It seems Timothée Chalamet has a penchant for bringing literary characters to life on the big screen. After portraying Laurie from Little Women, Elio from Call Me by Your Name, and Henry V from Shakespeare’s Henriad, the 24-year-old actor is now turning his attention to the young antihero of a sci-fi classic: Paul Atreides of Frank Herbert‘s 1965 epic, Dune.
Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming film.
IT ARRIVES DECEMBER 18.
Unlike other blockbuster films of 2020, Dune’s release date has not changed. The movie will arrive in time for the holidays, and director Denis Villeneuve is anticipating that audiences will enjoy the release together. “I look forward to a time when we can all get together again as Dune was made to be seen on the big screen,” he told Vanity Fair.
CHALAMET STARS AS AN UNLIKELY HERO.
In this intergalactic, future-set saga, Chalamet’s Paul hails from an aristocratic family on the planet of Caladan who decide to take over the desert world of Arrakis, which is rich in an essential spice called melange.
“The immediately appealing thing about Paul was the fact that in a story of such detail and scale and world-building, the protagonist is on an anti-hero’s-journey of sorts,” Chalamet told VF of his character.
“He thinks he’s going to be sort of a young general studying his father and his leadership of a fighting force before he comes of age, hopefully a decade later, or something like that,” he added.
In our first look of the film, Chalamet appears as Paul, dressed in a black overcoat and leather gloves while ships arrive in the distance to take him and his family to their new planet.
“Paul sees that there’s a potential that he’s on a path greater than he understood, that perhaps he’s not simply a regular man,” the actor later said of his character in a Twitter Q&A before the Dune trailer reveal.
Villeneuve was drawn to Chalamet for the role because he has a “deep, deep intelligence in the eyes and he has an old soul,” he said in the Q&A. “I had the impression when you talk to Timothée that he lived many lives, and that’s something that really touched me. And at the same time, he looks so young on camera, so that contrast of having someone that seems to have a lot of experience and at the same time being in the middle of his teenage years is Paul Atreides.”
THE CAST IS STAR-STUDDED.
Chalamet is just one of many big names attached to the project. Oscar Isaac plays Paul’s father, Duke Leto Atreides, while Rebecca Ferguson plays his mother, Lady Jessica. Josh Brolin portrays Gurney Halleck and Jason Momoa is Duncan Idaho, two warriors training Paul in combat. Javier Bardem is Stilgar, the leader of a group of indigenous people called Fremen.
Zendaya will star as Paul’s love interest, Chani, per Vanity Fair. She’s a mysterious woman with shining blue eyes. “She’s tough, a warrior, she’s native to this planet, it’s all she knows,” the actress said in a cast Q&A. Chani is wary of Paul’s arrival to Arrakis at first, but “she sees something in him that is obviously an indicator of what is to come.” From the trailer, it seems Chani appears in Paul’s dreams before they meet, with them leaning in to kiss before he wakes up in bed.
Stellan Skarsgård is Baron Vladimir, a rhino-like creature and leader of House Harkonnen, a great house on Arrakis that feuds with the Atreides family. French cinematic icon Charlotte Rampling is the reverend mother of the Bene Gesserit, an order of women who can read or control minds. (Paul’s mother Jessica is part of this group.)
And Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Rogue One) is Dr. Liet Kynes, an ecologist who tries to keep peace between the clashing houses. This character has always been portrayed as a white man, but Villeneuve changed the portrayal for his rendition. “It was about concentrating on the essence of this person, Duncan-Brewster said of the conversations she and Villeneuve had in adapting her character. “He connects all the dots” between the factions, groups, and natural forces of Arrakis. “I don’t think it matters that Kynes, in the book, is a man. What’s important is what Kynes stands for.”
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THIS DIRECTOR HAS A KNACK FOR THRILLERS, AND DRAMAS WITH SPACE AND FUTURISTIC THEMES.
Villeneuve helmed the Oscar-nominated Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. He was also behind the lens for 2015’s Sicario and 2013’s Prisoners. In addition to directing, he also co-wrote the Dune script with Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, A Star Is Born) and Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Doctor Strange).
IT WAS FILMED IN JORDAN’S WADI RUM DESERT.
Chalamet and Brolin both shared videos from the famous sandy setting in April 2019. The desert is a famous shooting location and has also been home to films including The Martian, Lawrence of Arabia, The Rise of Skywalker, and Rogue One. Chalamet recalled to VF that sometimes temperatures would reach 120 degrees.
“For me, one condition I had to shoot the movie was that I wanted to shoot in the real desert. My argument was that they didn’t shoot Jaws in a swimming pool,” Villeneuve said in the Q&A.
WE HAVE OUR FIRST LOOK AT ONE OF CHALAMET’S ACTION SCENES.
The image, shared by Empire Magazine, teases a moment when Chalamet’s Paul during his first encounter with the deserts of the planet Arakis. Riding uneasily on an airborne ornithopter, Paul catches his balance while his weapons teacher Gurney Halleck (Brolin) steadies him.
It’s Paul’s first contact with the deep desert, where he’s mesmerised by it,” director Villeneuve told Empire. “He has a strange feeling of being home. There’s a lot of action at this specific moment, and [it’s] one of the scenes in the movie that I’m starting to get pretty proud of.”
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THIS ISN’T THE FIRST ADAPTATION OF DUNE.
In 1984, a Dune film arrived from director David Lynch with Twin Peaks‘ Kyle MacLachlan as the star. In 2000, a miniseries adaptation debuted on the Syfy channel with Alec Newman as Paul. A Children of Dune series starring James McAvoy followed in 2003 on the same network.
In addition to Villeneuve’s film rendition this year, there’s also an offshoot series coming to HBO Max called Dune: The Sisterhood, a female-centric take on Herbert’s novel. Villeneuve is also set to direct the pilot episode.
THERE WILL BE ANOTHER DUNE MOVIE.
Villeneuve decided to split his adaptation into two parts because the world in Herbert’s novel is far to expansive to be squeezed into one film. “I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie,” he told VF. “The world is too complex. It’s a world that takes its power in details.”
Watch this space for updates.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.