Watch Dune stars discuss their 'magical' collaboration and the meaning of the spice
Dune is finally on the way later this month. Director Denis Villeneuve's adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic 1965 science-fiction novel comes to theaters and HBO Max on Oct. 22, but most of it was filmed way back in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. So when EW assembled most of the stars — Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, and Stellan Skarsgård — at the Venice Film Festival in September, it was the first time so many of them had been in the same place since shooting wrapped.
The roundtable, which you can watch above, was hosted by Academy Award nominee Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), who was serving on the jury of the Venice Film Festival.
"I felt hugely lucky working with Rebecca and Oscar the most but then also with Josh and Zendaya came too, just a huge support from everyone," Chalamet said. "I feel like we were all just trying to do as good a job as possible. It's easy with Denis because he's so joyous about his own work. I'm looking at Josh because you two on set are something else."
Brolin, one of the few cast members who had previously worked with Villeneuve (on 2015's Sicario), added that the director has a talent for transmuting off-screen fun into real cinematic art.
"We've all done movies where you've had a really good time and then you see the movie and you're like 'What the f--- happened,' you know what I mean?" Brolin noted. "So he has this great way of kind of elevating everybody and lifting morale. But when it comes down to scenes, there's something that shifts. He's very manipulative like that."
Ferguson described the on-set dynamic as a "magical mixture of freedom but within walls of security," overseen by Villeneuve.
The roundtable gave the actors the opportunity to sing each other's praises. Chalamet didn't film much with Bautista but is still a fan of the Harkonnen actor's former work as a wrestler.
"Don't kill me for saying it, but I grew up watching Bautista every Friday night at home," Chalamet said. "So this is like a huge deal, even just to be here. I was listening to your entrance music this morning."
Bautista was quite humbled by that, and by Villeneuve casting him in the first place: "There's a reason I'm sitting here being quiet and it's because I'm in awe of everybody here. I'm not saying that just to be that guy, but like for me to step on a set with Denis and all these talented people, it's a dream come true for me."
The discussion mostly covered the cast's experiences on set and their shared admiration for Villeneuve, but towards the end, Erivo asked a more open-ended question: What does the spice melange, the treasure of the desert planet Arrakis, mean to each character?
"I guess for my character, the spice represents the greed of human beings that are trying to destroy the environment that I'm supposed to take care of," Bardem says. "So the spice is kind of a dangerous thing for him. Because everybody goes there to dig in and take it out, it's like oil. I think Stilgar is the man who wants to put an end to that, which is not easy, as we know."
Duncan-Brewster, who plays the imperial ecologist Dr. Liet Kynes, compared the spice to "fairy dust" in its magical implications.
"If I could take that spice and just sprinkle it everywhere, it could somehow inspire all the inhabitants on this planet to just think a little bit more about what we're doing to our planet and respect what it is," she said. "I feel really strongly that we're in a position right now where we're on this earth and we coexist. We're sitting here with the grass, the trees, the water. It's just there. But we owe it to each other to just keep this thing flowing in the correct way. It's up to us right now."
"It kind of serves as a metaphor on our planet for oil or the sort of corrupt greed that has literally robbed us of our Earth, or maybe our time on Earth, or our kids' time on Earth," Chalamet said. "Without being highfalutin, this movie can serve as a metaphor for that: That empathy should come first, empathy for our environment. With environmental justice comes racial justice and all sorts of justice. That's nothing to be cynical about and it's something to fight for, even when you're talking about a big Hollywood movie like this."
Watch the full video above. Dune hits theaters and HBO Max on Oct. 22; stay tuned for more coverage on EW.com.
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