Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” is an epic saga of dynasty and destiny, yet like all great science fiction, the film also excels brilliantly in the hardware department. Gadgets, weapons and spacecraft all abound in this story set in the year 10,191, but the item that most audiences have found the coolest – excuse the pun – is the high-efficiency Stillsuit, worn by human characters to survive outdoors on the desert planet Arrakis (cleverly pronounced as “Iraq is”).
The Stillsuit, originally described by Frank Herbert as a “micro-sandwich” in his 1965 novel, is the centerpiece of this first episode of TheWrap’s new video series, “How I Did It.” And what an incredible centerpiece it is.
In the video, the two costume designers who created the suit for the film — Jacqueline West (an Oscar nominee for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “The Revenant”) and Bob Morgan (whose credits as costume supervisor include “Man of Steel,” “Inception,” and “The Chronicles of Riddick”) — share behind-the-scenes details about how they approached the challenge of bringing Herbert’s vision to the screen.
“The design of the costume followed the function it had to do,” Morgan explained. In essence, as shown by planetologist Liet-Kynes (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) to Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides, the Stillsuit is a water filtration and recycling distillery that can be worn all over the body like a big hydration backpack. “Your body’s movements provide the power,” Liet-Kynes says in the film. “Your suit won’t lose more than a thimble-full of water.”
West and Morgan take us through the original artist renderings of the suit — check out the fantastic sketches in the video — and then through the process of design and construction. Each suit was made from well over 100 unique pattern pieces. Pay close attention to those molded pockets on the arms and legs: They are for catching water for drinking through the nose nozzle.
Then after the specialty molding was complete, each individual suit required two weeks to build, carefully custom-tailored for everyone from slim-limbed Chalamet to petite, sporty Rebecca Ferguson to broad-shouldered Jason Momoa.
And the gray-brown color of the suits and sandy headscarves took inspiration from the rocks and landscape of the Jordanian desert where much of “Dune” was filmed. West explained, “The gauze wrappings that [the characters] wear…were so that they would be camouflaged and blend into the dunes.” Occasional sandstorms during production, according to Morgan, “made this incredible patina on the suits that was just perfect.”
Check out the video for much more about the creation of these remarkable wardrobe objects. And also in the video, find out which famous historical figure, immortalized in a 1962 movie, was evoked by Chalamet as he strutted on set in his Stillsuit.