Dune: Denis Villeneuve Passion Project

For Dune filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi epic of 1965 is not only “still relevant” in 2021, but “more relevant today than it was when it was written.”

Just as the book tackles weighty topics of consumerism and colonialism, Villeneuve’s big-screen adaptation also focuses on these social questions, as it introduces audiences to the new world of Arrakis (and all of its spice) through the eyes of young Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet).

“When you take the exploitation of natural resources that are done because of extreme capitalism,” Villeneuve explained. “Then you can see that the forces that oppose will be sacred and linked with religion — and that is a mix of something that is dangerous and volatile, and it’s something that the movie’s digging into.”

The filmmaker reflected on bringing the world of “Dune” to life and where they hope to take the story from here, including the major question of what has to happen in order to see “Dune: Part Two.”

Ferguson wasn’t particularly familiar with the story of “Dune” — or the pivotal role Lady Jessica (Paul Atreides’ mother and a powerful member of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood) plays in it — before meeting with Villeneuve to discuss the part. In fact, the actor was somewhat hesitant to play a character with so many similarities to roles she’d played before, like “The White Queen” or a kick-ass action heroine like Ilsa Faust in the “Mission: Impossible” films.

But the filmmaker’s vision for the project completely won her over. “Denis was one of my top directors that I wanted to work with, so I was uncomfortable and shy and excited and happy,” Ferguson explained. “But I think I couldn’t see and understand the gray areas that Denis was talking about when it came to [Lady Jessica] ’cause I didn’t know the story that well.”

“I didn’t understand the subtlety of being a mother and the powerful Bene Gesserit. I saw them separate,” she continued. “And when I gradually understood the intricate balance of these women — that the ancestral connection that they have, the simplicity of wanting to save something you have created and all of these shades, I completely fell in love with it. And I didn’t think I was going to get the role.”

Fortunately, Ferguson did get the part, with potential for more exploration of Lady Jessica’s layers to come in Villeneuve’s planned “Dune: Part Two.”

The status of the second half is somewhat up in the air until after the movie debuts on Oct. 22 (both in theaters and streaming on HBO Max), but the filmmaker was prepared for the uncertainty after proposing to split the dense source material into two movies.

“I wanted at the beginning to do the two parts simultaneously,” Villeneuve explained. “For several reasons, it didn’t happen, and I agreed to the challenge of making part one and then wait to see if the movie rings enough enthusiasm.”

He added: “As I was doing the the first part, I really put all my passion into it, in case it would be the only one. But I’m optimistic.”

Villeneuve is already working on the second movie’s script.

He is also set to produce the prequel series Dune: The Sisterhood for HBO Max, which focuses on the Bene Gesserit.

When asked if an earlier version of Lady Jessica could make an appearance on the show, the filmmaker was tight-lipped.

“It’s a beautiful project, but it’s in development,” he explained. “And when things are in development, I have a tendency, I want to protect them because it’s in a fragile state.”

For her part, Ferguson has plenty more she’d like to explore with Lady Jessica in “Dune: Part Two” or any other “Dune” projects. “I am so in love with the multitude of character within her. I can’t wait to hopefully read something, sometime, to see the dynamic of what happens next.”

“If such a thing as Dune: Part Two happens, I will say that it’s going to be an insane playground for me,” Villeneuve says.

Because instead of having to explain the world of the film to the audience like he did in this movie, with the sequel, he “can just have fun with cinema.”

“It’s going to be just like pure cinematic pleasure for the second part,” he continued. “I don’t want to speak for everybody on the team, but I will say that we really created on this movie a feeling of family and to re-unify everybody again together, that would be paradise.”