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‘Dune’ Prequel Series Loses Director and Star Amid Further ‘Creative Changes’

Johan Renck and actor Shirley Henderson’s departures follow ”The Sisterhood“ creator Diane Ademu-John’s exit as co-showrunner last November

HBO Max’s “Dune” prequel series, currently known as “Dune: The Sisterhood” is undergoing further “creative changes” as director Johan Renck and star Shirley Henderson have departed the project, TheWrap has learned. The overhaul comes months after creator Diane Ademu-John’s exit as co-showrunner last November.

“As ‘Dune: The Sisterhood (wt)’ has entered a pre-scheduled hiatus, there are some creative changes being made to the production in an effort to create the best series possible and stay true to the source material,” an HBO Max spokesperson told TheWrap. “Johan Renck has completed his work on the series and a new director will be brought on; through mutual agreement, Johan is moving on to pursue other projects. Additionally, Shirley Henderson will be exiting the series and will no longer be playing Tula Harkonnen.” The aforementioned hiatus had been pre-planned to avoid filming during the winter.

Renck, who is a two-time Emmy winner for his work on HBO’s limited series “Chernobyl” as director and co-executive producer, was set to helm the first two episodes of “The Sisterhood,” in addition to serving as EP for the pilot. Back in late November, he announced shooting had commenced in Budapest, but the Instagram post he made at the time has since been scrubbed. It’s unclear, and up to the new director’s discretion, if his footage will ultimately be utilized in the final airing.

While a search for a new director is underway, along with the recasting process for Henderson’s Tula Harkonnen, Deadline — which was first to break the news — reported that Ademu-John’s departure as co-showrunner put pressure on the series’ production, forcing singular showrunner Alison Schapker (“Lost”) to adapt quickly with major rewrites. Ademu-John, who has remained in an EP capacity, herself replaced former co-showrunner Jon Spaihts in 2021. Spaihts, who is Oscar nominated for his part in adapting Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune,” left in late 2019 to focus on penning the screenplay for “Dune: Part Two.”

The outlet also reported that Renck’s auteur approach did not coincide with the streamer’s vision for the prequel, serving as a departure from Villeneuve’s films. It’s not clear if Henderson’s exit is tied to the creative overhaul, Renck’s departure or the now-delayed production schedule. As a result of the changes, it could be possible that more exits and recastings could shape up in the future, as conflicts with schedules arise.

Announced back in 2019 during HBO Max’s nascent stages, “Dune: The Sisterhood” is based on Frank Herbert’s 1965 epic sci-fi novel, exploring the mysterious order of women known as the Bene Gesserit, who have honed extraordinary capabilities due to their control over their bodies and minds. Set 10,000 years ahead of the events of “Dune,” which sees the ascent of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), the drama follows the Harkonnen Sisters as they combat forces that threaten the future of humankind and establish the fabled sect.

Villeneuve is currently executive producing with Spaihts; the two had previously served as pilot director and co-writer/co-showrunner, respectively, before stepping away to focus on the “Dune” film sequel, due Nov. 3. At the time, Dana Calvo (“Good Girls Revolt”) was also tapped as co-showrunner via her multiyear overall deal at Legendary, which is also behind the movie franchise. Ademu-John took over showrunning duties in the summer of 2021, alongside writing and executive producing, and was later joined by veteran TV writer-producer Schapker, who is now the sole person in the role.

Scott Z. Burns, Matthew King, John Cameron and Cait Collins also serve as EPs with Byron Merritt and Kim Herbert executive producing for the Frank Herbert estate. “Sisterhood of Dune” co-author Brian Herbert is EP, while co-author Kevin J. Anderson serves as co-producer. HBO Max and Legendary Television co-produce the series.