Dune: everything you need to know about Denis Villeneuve's sci-fi epic

Frank Herbert’s seminal sci-fi novel Dune is coming to the big-screen in 2021 with visionary director Denis Villeneuve behind the camera. Be excited, be very excited...

A mythic and emotionally charged hero's journey, "Dune" tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, 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.

Dune: novel origins

Dune is based on Frank Herbert’s seminal 1965 novel, Dune. Joint winner of the 1966 Hugo Award, the book is considered to be one of greatest science-fiction novels ever written, selling nearly 20 million copies and translated into dozens of languages. Fellow sci-fi great Robert A. Heinlein (author of Stranger in a Strange Land) described it as “powerful, convincing and most ingenious”, while the Chicago Tribune called it “one of the monuments of modern science fiction”.

Herbert went on to pen a further five Dune novels before his death in 1986, while his son Brian has written 14 prequels and sequels in collaboration with Kevin J. Anderson.

Dune: What's the Plot?

Set in the far distant future, Dune’s epic storyline sees Duke Leto Atreides accepting stewardship of the treacherous desert planet Arrakis, famed for being the only source of the spice melange – a highly prized drug that extends life and enables prescience.

Leto and his family, which includes his concubine wife, the Lady Jessica, and their son, Paul, are tasked with harvesting the ‘spice’, but this proves easier said than done as the substance is produced by the larvae of lethal, giant sandworms. Leto must also contend with the planet’s native people, the Fremen, who consider the spice holy. Meanwhile, the empire’s royal houses feud among themselves.

Dune: A Visionary Director

Dune is directed by one of Hollywood’s most exciting and revered filmmakers: Denis Villeneuve. A true sci-fi aficionado, Villeneuve’s CV includes Blade Runner 2049 (considered by some critics to be even better than the seminal Ridley Scott original) and the sublime Arrival. If you had to pick someone to film the unfilmable (which Dune has famously been touted to be), you’d choose this guy every time.

Dune: Previous Film Adaptations

A movie of Dune has been attempted before: in 1984, by David Lynch – another visionary director and incidentally a hero of Denis Villeneuve’s. Although it was much maligned upon its release, the film has gained cult status over the years thanks to its low-budget but memorable effects, breathy voiceovers and the unforgettable sight of an oiled-up Sting – the lead singer of band, The Police.

There was also a three-part, six-hour mini-series made for the Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy) in 2000 entitled Frank Herbert’s Dune and starring William Hurt. That one faired slightly better with the critics, and remains one of SyFy’s highest-rated programmes.

Dune: Cast and Characters

A director of Villeneuve’s stock was always going to attract a talented cast, but Dune’s line-up is truly something else. Here’s our rundown of who’s who...

Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides – steward of the ocean planet Caladan but recently reassigned to Arrakis.

Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides – son of Leto Atreides and his concubine wife Lady Jessica. Potentially a super being.

Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica – Paul’s mother and Leto’s concubine wife. Also a member of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood – a powerful religious force in the Dune universe.

• Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck – House Atreides’ master of weapons and a valuable mentor to Paul.

Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen – former steward of Arrakis, current bitter enemy of the House Atreides. A nasty piece of work.

Dave Bautista as Glossu ‘The Beast’ Rabban – Baron Harkonnen’s thuggish nephew. An even nastier piece of work than his uncle.

Javier Bardem as Stilgar – wise Fremen tribe leader who offers Jessica and Paul sanctuary.

Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Doctor Liet-Kynes – planetologist and ecologist based in Arrakis. Male in the book.

Zendaya as Chani – the Fremen daughter of Liet-Kynes and Paul’s ally.

Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho – House Atreides’ master of swords and another important mentor to Paul.

Charlotte Rampling as Gaius Helen Mohiam – soothsayer to Shaddam IV, emperor of the Dune universe, and a Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother.

Dune: Potential Sequels

Dune is the first of two planned movies by Denis Villeneuve. The director is also overseeing a Dune TV series for Warner Bros’ new streaming service. “I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie,” Villeneuve told Vanity Fair. “The world is too complex. It’s a world that takes its power in details.

Dune is released in cinemas on 1 October 2021

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