Behold Dune: An Exclusive Look at Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, and More

Feuding royals. A deadly planet. Before Star Wars or Game of Thrones, there was Frank Herbert’s legendary sci-fi novel. Read V.F.’s report on Denis Villeneuve’s new movie.

Timotheè Chalamet as Paul Atreides

Timothée Chalamet remembers the darkness. It was the summer of 2019, and the cast and crew of Dune had ventured deep into the sandstone and granite canyons of southern Jordan, leaving in the middle of the night so they could catch the dawn on camera. The light spilling over the chasms gave the landscape an otherworldly feel. It was what they had come for.

Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson in Jordan. Filming in the landscape was “really surreal,” says Chalamet.PHOTO BY CHIABELLA JAMES.

They were on a deadly, dust-dry battleground planet called Arrakis. In Frank Herbert’s epic 1965 sci-fi novel, Arrakis is the only known location of the galaxy’s most vital resource, the mind-altering, time-and-space-warping “spice.” In the new film adaptation, directed by Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 filmmaker Denis Villeneuve,

Zendaya as Chani

Chalamet stars as the young royal Paul Atreides, the proverbial stranger in a very strange land, who’s fighting to protect this hostile new home even as it threatens to destroy him. Humans are the aliens on Arrakis. The dominant species on that world are immense, voracious sandworms that burrow through the barren drifts like subterranean dragons.

The House Atreides, Left to Right: Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, Stephen Mckinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat, Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides, Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides, Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck and Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho

It wouldn’t be Dune if it were easy. Herbert’s novel became a sci-fi touchstone in the 1960s, heralded for its world-building and ecological subtext, as well as its intricate (some say impenetrable) plot focusing on two families struggling for supremacy over Arrakis. The book created ripples that many see in everything from Star Wars to Alien to Game of Thrones. 

Director Denis Villeneuve and Javier Bardem on the set

Still, for decades, the novel itself has defied adaptation. In the ’70s, the wild man experimental filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky mounted a quest to film it, but Hollywood considered the project too risky. David Lynch brought Dune to the big screen in a 1984 feature, but it was derided as an incomprehensible mess and a blight on his filmography. In 2000, a Dune miniseries on what’s now the SyFy channel became a hit for the cable network, but it is now only dimly remembered.

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