Denis Villeneuve Answers All Your Questions About ‘Dune: Part Two’


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This weekend, “Dune: Part Two” muscles back into IMAX theaters with the verve of Timothée Chalamet rodeo-riding a giant sandworm. After nearly two months in theaters, the film is the current champion of this year’s box office race, with a total take of more than $680 million. (It’s also available to rent or buy on some streaming platforms.) The film’s success is thanks in part to audiences that have returned over and over to get lost in the rocky warrens and spiritual reckonings of the planet Arrakis. One admirer reports he’s seen the movie 25 times to date.

That there’s so much to explore in “Dune: Part Two” is a credit to its writer and director, Denis Villeneuve, who boldly reshaped Frank Herbert’s complex and cerebral 1965 novel “Dune.” Villeneuve split the book and its themes into two films: “Dune: Part One,” released in 2021, focused on the political struggles between two families, the Atreides and the Harkonnens. “Part Two” delves into religious fervor as the two surviving Atreides, young Paul (Chalamet) and his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), ingratiate themselves with Arrakis’s Indigenous desert tribe, the Fremen, by allowing the locals to believe that Paul is their Messiah — a prophecy that, if it comes to pass, will mean the slaughter of billions of victims across the galaxy.

Villeneuve has yearned to tell this story since he was a teenager in Quebec. His devotion is palpable; every frame feels steeped in monkish contemplation. Yet, he’s also a visual dramatist who doesn’t want audiences to get tripped up by too much exposition. His scripts give only passing mention to core concepts like spice, a psychedelic dust that powers everything from space travel to Paul’s clairvoyant hallucinations.

Though Villeneuve doesn’t want to overexplain, he was willing to provide some answers in an interview via video where every question about the film — even silly questions! — was on the table.

Does Chalamet’s Paul Atreides actually believe he’s the Messiah? What’s the meaning of Jessica’s face tattoos? Villeneuve also got into the erotic lives of his desert dwellers and the extra narrative weight he threw behind Paul’s Fremen love interest, Chani, played by Zendaya. As Villeneuve said with a grin, “Chani is my secret weapon.”

Here are edited excerpts from our conversation.

The last time we spoke, you weren’t sure what to make of the sandworm-shaped “Dune” popcorn bucket. It went on to be so popular that it sold out in cities before opening day and is being resold online for around $175. What do you think of it now?

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