Director Denis Villeneuve and Javier Bardem on the set – PHOTO BY CHIABELLA JAMES – Warner Brothers

The cast of Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ truly learned what suffering for their art meant while shooting the ambitious adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic novel.  The desert planet of Arakkis was recreated in Abu Dhabi.  In ‘Dune’, the characters wear “stillsuits,” thick rubbery armor that preserves their bodies’ moisture.  In reality, those don’t exist.  So the actors, led by Timothée Chalamet, were forced to lumber around in heavy facsimiles in temperatures that soared to over 120°.

According to Chalamet:

“I remember going out of my room at 2 a.m., and it being probably 100 degrees.  The shooting temperature was sometimes 120 degrees.  They put a cap on it out there, if it gets too hot. I forget what the exact number is, but you can’t keep working.  In a really grounded way, it was helpful to be in the stillsuits and to be at that level of exhaustion.”

Vanity Fair has offered the first looks at the cast in their cumbersome uniforms on location, which will hopefully give fans an idea of what to expect from this adaptation.  There have been attempts in the past, but Herbert’s book is so dense that they have all fallen short in one way or another.

And while the novel is technically science fiction, Villeneueve sees its ecological theme as more pertinent than ever.

As he stated:

“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…  No matter what you believe, Earth is changing, and we will have to adapt.  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.”

Chalamet portrays Paul Atreides, a young noble who must travel from his lush homeworld of Caladan to Arakkis, the only known source of the vital resource “spice.”  The all-star cast also includes Javier Bardem as Stilgar, Dave Bautista as Glossu ‘Beast’ Rabban, Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck, David Dastmalchian as Piter De Vries, Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica, Stephen McKinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat, Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, Charlotte Rampling as Reverend Mother Mohiam, Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Harkonnen, and  Zendaya as Chani.

Below, you can get your first looks at them in character.


The House Atreides, Left to Right: Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, Stephen Mckinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat, Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides, Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides, Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck and Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho.

Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson in Jordan – PHOTO BY CHIABELLA JAMES – Warner Brothers
Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides – PHOTO BY CHIABELLA JAMES – Warner Brothers
Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides – PHOTO BY CHIABELLA JAMES – Warner Brothers

Ferguson spoke of her character Lady Jessica, saying:

“She’s a mother, she’s a concubine, she’s a soldier.  Denis was very respectful of Frank’s work in the book, [but] the quality of the arcs for much of the women have been brought up to a new level. There were some shifts he did, and they are beautifully portrayed now.”

Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck – PHOTO BY CHIABELLA JAMES – Warner Brothers
Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho – PHOTO BY CHIABELLA JAMES – Warner Brothers
Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Liet Kynes – PHOTO BY CHIABELLA JAMES – Warner Brothers

Sharon Duncan-Brewster portrays Kynes, a character that is male in the original book.  She stated:

“What Denis had stated to me was there was a lack of female characters in his cast, and he had always been very feminist, pro-women, and wanted to write the role for a woman.  This human being manages to basically keep the peace amongst many people. Women are very good at that, so why can’t Kynes be a woman? Why shouldn’t Kynes be a woman?”

Zendaya as Chani – PHOTO BY CHIABELLA JAMES – Warner Brothers

So far, there has been no mention of ‘Dune’s release being delayed due to the coronavirus.  It is scheduled to open in theaters on December 18, 2020.