), and starring literally every big name in Hollywood — Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem — the trailer gave us our first glimpse of the members of House Atreides, Arrakis (the planet commonly referred to as Dune), and of course, giant motherf**king sandworms! Given Villeneuve’s work visually and thematically, as well as the charismatic, strong leads anchoring his vision, I think it’s safe to say WB has a utter game changer on their hands! See for yourselves:
Following the debut of the trailer, Villeneuve and the full cast, including Chalamet, Ferguson, Isaac, Brolin, Zendaya, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Momoa, and Bardem sat down for a brief Q&A with moderator, and Dune enthusiast, Stephen Colbert, to discuss bringing the worlds of Frank Herbert to life, on a scale hitherto undreamt of!
“It’s been called the greatest science fiction novel of all-time, but it actually has a lot of fantasy elements as well. And is at its heart really a coming of age story — not just for Paul Atreides (Chalamet), but for humanity,” introduced Colbert. “I read the novel when I was younger and it had a huge impact on me. And I’m incredibly excited about this movie coming out.”
Colbert then cut to a B-Roll showing an in-depth, behind the scenes look at the film, and inputs from the cast and crew about what Dune is all about and what it really means. Colbert then went on to introduce Villeneuve and the cast, and began the panel by asking him and Chalamet about what their first encounters with Dune were like.
“I was the age of Paul Atreides — 14/15 years old [when I first discovered Dune],” began Villeneuve. “I found the book in a bookstore and I just fell in love with it… it was a very powerful human story and I was grabbed at the beginning of the first pages, and read the whole series, and became obsessed with it… It stayed with me for years… At the time I was also getting into cinema, and upon reading it I thought it had massive, massive potential for the big screen.”
“I’d like to say I discovered it in my youth as well,” added Chalamet. “But the truth is I came to following Denis’ career, and seeing an article on Indiewire saying he’d been attached to direct it.”
“Well I have good news for you, Timothée, because you still have a chance to discover it in your youth,” joked Colbert. He then asked Villeneuve, “Dune’s DNA is in so many other shows, from Star Wars to Game of Thrones. Approaching this as a director, what do you think Dune’s main themes are?”
“At its core, Dune is a simple, epic adventure story,” said Villeneuve. “But it has so many rules and so many themes, that it makes the book rich. And we try to keep that richness in the movie… But I would say it’s about how humans need to earn our destiny in order to change the world… the movie is a call to action for us to change things. Specifically the youth.”
Villeneuve was then asked when he decided to break it into two films. “Right at the beginning,” Villenevue said. “I cannot make one movie out of this book. It has to be at minimum two movies. It’s so rich and complex. In order to be faithful to the book, it would need two movies.”
Colbert also asked Chalamet about Paul’s adaptability as a character, and how he makes himself essential to each moment, and how that parallels Chalamet’s approach to the character as an actor. “I’m going to steal that soundbyte about adaptability to the desert being metaphorical to acting because you hear it a lot,” started Chalamet. “There’s a real temptation to talk pretentiously about method acting… but when you’re shooting in the desert in Jordan, with the spirituality of the location… you’re really in it… you feel the environment. Specifically in the role of Paul, and playing a teenager… and being in a state of confusion, when you’re young, the world functions as a mirror. You’re just confirming everything about yourself based on what’s provided and what’s said about you. And when you’re the Kwisatz Haderach it’s maybe overwhelming.”
Colbert continued down the line to speak to Oscar Isaac. “How does it feel to get an upgrade [from Poe Dameron] to a Duke?”
Isaac laughed, and responded, “That’s all Poe wanted was an upgrade. It was funny going into this, but immediately you could just feel it was a totally different situation [than Star Wars]. It’s going back to the roots of it all which is Frank Herbert’s Dune. It’s what inspired all of that.” He continued on talking about Duke as a character. “He’s a dad. He’s dad. That’s the big thing. He’s a father and he has all the qualities of the epitome of what a father should be. He’s noble. And House Atreides is a noble house. And by that I mean structurally in this universe it’s what everything else is a reference to. Either as an enemy or an ally of that is a beacon of ethics and higher consciousness, which is what’s been the struggle ever since this higher technological dystopian future that they’ve made their way out of…He’s human. That’s the biggest thing. He’s absolutely human and doomed the way humans are. He’s under incredible pressure to save his family and save his house to adapt to this new existential threat/situation, which is moving to this strange planet, and being forced to… There’s a lot of things at work, and yet he’s trying to live up to those bigger ideals of sensitivity, and empathy, love and order, and trying to give that and show that to his son knowing he’s not going to be there forever… He finds himself in this high pressured emotional situation… This has a lot more to do with human trials than alien species.”
When asked about the family dynamic of House Atreides, Isaac said, “It’s weird. It’s a really weird family. They’re tight, but they have very specific goals, all of them. He’s got Lady Jessica – his dearest partner and greatness–but has this weird prophet/spy thing going on. And he’s got his son, who might be a messiah… So a lot for Dad to deal with!”
When the cast and Villeneuve were asked about physical sets, Isaac chimed in saying “I’ll just say no set piece, no X-Wing, no Millennium Falcon could compare to the sheer scale of Josh Brolin’s head.” As the cast busted out laughing he continued saying, “It was massive both literally and figuratively. It literally made me feel like I was in an alien planet.”
