Frank Herbert’s best-selling sci-fi novel, Dune, was first published in 1965 as part of two serials in Analog magazine. An examination of politics, religion, ecology, technology and human emotion, Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, whose noble family assumes control of the barren desert planet Arrakis, home to the most important and valuable substance in the universe, melange, or “spice,” a drug that enhances mental function.
Hailed by some critics as the best science fiction novel of all time, Dune tied for the Hugo Award in 1966 and won the first ever Nebula Award for Best Novel. Fellow science fiction writer, and screenwriter of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke described Dune as “unique,” while noting no other novel compares to it other than J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy epic, The Lord of the Rings.A
The success of Dune spawned a series of novels from Herbert, and eventually his son, Brian, and frequent collaborator Kevin J. Anderson, before hitting the big screen in 1984 with an adaptation from filmmaker David Lynch. Lynch’s adaptation was critically panned and became a box office flop, failing to recoup its budget of $40 million.
The Syfy channel (then the Sci-Fi channel) adapted Dune in the form of a miniseries helmed by director John Harrison in the year 2000, which earned two Emmy Awards for cinematography and visual effects. Harrison followed it up with another miniseries in 2003, adapting the second and third novels in the Dune series, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune.A
Legendary Pictures acquired the rights to a film adaptation of Dune in late 2016, with French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve being announced as director by Brian Herbert at the end of January in 2017. Villeneuve has been a hot commodity in Hollywood since breaking into the mainstream, with several critically acclaimed films already under his belt including 2013’s Prisoners, 2015’s Sicario, 2016’s Arrival and 2017’s Blade Runner 2049.
Six-time Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, and winner for Forrest Gump, Eric Roth, was tapped to pen the script for Legendary Pictures’ reboot of Dune in April of 2017, while casting for the film began in July of last year with Call Me By Your Name breakout Timothée Chalamet being the first cast member announced. Further casting has included Mission: Impossible star Rebecca Ferguson, Thor alum Stellan Skarsgård, Guardians of the Galaxystar Dave Bautista and Charlotte Rampling, with Star Wars actor Oscar Isaac, Spider-Man alum Zendaya and Academy Award-winning actor Javier Bardem currently in talks to board the adaptation.A
Fans of Herbert’s novel have been clamoring for a better film adaptation ever since Lynch’s version crashed and burned at the box office nearly 35 years ago. It appears likely that, with Legendary Pictures’ Dune reboot, fans are finally going to get the proper adaptation they’ve been dreaming of. In fact, the Dune reboot could very well end up becoming science fiction’s very own version of Peter Jackson’s celebrated fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. It would certainly be fitting, given that both novels sit as the gold standards in their respective genres.A
Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings earned a staggering 30 Academy Awards nominations across the three films, winning a record 17, including all 11 it was nominated for with the final film in the trilogy, The Return of the King. Prior to Guillermo del Toro’s 2017 romantic fantasy film The Shape of Water winning Best Picture at the 90th Academy Awards, The Return of the King had been the only genre film to ever win the Academy’s top prize.
While 2018’s Black Panther has the opportunity to join The Return of the Kingand The Shape of Water as the only genre films to take home Best Picture, it remains a long-shot against films like Roma and Green Book. For fans of superhero, fantasy and science fiction movies, the Academy almost never caters to them. However, that may change with Dune, and for good reason.
The level of talent attached to the Dune reboot is frankly astonishing, and it all starts with the director, Denis Villeneuve. Villeneuve first broke into more mainstream Hollywood with the 2013 psychological thriller, Prisoners, starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, which earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography. Gyllenhaal also starred in Villeneuve’s other pscyhological thriller released in 2013, Enemy. Both films were positively received by critics, earning Rotten Tomatoes scores of 82 percent and 74 percent, respectively.
Villeneuve continued his upward trend with the 2015 crime film Sicario starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin, earning three more Academy Award nominations. Villeneuve earned his first Academy Award nomination for Best Director with the 2016 science fiction film Arrival starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, with the film earning a total of eight Academy Award nominations, netting one win for Best Sound Editing.
Villeneuve then tackled the neo-noir science fiction sequel Blade Runner 2049starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. The film again earned Villeneuve acclaim from critics while winning two Academy Awards on five nominations, most notably earning decorated cinematographer Roger Deakins his first Oscar in 13 nominations.A
Prior to breaking into Hollywood, Villeneuve earned critical acclaim for his previous four efforts, earning one Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film for 2010’s Incendies. His feature directorial debut August 32nd on Earth (1998) and Maelström (2000) were both submitted for consideration for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in their respective years, but neither received a nomination. While his 2009 film Polytechniquewasn’t submitted for consideration at the Academy Awards, it did receive critical claim while earning numerous other honors.A
Next up is screenwriter Eric Roth, who’s been receiving notes from Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, who’ve collaborated together on a series of Dune prequels and short stories, as he pens the scripts for the adaptation that is expected to span at least two films, with the first covering approximately half of the novel. Roth earned an Academy Award for penning the script to the 1994 film Forrest Gump while co-writing scripts for five more films to receive Academy Award nominations including 1999’s The Insider, 2005’s Munich, 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2012’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and 2018’s A Star Is Born.
Finally, there’s the star-studded cast. To date, five actors have joined Dune, with two more in talks to board the adaptation, all the while fans have been praising the casting announcements.
Timothée Chalamet was the first to board Dune in the lead role as Paul Atreides. Chalamet made his feature film debut in 2014 with Men, Women, and Children while also appearing in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. He earned wider recognition with his roles in the 2017 films Lady Bird, Hostilesand Call Me By Your Name, the latter of which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, becoming the third youngest to ever be nominated. Chalamet also earned critical acclaim for his role in 2018’s Beautiful Boystarring alongside Steve Carell.
Next to join the cast was Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2016) and Fallout (2018) breakout Rebecca Ferguson, who’s been tasked with portraying Lady Jessica, the mother of Paul Atreides. Additionally, Guardians of the Galaxy star Dave Bautista will play Glossu “Beast” Rabban Harkonnen. This marks Bautista’s second collaboration with Villeneuve after having a small, albeit significant role in Blade Runner 2049. Thor alum Stellan Skarsgård also boarded the cast in the role of the villain, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, uncle to Bautista’s character, while Academy Award-nominated actor Charlotte Rampling joined the cast in the role of Reverend Mother Mohiam.
Star Wars alum Oscar Isaac is finalizing negotiations to portray Duke Leto Atreides I, father of Paul Atreides, along with Spider-Man: Homecoming and Far From Home star Zendaya, who’s being courted to play the role Paul Atreides’ love interest, Chani. Two-time Academy Award-nominated, and winner for Best Supporting Actor in No Country For Old Men, Javier Bardem, is currently in talks to take on the role of Stilgar, the leader of the Fremen.
Legendary Picture’s Dune reboot is putting together all the required pieces to finally bring a high-quality adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel to the big screen. When all is said and done, it should come as no surprise if Denis Villeneuve’s Dune stands as the pinnacle for science fiction films, much like Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings does for fantasy films.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Eric Roth, Dune stars Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Charlotte Rampling, Oscar Isaac and Zendaya. The adaptation, expected to span at least two films, does not currently have a release date.
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