Dune — the upcoming adaptation of the sci-fi epic, known onscreen as Dune: Part One — roughly covers the first half of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel. As the Dune trailers have shown, the movie follows House Atreides, Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), his concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and their son Paul (Timothée Chalamet), as they take control of a dangerous desert planet called Arrakis, home to the universe’s most precious substance: spice. Chalamet’s Paul is the protagonist on Dune, but he won’t continue in that position on Dune: Part Two, director Denis Villeneuve has revealed. Instead, Zendaya who plays Arrakis native and Paul’s love interest Chani, will take over.
“When I did the casting for Chani’s character, I met a lot of actresses,” Villeneuve told La Repubblica (translated by IGN). “Zendaya wanted to audition and today, after shooting the film and seeing what a wonderful actress she is, I’m sorry I auditioned her. It was just because I didn’t know her. However, that day, she impressed me and when she left the studio, I knew that Chani was her, the young desert tiger. I am honoured to present two such explosive talents on screen [Chalamet and Zendaya] and I can’t wait to shoot the second part of Dune to get them back together. Knowing that in the next chapter, Zendaya will be the protagonist of the story.”
Villeneuve had always planned Dune as a two-part film series, but this is the first we are hearing of his Dune: Part Two plans. In 2018, Villeneuve revealed that he only signed onto Dune as director for Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros., on the condition that he would get a two-movie deal. In an interview in 2020, he said: “I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie. The world is too complex. It’s a world that takes its power in details.” And so, when in late 2020 WarnerMedia said all 2021 Warner Bros. titles would have a day-and-date release on HBO Max, Villeneuve was frustrated because he felt it jeopardised the future of his franchise.
“Streaming can produce great content, but not movies of Dune’s scope and scale,” Villeneuve added last December. “Warner Bros.’ decision means Dune won’t have the chance to perform financially in order to be viable and piracy will ultimately triumph. Warner Bros. might just have killed the Dune franchise. This one is for the fans. AT&T’s John Stankey said that the streaming horse left the barn. In truth, the horse left the barn for the slaughterhouse. […] My team and I devoted more than three years of our lives to make it a unique big screen experience. Our movie’s image and sound were meticulously designed to be seen in theatres.”
WarnerMedia is still sticking with its HBO Max decision for Dune — that appears more sensible in the past month or so as the Delta variant of COVID-19 has gripped the US. The country reported over 250,000 new coronavirus cases on Monday. Naturally, audiences are now more reluctant to step into closed indoor spaces such as cinemas, and Dune’s hybrid release gives them the option to see the film how they feel comfortable. Villeneuve acknowledged the need to put public safety first when he blasted WarnerMedia owner AT&T, but he believed as did everyone then that the world would return to a new normal by October 2021. Alas, that seems unlikely just yet.
Dune is out October 22 in cinemas worldwide, and on HBO Max in the US (for the first month of its release). In India, Dune will release in English and Hindi. It will have its world premiere on September 3 at the 2021 Venice Film Festival.