DUNE Director Denis Villeneuve Teases Trilogy Plans

The Sleeper has awoken! The highly anticipated feature film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Friday to critical acclaim and very positive first reactions. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, the sweeping sci-fi saga tells the story of a young man, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), who discovers a great and terrible destiny awaiting him on the desert planet Arrakis against the backdrop of warring houses, political machinations, and murders most foul.

In advance of the Venice Film Festival, Nerdist and a small group of journalists caught up with Denis Villeneuve to pick his brain about tackling one of the most iconic sci-fi stories in history that has influenced so much modern pop culture. Although we had neither The Voice nor the Emperor’s Truthsayer, both proved unnecessary as the director was effusive in his answers about his inspirations for the film, his deep-seated love of Frank Herbert’s world, and his plans for the future.

House Atreides greets Duncan Idaho

Warner Bros.

Many fans know that Dune is a dense novel, full of plots within plots and story arcs within story arcs. Villeneuve’s adaptation is intended to be split into two parts in order to avoid overstuffing a single film and oversimplifying Herbert’s story. Dune’s initial theatrical release was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and there is no current release date for Dune Part II, which has yet to enter production.

iO9‘s Germain Lussier asked Villeneuve about what the timeline for production would look like if Dune Part II were to get a greenlight from Warner Bros. and Legendary sooner rather than later.

“The thing I will say is when you make a movie in two parts, necessarily when you do the first part, you have to know what you’re going to do in the second part,” Villeneuve explained. “I mean, it has been the structure. It has been dreamed. … So I would say that I would be fairly ready to go quite quickly.”

Paul Atreides and his mother Lady Jessica on Arrakis in Dune in a split screen image with Duke Leto Atreides and Gurney Halleck.

Warner Bros.

When it comes to movies of Dune‘s scale and scope, though, “quickly” is a relative term.

“We are talking about months,” Villeneuve added. “[If] there’s enthusiasm and the movie is greenlit sooner [rather] than later, I will say that I will be ready to shoot in 2022 for sure. 2022, for sure. I would love [to] because I am ready to go. And I will say that I would love to bring it to the screen as soon as possible, but we know [with] the first film, I really had time to make sure that it was exactly the way I wanted it to be. And I would love to have the same feeling when I make the second part. So that would be the priority. More quality will be the priority.”

Villeneuve revealed that he has envisioned not just a two-part adaptation of Dune, but its sequel novel Dune Messiah as well. In response to question by Screen Rant‘s Ash Crossan, Villeneuve said, “The thing I envision, the adaptation of two books, Dune and Dune Messiah. We decided to split the first novel in two, so now we are at three movies. Those movies are very long to make. For my mental sanity, I decided to just dream about three movies.”

Vision of Chani

Warner Bros.

However, if you’re already foaming at the mouth thinking about Bijaz, the Ghola, and stone burners, pump the brakes, pal. Although a third part is on Villeneuve’s mind, he remains firmly focused on finishing his adaptation of Dune.

“But, by the way, I’m not dreaming about Dune Messiah right now,” Villeneuve continued. “I’m focusing on launching Dune Part I, hoping that will be a Part II. That’s enough. I mean, doing the first one was by far the most challenging thing I ever done. I think that we were able to bring it to life because we all, me and the team, just did that for two and a half years, full-time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We were dreaming about Dune Part I. That’s the way I can make cinema. I cannot start to have a long term. I need to be there now and not think too much about the future.”

As for Dune Part II, Villeneuve promises that it will be even bolder and wilder than what audiences will see in the first film. In response to a question about the sequel’s scope from ComicBook.com‘s Brandon Davis, Villeneuve explained the unique challenge of adapting this story.

Sandworm eating a spice harvester

Warner Bros.

“The tough task here was to do introduce you guys to the world, to the ideas, to this world, to the codes, the cultures, the different families, the different planets,” Villeneuve said. “Now once this is done, it becomes an insane playground. So it will allow me to go berserk and really create… I should not say that, but I will say that, for me, Dune Part I is like an appetizer and Dune Part II is the main meal. … As much as Dune Part I was by far my most exciting project ever, Dune Part II is already getting me more, even more excited. That’s all I will say.”

Dune opens in theaters in the United States on October 22, 2021.

Editor’s note: Nerdist is a subsidiary of Legendary Digital Networks.

Dan Casey makes deeply silly videos at Nerdist and is the author of books  about the Avengers and Star Wars. Talk to him on  Twitter about the spice melange.

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