close menu

Everything We Know About the DUNE Remake So Far

Dune is one of the world’s most beloved books, but also one of its most cursed projects when it comes to the matter of film adaptation. Nevertheless, a new version of the hit sci-fi story is on its way, and it looks like this time, all the stars are aligning to get it just right. What makes us so optimistic? Well, here is everything we know so far about the upcoming adaptation of the legendary novel.

Update, 1/15/19

Veteran actress Charlotte Rampling, a recent Oscar nominee who viewers might recognize from projects like Dexter and Red Sparrow, is the latest actor to join Denis Villeneuve‘s  Dune, according to the Hollywood Reporter. She’ll be playing the crucial role of the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam of the Bene Gesserit order, described as “the Emperor’s truthsayer, a person who can divine intentions, suss out lies and manipulate people’s emotional states.”

The Bene Gesserits were part of the inspiration for George Lucas when creating the Jedi for Star Wars, and the scene between that character and young Paul Atreides from the original Dune film is one of the film’s most iconic (and quoted) moments. Here’s hoping that Rampling’s Revered Mother is equally as compelling.

What Is Dune All About?

Dune by the late Frank Herbert is perhaps the most important and influential science-fiction novel ever written. Originally published in 1965, the novel is set in the far distant future, where select noble houses from different planets owe their allegiance to a powerful Emperor. Dune centers on a young man named Paul Atreides, whose family takes over stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis, also known as Dune. Arrakis is the only source of the spice melange, the most important and valuable substance in the universe, which allows hyperspace travel, among many other things. Dune is a very complex and sprawling story involving politics, religion, feuding noble houses, love, and betrayal.

Hasn’t It Been Made into a Movie Before?

The original book remains the world’s best selling science fiction novel, and spawned five more sequels from its original author. Its influence is vast; concepts from Dune are all over the Star Wars saga, and an argument can be made that Game of Thrones is the fantasy version of Dune, with its squabbling noble houses and its central messianic figure. But the fortunes of Dune itself as a live-action property have been, so far, mostly a series of disappointments.

Celebrated Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky attempted to mount a lavish production of Dune in the early ’70s, one that would have involved participation from artists like Moebius and H.R. Giger. Orson Welles and Salvador Dali agreed to star, and Pink Floyd was even going to do the soundtrack. But Jodorowsky’s vision was way too grand for a Hollywood where sci-fi was still considered a risky and unprofitable genre. In 2014, an amazing documentary called Jodorowsky’s Dune, detailing the film that never was, was released to great acclaim.

After an attempt was begun and then abandoned by Ridley Scott, surrealist director David Lynch was hired by producer Dino De Laurentiis to take the helm of the adaptation in the early ’80s. In a post-Star Wars world, Dune was expected to be a big hit, and the film was given a then-huge $40 million dollar budget. Although author Frank Herbert liked the finished product, critics eviscerated the movie upon release in 1984, and the movie was also a huge box office flop, despite starring rock star Sting and a young Kyle MacLachlan. Director David Lynch was not given final cut of the film, and he disavows it to this day, and refuses to even talk about it. (All that said, the film is now considered a cult favorite in some circles.)

In 2000, yet another adaptation of Dune was braved, this time on television. Syfy Channel produced six part mini-series called Frank Herbert’s Dune, which was a big enough ratings success that it spawned a sequel mini-series that combined elements of Herbert’s second and third novels. Although the television version was probably easier to follow for non-readers of the book than the Lynch film was, it was hampered by its relatively low budget. Still, its ratings proved there was an audience for this property, and in recent years, we’ve seen further attempts to bring it to life again on the big screen. Paramount held the rights for several years, and directors Peter Berg and Pierre Morel were both attached at different times, but the studio never proceeded to make the film and the rights lapsed.

Who Is Making the New Dune?

In November of 2016, Legendary Pictures gained the rights to Dune for film and television, and some hoped that meant that the property would get a long-form, Game of Thrones-style big budget television treatment. But when acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve came on board, it was announced that this would indeed become a feature film once again. Villeneuve announced that Dune would be his follow up project to Blade Runner 2049, and that Academy Award-winning screenwriter Eric Roth would handle the script.

Will It Be One or Two Movies?

Brian Herbert, son of Frank Herbert and the curator of the Dune legacy (he has written several sequels to his father’s novel himself), took to Twitter recently and told his followers that he’d just received the fourth draft of the Dune screenplay from the studio. According to Herbert, the script he received “is for the first movie” and “will cover approximately half of the novel.” So yes, this seems to suggest that current plan is for not one movie, but two. Whether it will all be shot at once, like the Lord of the Rings films, remains to be seen. With a novel as long as sprawling as Dune, this is probably the wisest choice. And if it’s a success, after that, there are five other books in the saga (and that doesn’t even include the sequels from Brian Herbert).

Who Will Star?

So far, the only name attached is Call Me By Your Name star Timothée Chalamet, who is set to play Paul Atreides, the central figure of the saga. No other names have been attached to the film yet in terms of cast.

Dave Bautista, who worked with director Denis Villeneuve in Blade Runner 2049, is re-teaming with him for the upcoming adaptation of Dune, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Bautista will be playing Glossu Rabban Harkonnen, nicknamed  “Beast,” the sadistic eldest nephew of a Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, who oversees the planet Arrakis.

Veteran actor Stellan Skarsgård, known for his many genre roles, including some in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Pirates of the Caribbean, is joining the cast of Dune, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Skarsgård will be playing the film’s primary villain, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen who oversees the planet Arrakis and seeks to remain in power over the incoming new stewards of the planet, the House of Atreides. The character is grotesque. He was played by Kenneth McMillan in David Lynch’s Dune under prosthetic make up. It remains to be seen if this version of the character will follow suit.

When Will Dune Be Released?

Principal Photography is set to begin sometime in 2019, which means we are looking at a release date of 2020 or, more likely, 2021.

Are you excited for a return to the planet Arrakis? Be sure to let us know your thoughts down below in the comments.

Images: Chilton Books / Universal Pictures / Gage Skidmore / Sony Pictures Classics / Warner Brothers

PARKS AND RECREATION's Ben Schwartz Describes a Deleted Jean Ralphio Scene

PARKS AND RECREATION's Ben Schwartz Describes a Deleted Jean Ralphio Scene

MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO: A Visual Appreciation

MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO: A Visual Appreciation

Prince's 10 Most Controversial Songs

Prince's 10 Most Controversial Songs