Everything We Know About the DUNE Movie So Far
Update: 11/05/19
Lady Jessica from David Lynch's original Dune film, one of the so-called Bene Gesserit witches

Universal Pictures

The first Dune film doesn’t hit theaters for another year still, but there are already shakeups going on in the Arrakis expanded universe. According to a story coming out of The Hollywood Reporter, Jon Spaihts is leaving his post as showrunner for  the upcmoming HBO Max Dune TV series The Sisterhood. Instead, he will be shifting his attentions to a potential sequel for Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming movie. Spaihts’ co-showrunner Dana Calvo is likely to take up the reins.

The potential second film is said to focus on the second half of Frank Herbert’s original 1965 novel. Essentially, they are pulling a Stephen King’s It here by splitting the first (fairly lengthy) book into two films. The Sisterhood is said to focus on the Bene Gesserit order, who are powerful women that have extraordinary mental disciplines. A second film is still entirely dependent on the performance of the first film of course, so it’s all a “wait and see” game until the movie releases.

Original Report
Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides in David Lynch's original Dune

Universal Pictures

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 film adaptation. Nevertheless, a new version of the hit sci-fi story is on its way, and 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.

Cameras have officially begun rolling for the new big screen adaptation of Dune from Legendary Pictures and director Denis Villeneuve in Budapest, Hungary, and Jordan on March 18th, 2019.

Rogue One‘s Greig Fraser will be the director of photography in the film, while Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer will craft the film’s score. Villeneuve is also re-teaming with his Blade Runner 2049  collaborators such as editor Joe Walker, visual effects supervisors Paul Lambert, and Gerd Nefzer. Costume designers Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan are part of the team, as is production designer Patrice Vermette.

In addition to the previously announced cast, Chang Chen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) is in discussions to join the cast.

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Universal Pictures

According to the 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.”

Villeneuve is directing Dune from a screenplay he co-wrote with Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts based on Herbert’s classic 1965 novel. Herbert’s son Brian Herbert, who has written several Dune sequels himself, is also an executive producer, and sci-fi author Kevin J. Anderson is also serving as creative consultant.

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What Is Dune All About?

Dune by the late Frank Herbert is perhaps the most important and influential science-fiction novel ever written. Originally published in 1965, the 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.

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Hasn’t It Been Made into a Movie Before?

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, and an argument can 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 Moebius and H.R. Giger. Orson Welles and Salvador Dali agreed to star, and Pink Floyd was even going to do the soundtrack. But Jodorowsky’s vision was way 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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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. In a post-Star Wars world, Dune was expected to be a big hit, and the film was given a then-huge $40 million dollar budget. Although author Frank Herbert liked the finished product, critics eviscerated the movie upon release in 1984, and the movie was also a huge box office flop, despite starring rock star Sting and a young Kyle MacLachlan. Director David Lynch was not given final cut of the film, and he disavows it to this day, and refuses to even talk about it. (All that said, the film is now considered a cult favorite in some circles.)

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In 2000, yet another adaptation of Dune was braved, this time on television. 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. Although the television version was probably easier to follow for non-readers of the book than the Lynch film was, it was hampered by its relatively low budget. Still, its ratings proved there was an audience for this property, and in recent years, we’ve seen further attempts to bring it to life again on the big screen. Paramount held the rights for several years, and directors Peter Berg and Pierre Morel were both attached at different times, but the studio never proceeded to make the film and the rights lapsed.

Who Is Making the New Dune?
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In November of 2016, Legendary Pictures gained the rights to Dune for film and television, and some hoped that meant that the property would get a long-form, Game of Thrones-style big budget television treatment. But when acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve came on board, it was announced that this would indeed become a feature film once again. Villeneuve announced that Dune would be his follow up project to Blade Runner 2049, and that Academy Award-winning screenwriter Eric Roth would handle the script.

Will It Be One or Two Movies?
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Brian Herbert, son of Frank Herbert and the curator of the Dune legacy (he has written several sequels to his father’s novel himself), took to Twitter recently and told his followers that he’d just received the fourth draft of the Dune screenplay from the studio. According to Herbert, the script he received “is for the first movie” and “will cover approximately half of the novel.” So yes, this seems to suggest that current plan is for not one movie, but two. Whether it will all be shot at once, like the Lord of the Rings films, remains to be seen. With a novel as long as sprawling as Dune, this is probably the wisest choice. 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 Will Star?
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Call Me By Your Name star Timothée Chalamet, is set to play Paul Atreides, the central figure of the saga. Dave Bautista, who worked with director Denis Villeneuve in Blade Runner 2049, is re-teaming with him for the upcoming adaptation of Dune, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Bautista will be playing Glossu Rabban Harkonnen, nicknamed  “Beast,” the sadistic eldest nephew of a Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, who oversees the planet Arrakis.

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From one galaxy far away to another, Oscar Isaac is joining the cast of Dune as Duke Leto Atreides, father to the film’s main character, Paul Atreides, played by Timothee Chalamet, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He’ll me married to the Lady Jessica, played by Rebecca Ferguson. 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.

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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.

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Also rumored, but not confirmed, is that Spider-Man: Homecoming actress Zendaya is joining the cast as well. Collider is reporting that the actress will play the role of Chani, a Fremen warrior native to Arrakis, who eventually becomes the romantic interest for Paul Atreides. It is possible she is up for another role however, as there a couple more young female roles in Dune that could fit the bill.

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From the depths of the sea to a waterless and dry world, Jason Momoa  is now in talks to 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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We can now 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 adaptation of Dune, that part was played by a pre- Star Trek era Patrick Stewart.

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Veteran actor Stellan Skarsgård, known for his many genre roles, including some in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Pirates of the Caribbean, is also joining the cast, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Skarsgård will be playing the film’s primary villain, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, who oversees the planet Arrakis and seeks to remain in power over the incoming new stewards of the planet, the House of Atreides. The character is grotesque. He was played by Kenneth McMillan in David Lynch’s Dune under prosthetic make up. It remains to be seen if this version of the character will follow suit.

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.”

Are you excited for a return to the planet Arrakis? Be sure to let us know your thoughts down below in the comments.

Images: Chilton Books / Universal Pictures / Gage Skidmore / Sony Pictures Classics / Twentieth Century Fox / Warner Bros.

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