“I never left Arrakis!” Denis Villeneuve and the cast talk about riding sandworms and more for Dune: Part Two  - SciFiNow

“I never left Arrakis!” Denis Villeneuve and the cast talk about riding sandworms and more for Dune: Part Two 

Denis Villeneuve, Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Stellan Skarsgård, Austin Butler and Florence Pugh bring us into the sand pit for Dune: Part Two.

We’re heading back to Arrakis for part two of the sci-fi extravaganza that is Dune. And make no mistake, the emphasis is on the ‘part two’ as director Denis Villeneuve emphasises: “It’s not a sequel, it’s really a second part.”

In fact, Villeneuve went straight into making Dune: Part Two after the release of the first part of the 2021 sci-fi hit, based on the novel by Frank Herbert.

“I never left Arrakis!” Villeneuve says. “We went straight into pre-production after Part One was finished.”

It’s no surprise Villeneuvee was straight back into the sandbox with Part Two, with Dune making over $400 million at the worldwide box office and being nominated for ten Academy Awards (winning six).

The story of young Paul Atreides (played by Timothée Chalamet) and his family who are thrust into a war for the profitable Spice found on the inhospitable desert planet Arrakis certainly caught the attention of cinemagoers. 

Now the cast – which includes Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Zendaya and Javier Bardem – are back, with a few additions to the cast including Florence Pugh who plays Princess Irulan, the daughter of the powerful Emperor (played by another new addition to the cast, Christopher Walken), who she describes as “completely calm, still and thoughtful”.

“I’ve never played anybody like her before,” Pugh laughs. “I’m usually jumping to the very loud, opinionated, bolshie women on screen and I think this is definitely a pivot, but equally as powerful and as strong.”

Florence Pugh is a new addition to the Dune cast as Princess Irulan.

Dune: Part Two is set immediately after Dune, and finds Paul and his mother Jessica (played by Rebecca Ferguson) joining the native Fremen people of Arrakis and waging war against House Harkonnen, who murdered Paul’s family and are mining the Spice of the planet. 

“In the first film, we see Paul is a privileged young man, the son of a Duke, literally behind royal walls. Over the course of the first movie, there’s a personal tragedy he goes through and obviously he has to grow from that,” Chalamet says. “But in this film, we see Paul Atreides become the man he’s destined to be, the man he’s destined to be in ways he doesn’t want to be. Overcoming his fear for love, and his fear for where his place lies with the Fremen.”

Among the Fremen is the warrior Chani (played by Zendaya), who we see in the first film and in Part Two joins Paul in the battle for Arrakis and develops a relationship with him. “I love her because she’s got such a fire inside of her and she’s such a passionate person,” Zendaya says of her character. “Strength can manifest in many different ways, and hers is through her heart. Everything she does is so driven through her heart and through people and the fierce protection of the people that she loves and cares about.”

Paul and Chani form a connection in Dune: Part Two.

Since stepping foot on Arrakis, Paul has been told he is the Messiah and will fulfill a prophecy that will free the Fremen people. As Paul starts to lean into the Messiah role over the course of Part Two, it sees a clash between him and Chani. “She doesn’t believe in Paul in the way everyone else does,” Zendaya explains. “And if anything, it makes it more difficult for her to open herself to the concept of loving, especially him. When she does eventually start to let that into her life it’s just heavier and it’s stronger. And it means more because of how difficult it is for her to allow. So she believes in the person that she meets. Not the Messiah, not the prophecy, but the person.”

One person definitely pushing the prophecy is Paul’s mother Jessica, who in Part Two goes on a religious quest of her own and becomes the Fremen’s Reverend Mother. She uses her new-found religious status to spread the prophecy.

Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) undertakes a religious journey in Dune: Part Two.

“She has a belief, but with belief, and we can use the word fundamentalist,” Ferguson says of Jessica. “I think we’re scared of the word but you can also be a fundamentalist in a spiritual and a loving way, right? 

“I think she is so fully believing in what she has created, that nothing can get in the way of it. Does she fully believe in what she is pushing? I don’t know. And that I find interesting.”

As Paul starts to gain followers, they begin disrupting the mining of Spice on the planet, something which the Harkonnens cannot have. This means the head of House Harkonnen, Baron Harkonnen (played by Stellan Skarsgård), needs a new person to take control of the planet, and he has his sights set on his nephew, the ruthless and conniving Feyd-Rautha (played by Austin Butler). 

Austin Butler plays the ruthless Feyd-Rautha.

“Paul and Feyd-Rautha are flip sides of the same coin in a way,” Butler explains.”It was so different from anything that I’ve ever done. There’s something very empowering about playing somebody who thinks eight steps ahead and is playing chess, and who has such an intense, strong vision for what they believe. And his is unwavering.”

As for Skarsgård, coming back for Dune: Part Two meant he had to put on that distinct Baron Harkonnen make-up and costume. “It was complicated physically,” Skarsgård remembers about getting the look for the character. “What you want to do is to create something as strong as an image that you don’t have to have many scenes because you don’t want to do this every day!”

“It was complicated physically.” Stellan Skarsgård is back Baron Harkonnen.

Another iconic image, especially from the books on which the movie is based, is Paul riding a sandworm for the first time. So it’s understandable that when it came time to shoot the seminal scene for the movie (part of which you can see in the trailer below), Villeneuve took the time to make sure it was right.  “It’s by far the most complex sequence I’ve ever done,” he says. “It required a lot of time, I didn’t want to compromise. 

“I was looking for a feeling of danger, of speed. I wanted my mother to absolutely believe that Paul would be riding the worm. So I created the technique. The technique is not explained in the book, we know that the worms are attracted by the rhythm, by the Thumper, but after that, I had to imagine how Paul would do it and how Paul would be good at it. And then at the same time being a bit clumsy for the first time. It took it took us months to design!”

“That was the most complicated sequence I’ve ever been a part of as an actor,” Chalamet adds. “I think it took around three months to shoot. There was an entire unit dedicated to that sequence. 

“We worked with Roger Yuan, who’s a stunt coordinator on this movie, he’s also an actor in the film [he plays Lanville], he does an amazing fight with Feyd-Rautha and he worked on the technique of the sandworm riding. Without giving away too much of what goes on in the kitchen, as Denis puts it, there was sand blowing in my face from an industrial rig and it was as violent an experience as it appears in the movie!”

Indeed, things are certainly ramped up in Dune: Part Two as Villeneuve says, it’s “more visceral, more muscular, and definitely more emotional”. 

“The thing is that Part One was more contemplative,” Villeneuve explains. “We were following a boy who was a victim of the events and Paul tried to survive with his mother, Jessica. In the second movie, it takes action.”

For Villeneuve, coming back for Part Two also meant he could re-address some of the things he didn’t feel were right in Part One. “As a filmmaker, and I think it’s common for all filmmakers, that when you look at your last movie, you just see the mistakes you’ve made. So it was the first time I had the chance to go back and revisit a world and have a second chance to do it better. 

“I had that ambition to make sure that this time it will be good.”

It certainly is Denis! Read SciFiNow’s five star review here

Dune: Part Two is out in cinemas now