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Denis Villeneuve spent over a year designing 'every little detail' of sandworms for his big budget Dune

By Josh Weiss
Dune Josh Brolin Timothee Chalamet

All hail Shai-hulud! We already knew that Denis Villeneuve's upcoming adaptation of Dune was a massive undertaking, from its ensemble cast to its wide-ranging narrative scope. The story is so big, in fact, that the latest take on Frank Herbert's seminal sci-fi novel will be told across two movies.

And the word "big" doesn't just apply to the size of the production and plot. It also describes the gargantuan and deadly sandworms that live just beneath the surface of Arrakis (the titular setting, a vast desert planet colloquially named "Dune"). When it came to time to create the man-eating annelids, Villeneuve poured an insane amount of effort and care into the design work.

"We talked about every little detail that would make such a beast possible, from the texture of the skin, to the way the mouth opens, to the system to eat its food in the sand," the director told Empire magazine for the publication's Summer 2020 issue. "It was a year of work to design and to find the perfect shape that looked prehistoric enough."

Just think: All that enthusiasm, all that hard work, was for one single element of the project. It's as if the sandworm campaign is a small (or large since, you know, they are colossal animals) microcosm of how passionate everyone was about the film. Who doesn't want to see what modern CGI and a massive studio budget can bring to these iconic creatures?

And while we're on the subject of a masterful filmmaker's uncompromising vision, Villeneuve was insistent that the desert scenes be shot on location ... in an actual desert.

"I said to them, 'They didn't make Jaws in a swimming pool,'" he added.

Shooting did indeed take place in Abu Dhabi and Jordan, but that meant the crew had to contend with intense heat that felt "like a microwave" and harsh winds that blew sand every which way. Still, all those present were really good sports about it. "They were paratroopers," the director concluded.

Dune 2020

Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgård, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Jason Momoa, Chang Chen, David Dastmalchian, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Charlotte Rampling, Javier Bardem, and Zendaya make up the crazily impressive cast.

Dune will begin to traverse the sandy nothingness of Arrakis when it hits theaters Friday, Dec. 18.