Denis Villeneuve said that in bringing Frank Herbert’s “Dune” to the screen, he was focused on not making it his own vision but Herbert’s. But there’s one other big movie that got in the way of that vision: “Star Wars.”
“The main…I will not say ‘enemy,’ was ‘Star Wars,’” Villeneuve told TheWrap’s Steve Pond at the Toronto International Film Festival. “It’s well known that ‘Star Wars’ has been deeply inspired by ‘Dune,’ and here we are, making a ‘Dune’ movie, and we are ‘Star Wars’ kids. To find our own identity and bring something that we are hoping is fresh and new for the audience, it was a fun challenge.”
Thankfully, Villeneuve’s “Dune” treats Herbert’s book like “The Bible,” adhering attentively to the visual cues and details Herbert wrote throughout the novel. And he worked closely with just a single storyboard artist and concept artist in defining the rich, sweeping and imposing visual language of the world and particularly the desert planet Arrakis.
Though Villeneuve says his film is intended to be accessible enough that people who are unfamiliar with the novel will appreciate the story, he considers himself a mega fan of the book and tried to make it exactly as he and so many others envisioned the world as teenagers.
“I had such powerful source material. All the detail made by Frank Herbert is so rich and precise, the dream was the people who loved the book will feel we put a camera in their mind and brought back images that will feel like what they imagined when they read the book,” he said. “I went back to those old dreams and I worked alone with my storyboard artist to figure out what would be the visual language of the movie.”
Villeneuve says that “Dune” has been his “Holy Grail” for several years since becoming a filmmaker. Starting from the French-language “Incendies” and moving through “Prisoners,” “Sicario,” “Arrival” and finally “Blade Runner 2049,” his movies have gotten larger and more technically ambitious. But he admits he’s a “slow learner” and would’ve never been able to make “Dune” years ago without having the tools he has now.
Still, he’s not positive he wholly fulfilled that vision he originally had when he first picked up the book, and he’s still hopeful for the chance to make “Dune Part Two” and complete that vision, but he believes he got pretty darn close.
“At the end of the day, I made this movie for myself. To please a part of myself that wanted it to exist and express myself for decades. The big challenge was to not disappoint myself. Me being a hardcore ‘Dune’ fan. I will say that when I look at the final movie now, there’s moments where I feel that I got pretty close to the old dream. And that brings enormous joy inside me,” he said. “I will not say the movie is perfectly what the dream was. That would be a lie, and it means I have space to evolve. I learned so much doing this movie, but if there’s ever a Dune Part 2 I will need to be better frankly.”
“Dune” is playing at the Toronto International Film Festival and will open in theaters on October 22. Watch the full interview with Denis Villeneuve above.