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'Dune' director Denis Villeneuve on the film's ties to 'Star Wars'

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  • Denis Villeneuve
    Canadian film director and screenwriter

Dune director Denis Villeneuve talks about remembering what he felt like when he first read Frank Herbert's Dune novel as a teen and how that influenced his tellling of the story. He also discusses how Star Wars was both inspired by Dune and itself served as inspiration for this latest iteration.

Video Transcript

- If anything happens, will you protect Paul?

- With my life.

KEVIN POLOWY: The hypnotizing visual prowess in world-building that you bring to your work is just incredible. It's eye-popping at points. How much was that part of the appeal for you when it came to "Dune?" Like what you could accomplish not only in storytelling, because this is such a famous story, but also visually, in literally this huge sandbox.

DENIS VILLENEUVE: The challenge was to channel the teenager that I was that read the book in the '80s, you know, like I was 13 or 14 years old, to try to bring back, like an archaeologist, to go back in time and try to bring back to life the image that came in my mind when I was reading the book. These images that was kind of more pure, that had less influences, that were like the image coming out in the mind of a young teenager. And I tried to go back to that spirit as much as possible.

KEVIN POLOWY: One comparison I'm seeing a lot is the idea that "Dune" is like Star Wars for adults. But in terms of adapting this one in a post-Star Wars world, where that side has been so ubiquitous in our pop culture, were you then, in return, influenced by that at all? Were you influenced by anything in the Star Wars cinematic universe?

DENIS VILLENEUVE: I was born with Star Wars, meaning that I-- Star Wars is the first movie that I asked my parents to go to see to the theater. I was like 9 or 10 years old when the first time I saw that, when that came out in 1977. I was the target audience, and the Star Wars changed my life. I'm here probably because of Star Wars, you know? It's like I was traumatized, in a great way. In a great way. I was like floored, floored, floored. And I think that "Dune" is related, in some ways, to that spirit of someone who wants to take sci-fi seriously [INAUDIBLE]

KEVIN POLOWY: The cycle of inspiration.

DENIS VILLENEUVE: And yes, because Star Wars was deeply inspired by "Dune." George Lucas always says it, and it's true. And then us making "Dune" 40 years later or something, it's like we-- we are in a world where a space opera has been occupied by the Empire. So it's like a challenge to define our identity, knowing that there's like that big, gigantic creature that is Star Wars that is there. Living outside it was a challenge.

KEVIN POLOWY: What was the moment you knew that Timothee Chalamet would be so right for Paul?

DENIS VILLENEUVE: As I was starting to dream about making the adaptation, I was looking at the actors that were around, and he became the obvious choice, for several reasons, because first of all, that he has a [? candor, ?] a youth. He looks very young on camera. He has an old soul because of his background, because of his education, or just his personality. There's something about him that, intellectually, he's someone that is very mature. And that contrast between the youth and the maturity is something that was important to bring [INAUDIBLE] on screen.

KEVIN POLOWY: I know everyone who is seeing and loving this movie is just a little bit nervous about part two. Obviously, these are not cheap films to produce. Can you say anything to put our minds at ease? Will we definitely be getting a part two, or are we in wait-and-see territory?

DENIS VILLENEUVE: It's not of my power to decide if the second movie would be greenlit or not. I'm not the one who will push the button. We'll see. Let's say that it's starting to smell good. But for me, what matters right now, it's not "Dune 2." What matters for me is that "Dune" part one has the chance to live on the big screen. That's what matter.

KEVIN POLOWY: Did you ever consider or attempt to make, you know, parts one and two back to back?

DENIS VILLENEUVE: It was my initial idea. That suggestion was not accepted because it was too expensive. And today, I'm grateful that it happened this way. Why? Because it was already quite a challenge to shoot that first part. And it was physically quite demanding. And I'm grateful that I had the chance to make sure that I had done part one exactly as I wanted it to be, then time to rest a little bit. If ever part two happens, I'll have time to recover from the first one.

- [INAUDIBLE] [? my ?] [? dune. ?]