Colbert was able to ask power-house actress, Ferguson about how the the plot is driven by the decisions her character, Lady Jessica, makes. Ferguson replied saying, “I’m very impressed that you, Stephen, have read the book again. It’s a little applause to Denis. He highlighted this from the book in the film. That her decisions basically create fracture, and disrupts everything.”
Ferguson was then asked what life lessons she took away from the shoot. “I think for me, this entire cast and the way that it was shot – it was an intense shoot – taught me an incredible amount about myself. The desert is so big! It’s basically mother nature engulfing you, and telling you ‘you mean nothing,’ engulfing your ego.”
Colbert then asked Mamoa how this experience compared to making other action films. “I’ve never worked with a director of this scale. Denis is a cinematic genius. And generally all the action stuff I’ve done has been no where close to [what I’ve done here]… I’ve never seen anything so beautiful… the things I do have never looked as good.”
Mamoa, Bardem, and Brolin were also asked about their characters fit into this world in relation to House Atreides.
“I’m Duncan Idaho. Basically the greatest fighter in the f**king world,” Momoa joked. “No, I look at myself as a servant to the Atreides…He’s the the front-line. He’s trusted by the Duke to be sent in to Arrakis and meet Stilgar (Bardem), and combine two worlds together. And at the root of it he’d do anything to protect Paul and the Atreides.”
Bardem went on to discuss his character. “Stilgar is the head chief of the people that live deep in the desert of planet Arrakis, also known as Dune. He is a leader. He is a fighter. He has a lot of ethics and morals. And he’s taken by a message that a messiah, Paul Atreides, is bringing with him.”
He was then asked about the race of people Stilgar rules over, called the Fremen. “They are protecting their environment and planet from the abuse they’ve taken. There’s a lot of ethics and morality and also environmental thinking in their ways, which is brilliant in the book and in the movie.”
Brolin was also asked about his character, Gurney Halleck. “He’s a musician.” He said jokingly. “I’ve been playing the baliset since I was 7 or 8 years old, which is why I was hired for this. I’m the only person who plays the baliset.” Speaking seriously, Brolin then added, “Gurney is the war master. And also a parent of sorts. Where Duke Leto is obviously extremely busy in what he’s doing. He’s taken a real liking to this kid, and I think he has a real soft spot. He’s a great dichotomous character. He’s this great warrior, but has a love of poetry and a lot of heart and a great softness to him.”
He was asked if there was actually a physical baliset. “There actually is one!… It’s described in the book as having many strings. And me being an amateur musician, when it was brought to the set it was immediately grabbed out of my hands by Oscar Isaac, and played incredibly (don’t forget Llewyn Davis) by him which threw me into this awful vulnerable state that I would never get it right. And when we were doing the playing and the singing, Denis threw that on me the night before. I would have been so nervous and done so badly, but because it was thrown on me and you have to prepare for this, I think it went well.”
When Isaac was asked about Brolin’s baliset playing, he said “I actually haven’t heard it yet, so I’m looking forward to tearing him apart.”
Colbert then chatted with Zendaya and Sharon Duncan-Brewster.
Duncan-Brewster was asked about what it was like taking the role of Liet-Kynes, and the idea of changing the character’s gender for the film. “First and foremost, Denis was adamant that we just concentrate on what Kynes represents. And thematically the sense of how integral a role it is. It connects all the dots… this is somebody that understands all roles and moves between each one, seemingly with one agenda, but however, as things go, we understand there is more game playing, survival, and preservation among different beings. So we had to concentrate on the essence of this person, and not that this person was a man. To me and to Denis, I’m intrigued to see what the fans make of this, but I’m excited to see what comes out. I don’t think it’s important that in the book Kynes was a man. I think what’s important is to see what Kynes stands for. And that’s what Denis stayed loyal to.”
Zendaya was asked about what excited her most about playing Chani. “This whole thing has been a magical experience. I’ve always been a huge fan and wanted to be part of something that was this massive, and felt like another world. Just being there was incredible… It blew my mind and I felt lucky to be there and immersed in this different world.”
On the subject of Paul and Chani’s relationship in the film, Zendaya went on to say, “People obviously know things from the books, but upon their first meeting she’s tough. She’s a warrior from this planet, and that’s all she knows. So this new kid coming in — she’s not feeling it… She obviously doesn’t know about his vision. He knows her, she doesn’t know him. There are these moments –and I don’t want to give anything away — but she sees something in him that’s an indicator of what’s to come.”
Chalamet was asked about the phrase “Fear is the Mind-Killer” and what that means to him. “It’s the idea that when the world, when circumstance, when conflict is so overwhelming, that to try to attack it with action or words, or a plan of action is itself overwhelming, that that designation of anxiety or fear (while a primal reaction) actually does you no good. And if you can center that fear or center your eye through the fear, there is a middle ground, sort of zen-like calmness that helps you through the eye of the storm.”
“Fear is the Mind-Killer” indeed! Goddamn, I cannot wait for this movie!
Dune is coming to blow our minds, this holiday season, December 2020!