Everything We Know About DUNE

Dune is one of the world’s most beloved books, but also one of its most cursed projects when it comes to the matter of live-action adaptation. Nevertheless, a new version of the influential sci-fi story is now on its way. It looks like this time, all the stars are aligning to get it just right.

What makes us so optimistic? Well, here is everything we know so far about the upcoming adaptation of the legendary novel, and you’ll understand why we’re so excited. And to start things off, we’ve also included the first Dune trailer for your viewing pleasure, as well as the film’s official synopsis:

“[Dune is] a mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, which tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive.”
What Is Dune All About?

The movie poster for Dune with the cast on a light blue background

Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures

Dune by the late Frank Herbert is perhaps the most important and influential science-fiction novel ever written. The 1965 novel is set in the far distant future, where select noble houses from different planets owe their allegiance to a powerful Emperor. Dune centers on a young man named Paul Atreides, whose family takes over stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis, also known as Dune. Arrakis is the only source of the spice melange, the most important and valuable substance in the universe, which allows hyperspace travel, among many other things. Dune is a very complex and sprawling story involving politics, religion, feuding noble houses, love, and betrayal

The Saga of the Previous Dune Adaptations
Everything We Know About DUNE_1

Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures

The original book remains the world’s best selling science fiction novel, and spawned five more sequels from its original author. Its influence is vast; concepts from Dune are all over the Star Wars saga, for example. An argument can also be made that Game of Thrones is the fantasy version of Dune, with its squabbling noble houses and its central messianic figure. But the fortunes of Dune itself as a live-action property have been, so far, mostly a series of disappointments.

Celebrated Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky attempted to mount a lavish production of Dune in the early ’70s, one that would have involved participation from artists like H.R. Giger. Orson Welles and Salvador Dali agreed to star, and Pink Floyd was even going to do the soundtrack. Jodorowsky’s had a vision that wound up being too grand for a Hollywood where sci-fi was still considered a risky and unprofitable genre. In 2014, an amazing documentary called Jodorowsky’s Dune, detailing the film that never was, was released to great acclaim.

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Sony Pictures Classics

After an attempt was begun and then abandoned by Ridley Scott, surrealist director David Lynch was hired by producer Dino De Laurentiis to take the helm of the adaptation in the early ’80s. Author Frank Herbert liked the finished product, but critics eviscerated the movie upon release in 1984, and the movie flopped.

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Universal Pictures

Dune received a new adaptation in the year 2000, this time for TV. Syfy Channel (known then as the Sci-Fi Channel) produced six part mini-series called Frank Herbert’s Dune, which was a big enough ratings success that it spawned a sequel mini-series that combined elements of Herbert’s second and third novels. Its ratings proved there was an audience for this property, and in recent years, there were further attempts to bring it to life again on the big screen.

Who Is Making the New Dune?
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Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures

In November 2016, acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve announced that Dune would be his follow up project to Blade Runner 2049. Screenwriters Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts took on the script, based on Herbert’s classic 1965 novel. Herbert’s son Brian Herbert, who has written several Dune sequels himself, is also an executive producer. Sci-fi author Kevin J. Anderson is also serving as creative consultant.

Rogue One‘s Greig Fraser is the director of photography in the film, with Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer creating the film’s score. Villeneuve also re-teamed with several Blade Runner 2049 collaborators, including editor Joe Walker and visual effects supervisors Paul Lambert and Gerd Nefze. Costume designers Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan also signed on, as did production designer Patrice Vermette. Principal photography on Dune began on March 18th, 2019.

Will It Be One or Two Movies?
Everything We Know About DUNE_6

Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures

Denis Villeneuve confirmed to Vanity Fair that yes, Dune will be split into two movies. Villeneuve 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 if it’s a success, after that, there are five other books in the saga (and that doesn’t even include the sequels from Brian Herbert).

Who Is Starring in Dune?
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Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures

Call Me By Your Name star Timothée Chalamet, is Paul Atreides, the central figure of the saga. Dave Bautista, who worked with director Denis Villeneuve in Blade Runner 2049, is re-teaming with the director. He’s playing Glossu Rabban Harkonnen, nicknamed  “Beast,” the sadistic eldest nephew of a Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, overseer of the planet Arrakis.

Everything We Know About DUNE_2

Warner Brothers / Legendary Pictures

From one galaxy far away to another, Oscar Isaac is Duke Leto Atreides, father to the film’s main character, Paul Atreides. played by Rebecca Ferguson plays his wife Lady Jessica. Duke Leto’s taking over stewardship of the planet Arrakis is what sets the plot of Dune into motion, making his role a critical one.

Everything We Know About DUNE_8

Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures

Oscar winner Javier Bardem has also joined the cast as Stilgar Ben Fifrawi, the leader of a the Fremen tribe that who aides Paul Atreides in his fight against the Harkonnens. Spider-Man: Homecoming actress Zendaya plays the role of Chani, a Fremen warrior native to Arrakis, who eventually becomes the romantic interest for Paul Atreides.

Everything We Know About DUNE_9

Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures

From the depths of the sea to a waterless and dry world, Jason Momoa will play the role of Duncan Idaho in Dune. A swordsmaster who is eternally loyal to House Atreides, Duncan Idaho is also the only character to appear in all of the original novels in the Dune series, so should this become a long running franchise, Momoa will be splitting his time between the desert and the oceans for some time.

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Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures

We can also add Thanos and Cable himself, Josh Brolin. According to Variety, Brolin will be playing “Gurney Halleck, the warmaster for Chalamet’s family and a mentor to his character.” In the 1984 David Lynch Dune adaptation, that part was played by a pre- Star Trek era Patrick Stewart.

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Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures

Veteran actor Stellan Skarsgård, known for his many genre roles, including some in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Pirates of the Caribbean, will be playing the film’s primary villain. The grotesque Baron Vladimir Harkonnen oversees the planet Arrakis and seeks to remain in power over the incoming new stewards of the planet, the House of Atreides.

Actress Charlotte Rampling, a recent Oscar nominee who viewers might recognize from projects like Dexter and Red Sparrow, is also joining the cast, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She’ll be playing the crucial role of the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam of the Bene Gesserit order, described as “the Emperor’s truthsayer, a person who can divine intentions, suss out lies and manipulate people’s emotional states.”

When Does Dune Arrive In Theaters?

The film will debut at the Venice Film Festival in September (via Variety), but it won’t arrive in theaters until October 22, 2021 (this is delayed from October 1).

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

Originally published July 31, 2018 with updates on October 5, 2020, June 17, and June 25, 2021.

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