Denis Villeneuve’s Dune has amassed one of the biggest, most talented film casts in years. Many of them are bona fide superstars. You might expect that putting them in glorified wetsuits in the middle of the desert would cause one of them to complain — at least a little. However, when asked that very question, the director’s answer was surprising.
“You ask a question about who was complaining the most about this costume, who was complaining the most about the environment and the conditions,” Villeneuve said. “As a team, we had a lot of actors involved in this project and we were waiting for the one that would be the bad sheep, you know? And it never happened. I mean, the level of collaboration, of patience and commitment from the cast was quite amazing. And it was, as a director, deeply touching.”
That was the main takeaway from a Q&A between Stephen Colbert and several cast members of Dune — the latest live-action adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel — which Gizmodo and other news outlets sat in on. It might sound like a weird topic for an article, actors saying they liked the movie they made (duh!), but these interviews were on another level. Josh Brolin (Gurney Halleck) called it a “special, special, special experience.” Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Liet Kynes) said it was “a dream come true.” And Jason Momoa (Duncan Idaho) said it “set the bar on how I want my career to go.” There wasn’t a single actor on the panel who wasn’t heaping higher-than-normal praise on their experience, to the point where you can’t wait to see how it’ll come across on camera.
“I just want to say too that, for me, it was the enthusiasm that we had on set making this thing, which I know — even just from seeing little bits — does get translated onto the screen,” Oscar Isaac (Duke Leto Atreides) said. “It was thrilling, completely, being there with Denis, being on the sets, especially working with these incredible people. And with Timothée, just kind of watching someone that is clearly so thoughtful and sensitive and well-spoken. We just had so, so much fun. And I just want to agree with Brolin there that it was unlike anything that I’ve ever had a chance to be part of.”
Much like Isaac, Villeneuve praised Chalamet’s performance in the lead role of Paul Atreides, calling him “one of the best actors of his generation.” And even though he’s an accomplished actor who’s appeared in films like Call Me By Your Name and Little Women, that didn’t stop Chalamet from geeking out a bit on set — specifically the moment he got to meet his WWE idol, Dave Bautista.
“I grew up a massive WWE fan, you know, and I’d never met Bautista,” he said. “His excitement being there, having already worked with Denis [on Blade Runner 2049]. When you see an actor that’s already worked with a director, and he’s more humbled than ever and is more excited to be there than ever, as Jason just said, for me this kind of set the bar on these kind of movies. It was inspiring, it was inspiring to see the actor that Bautista was, but also knowing this is a guy I grew up with that was kicking arse on TV every Friday night.”
Chalamet wasn’t alone in sharing his love of Dune’s director. Much of the praise during the panel was heaped on Villeneuve, whom several cast members said made this one of the best filming experiences of their lives. Momoa called Villeneuve a “cinematic genius” and said how badly he didn’t want to disappoint him on set — to the point where, during one scene where he had to do a lot of running, he was nearing tears but refused to stop trying.
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“I don’t ever want to go back to not being treated…I felt beautiful in this film. It’s a very hard thing to say, but I felt very beautiful. And I laughed constantly, and I learned so much,” Momoa said. “There’s moments where you don’t want to bitch. And it’s funny because Denis — I’ve never run this much in my life, and Denis had me run across the desert [for a scene]. Because the sun was setting so we had to get this shot, I had to run through this windstorm to run to Timothée, and I couldn’t see where I was going. I just didn’t want to fall on my face, I didn’t want to disappoint him. I’m not the best runner, and so I’m like ‘I’m not giving up.’ The chafing and the sweat that had built up, and I’m like I’m not going to give up. But inside I was crying like a little baby.”
No, it certainly wasn’t all smooth sailing for the folks filming Dune. There were a few moments of conflict — albeit hilarious conflict. Based on their interactions, Brolin and Isaac seemed to have had a bit of harmless fun on set (though it seemed to be perpetuated more by Isaac). Brolin shared a story of first being presented with the movie’s version of a basinet, the multi-stringed instrument that Gurney Halleck plays — only for Isaac to make it weird.
“When it was brought to the set it was immediately grabbed out of my hands by Oscar Isaac and played incredibly,” Brolin said. “Which threw me into, like this awful kind of vulnerable state that I would never get it right.”
Colbert asked Isaac what he thought of Brolin’s performance, once he’d learned how to play the instrument. His response: “I actually haven’t heard it yet, so I’m actually really excited to tear him apart.”
Dune is set to arrive in theatres on December 18.
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