Everything we know about the new Dune movie
It's time to return to Arrakis. The first trailer for Dune is out, and here's a concise list of everything we know so far about the film. You can read our deep-dive interview with director Denis Villeneuve about the trailer here.
There's a new Dune movie?
Yes! Back in 2016, Legendary Entertainment sealed a deal with the estate of author Frank Herbert for the rights to his iconic science-fiction novel. A few months later, Denis Villeneuve was confirmed as the director of the new adaptation. A Best Director nominee for Arrival, Villeneuve's most recent film was 2017's Blade Runner 2049, a sequel set decades after Ridley Scott's classic sci-fi noir.
Villeneuve's Dune is a remake rather than a sequel, but like Blade Runner 2049 it's following in the footsteps of a franchise. He's not the first person to try and make a Dune movie; that honor goes to the director Alejandro Jodorowsky, whose attempt to make a star-filled surrealist spectacle in the '70s (starring Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, and Mick Jagger, among others) was catalogued in the 2014 documentary Jodorowsky's Dune. David Lynch succeeded where Jodorowsky had failed by directing a full-fledged Dune movie in 1984. Starring Kyle MacLachlan in his debut, Lynch's Dune was a box office flop at the time, but has gained cult status since. A few years later, director John Harrison took his crack at the material with the three-part miniseries Frank Herbert's Dune for Syfy.
Wait, what is Dune?
For those who aren't already aware, Dune is Herbert's influential 1965 science-fiction novel. Its universe is one where planets are divided amongst noble families, who are in turn ruled over by the Padishah Emperor. The focus of the story is the noble Atreides family, and in particular their young son Paul Atreides. The novel starts with House Atreides being granted sovereignty over the desert planet Arrakis (known colloquially as "Dune"). Though mostly inhospitable, Arrakis is extremely valuable because it's the only source of a highly-coveted spice called melange that can enhance people's mental abilities and make interstellar travel possible.
The value of melange puts Arrakis at the center of a Game of Thrones-style power struggle between different noble families like House Atreides and their bitter rivals in House Harkonnen. But as Paul will learn, an even harsher struggle is the one undertaken by the nomadic tribes known as Fremen that populate Arrakis. The Fremen adapt their entire society to the singular goal of surviving in the deadly desert where if the heat doesn't kill you, maybe the gigantic sandworms will. The Fremen are identifiable both by the "stillsuits" they wear (which conserve the body's water by recycling every bit of excess moisture) and their pure blue eyes, an aftereffect of prolonged exposure to melange.
We won't spoil the rest, but as should be apparent from that short summary, there's a lot going on in Dune, which is one reason why previous adaptations have had such a hard time covering it all. Herbert didn't even end the story there, but went on to write five sequel novels: Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune. Following Herbert's death in 1986, his son Brian Herbert has collaborated with author Kevin J. Anderson to write a number of additional sequels and prequels set in the Dune universe, some based on the original author's surviving notes.
In April 2020, Villeneuve confirmed to Vanity Fair that he would be making at least two Dune movies, with Herbert's original novel split in half.
Who's in it?
Now this is the real spice. Villeneuve's Dune has already distinguished itself with a star-filled cast. Oscar nominee Timothée Chalamet stars star as Paul Atreides in the new film. In April 2020, the first photo from the film was released, featuring Chalamet's Paul standing on the beaches of the Atreides homeworld of Caladan prior to their departure for Arrakis. Caladan is almost the exact opposite of a desert planet; it's lush with oceans and rain. Arrakis may be a rough transition for the Atreides.
Rebecca Ferguson will play Paul's mother, Lady Jessica, who trains her son in the way of the Bene Gesserit order of female mystics. Oscar Isaac will play Paul's father, the noble Duke Leto Atreides. On the other side of the board, Stellan Skarsgard will play Baron Harkonnen, the arch-enemy of House Atreides who wants Arrakis for himself. Threading the line between good and evil is Charlotte Rampling playing the Reverend Mother Mohiam, leader of the Bene Gesserit order and personal advisor to the Padishah Emperor.
Two other castings involve the desert-dwelling Fremen. Javier Bardem will play the Fremen chieftain Stilgar, while Zendaya is set for the role of Chani, a young Fremen who grows close to Paul. Sharon Duncan-Brewster will play Liet-Kynes, Chani's mother and another key Fremen leader (and a character usually depicted as male).
Dave Bautista is also in the cast, reuniting him with Villeneuve after their previous collaboration in Blade Runner 2049. In an Instagram post in July, Bautista revealed that he is playing Rabban Harkonnen, a.k.a. the Beast, the older of Baron Harkonnen's two nephews.
Josh Brolin joined the Dune cast in February 2019. The man otherwise known as Thanos will play Gurney Halleck in the new film. A warrior-cum-troubadour, Halleck is a member of the Duke Leto's retinue and an important mentor to the young Paul. That same month, it was also revealed that Jason Momoa will portray Duncan Idaho, a swordmaster loyal to the Atreides family and another of Paul's formative teachers.
Some important Dune characters, such as the Padishah Emperor and the young Harkonnen prince Feyd-Rautha, have not yet been cast, which presumably means they won't show up until the second Dune film.
When does it open?
Warner Bros. had previously set Dune to release on Dec. 18, 2020, but that date is missing from the new trailer. In the year of COVID-19, release dates are looking more and more flexible.
What don't we know yet?
Filming on the new Dune took place in Budapest and Jordan, and has now wrapped.
Stay tuned to EW.com and this page in particular, which we'll continue to update as more information about Villeneuve's Dune becomes available.
This article was originally published Feb. 4, 2019, and has been updated with new information.
Dune (2020 movie)