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Denis Villeneuve says he wanted to adapt Dune after being 'half-satisfied' with the David Lynch version

By Josh Weiss
Dune 2020

In the annals of cinematic history, David Lynch's 1984 adaptation is Dune is (despite a recently-found cult status) the exemplar of an ambitious genre flop. The movie — and weighty source material upon which it was based — enthralled a young Denis Villeneuve, who is the latest director to take stab at bringing Frank Herbert's sci-fi epic to the big screen.

"I'm a big David Lynch fan, he's the master," Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049) told Empire for the magazine's October issue (now on sale). "When I saw [Lynch's] Dune, I remember being excited, but his take...there are parts that I love and other elements that I am less comfortable with. So it's like, I remember being half-satisfied. That's why I was thinking to myself, 'There's still a movie that needs to be made about that book, just a different sensibility.'"

Kyle MacLachlan Dune

Lynch, who isn't really interested in checking out the 2020 translation, may have doomed himself when he tried to squeeze Herbert's massive tome into one, 136-minute movie. Villeneuve, on the other hand, plans to split his Dune into two parts, although the Empire coverage seems to heavily imply that Warner Bros. has yet to green-light the sequel. It's mentioned more than once that Zendaya's role as Chani, a member of Arrakis' Fremen, isn't particularly large in the first movie, but opens the door for a lot more development in the possible second installment.

"My part is very, very small in this movie and that's why I'm so excited to see it, to see what everyone's been up to," the actress said, revealing that she was only on set for a mere four days. "[Denis and I] had a little discussion about who Chani is and the strength she possesses. She's a fighter, that's what her people are. I really only had a few days with her, so I kind of scratched the surface, but so much fun figuring her out. What does she walk like? What does she talk like? This is her planet, so how does she navigate this world? It was so fun."

Dune 2020

Getting back to the concept of a "different sensibility," Oscar Isaac ("Duke Leto") found himself shooting in the same exact Jordanian desert that served as Pasana in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but with a work style that vastly differed from that of J.J. Abrams. "It's kind of incredible how two different filmmakers can take a place and give it a completely distinct feel," Isaac said.

Zendaya and Isaac are two small parts of a large ensemble ("I made no compromise," Villeneuve said of the casting) that also features: Timothée Chalamet (" Paul Atreides"), Rebecca Ferguson ("Lady Jessica"), Stellan Skarsgård ("Baron Harkonnen"), Josh Brolin ("Gurney Halleck"), Dave Bautista ("Glossu Rabban"), Jason Momoa ("Duncan Idaho"), Chang Chen ("Dr. Wellington Yueh"), David Dastmalchian ("Piter De Vries"), Stephen McKinley Henderson ("Thufir Hawat"), Charlotte Rampling ("Gaius Helen Mohiam"), and Javier Bardem ("Stilgar").

Dune 2020

"It's just this amazing line-up," Momoa told the magazine. "You've got Brolin, Oscar Isaac, Timothée Chalamet. And in walks Javier Bardem. I have never seen anyone that cool in my life. That's why he wins f***in' Oscars, bro."

Dune's first installment is slated to land on Arrakis (and in theaters everywhere) Friday, Dec. 18. A debut trailer for the film is expected to arrive next week. Last week, Empire gave fans their first glimpse at the project's redesigned sandworms, which took over a year of development.