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Why Dune Director Insisted On Splitting The Book Into Two Movies

Dune director Denis Villeneuve explains why he decided to adapt the classic Frank Herbert sci-fi novel over two films, rather than one long epic.

The director of Dune, Denis Villeneuve, reveals why he decided to split the classic sci-fi novel over two parts. The film is based on the 1965 book of the same name by Frank Herbert and features a powerhouse cast, including the likes of Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista and Stellan Skarsgard, to mention a few. Dune tells the story of a young man named Paul Atreides (Chalamet), son of Duke Leto Atreides (Isaac). It focuses on his family as they are forced into fighting a war against their longstanding enemies, the Harkonnens, after his father accepts the stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis.

There have been numerous attempts to adapt the beloved sci-fi novel since it was published, including the 1984 film by David Lynch. However, none of them have been able to successfully translate Herbert’s intricate writing onto a visual medium, with many labelling the source material as “unfilmable.” Villeneuve is no stranger to directing sci-fi epics, with a filmography that consists of 2016’s Arrival and 2017’s Blade Runner 2049. His credits give him the much-needed experience to take on the monumental challenge of adapting Dune with the added challenge of pleasing critics and fans of the book. What’s more, Villeneuve and the rest of the crew also had to contend with the task of editing the film remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related: Dune Story And World Explained: Characters, Spice & Sandworms

The French-Canadian director sat down with Wired for a virtual interview during the post-production of the film. Villeneuve explained his choice to adapt the story over two parts, and elaborated on why he thought the split was the right way to go. He pointed to the fact that a story of this magnitude and scale would be “too much” to squeeze into just one film. Read his quote below:

“The decision I made right at the beginning, and everybody agreed with it, is that the book is—there’s so much to tell. It was too much for one movie. Or you make a five-hour movie and everybody hates you because it’s too long. So we decided to make it in two parts. The story of the first movie sustains itself. When you look at it, I think it’s satisfying. But to complete the story, you need a second movie.”


The decision to break the novel up into two parts may have been impacted by the lengthy runtime of his last feature, Blade Runner 2049, which was close to three hours long. Many critics have suggested that the extended runtime was most likely the reason for the film’s poor box-office performance. However, Warner Bros. has continued to keep its faith in Villeneuve, who has established himself as one of the best modern-day directors over the last decade. His genius and versatility are present for all to see with features like Incendies, Prisoners and Sicario, showcasing his distinct range of stories. Hence, with a director of his caliber, it would be safe to say that the project is well and truly in good hands.

With the long-anticipated release of Dune fast approaching, audiences will have to wait just a little longer to find out whether Villeneuve has done justice to the source material. The film’s Rotten Tomatoes score currently stands at of 89% and has already opened to overseas markets. If international box-office numbers and early reviews are anything to go by, the sci-fi tentpole will surely satisfy both theater-goers who are fresh to Herbert’s work and fans of the book alike. Dune is set to release in U.S. theatres in October, and will have a simultaneous release on HBO Max.

Next: How Denis Villeneuve’s Dune Could Kickstart The Next Big Sci-Fi Franchise

Source: Wired

  • Dune (2021)Release date: Oct 22, 2021

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