The groundbreaking novel of the same name inspired by the U.S. military’s setting in an 18th-century exploration of outer space has seen numerous attempts in the film and TV industry to bring it to the big screen. The latest one is a re-adaptation from Jonathan Hensleigh and Denis Villeneuve, the writers and director of Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, starring Timothée Chalamet. The biopic of the key characters in Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic will also star Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgård, and Charlotte Rampling. The book has been a cult classic for decades — this is its first screen adaptation.
Denis Villeneuve was a teenaged fan of the book, so took great pride in that he landed the most acclaimed actors working right now for the film. Here’s what he told Vanity Fair, whose reporter on the scene of the eighth annual Cannes Film Festival.
Villeneuve didn’t get the rights to the book until after he’d started working on Blade Runner 2049. When he did get his hands on it, he adapted it to “a very singular story” centered on the “unfinished relationship” between Duncan LaMarr and Paul Atreides. This aspect added extra challenges for the director:
“There are 70 original pages of the book in English. When we cut it from two hours and twenty-four minutes to two hours and seven minutes, it got too hectic.”
These challenges are a part of the reason for the filmmakers’ decision to cast Timothée Chalamet, the rising star of awards contenders like Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird, and Beautiful Boy, who is now 21 years old. Villeneuve said:
“We wanted to show the film in a whole new generation — the crucial roles for a 21-year-old, the love story that’s supposed to happen with Chalamet’s character, who is nearly as old as Paul Atreides.”
Chalamet — who scored an Oscar nomination for his work in the Fox Searchlight film Call Me By Your Name in 2017 — gave the actor a lot of advice about the book:
“I told him everything he’d come to know about the book. He was getting a first-hand lesson in it.”
It turned out to be a valuable lesson. Two weeks before the first read-through, Villeneuve announced the film’s not-so-surprising decision to rebrand it as a modern reboot and change the release date from January to December.