Editor Joe Walker (“Widows”) re-teams with director Denis Villeneuve on his passion project, “Dune,” a retelling of novelist Frank Herbert’s sci-fi saga about power, politics, and religion. This marks their fourth collaboration in a row, following “Sicario,” “Arrival,” and “Blade Runner 2049.”
“Dune,” which starts shooting in Budapest in March for Legendary, stars Timothée Chalamet (“Beautiful Boy,” “Call Me By Your Name”) as an exiled nobleman, who leads a rebellion on the eponymous desert planet, whose valuable resource, the mind-enhancing “spice,” causes a feudal war. Rebecca Ferguson (“Mission: Impossible — Fallout”) plays his mother, and Dave Bautista (“Blade Runner 2049”) co-stars as a brutal rival.
“I was deeply familiar with ‘Arrival’ and ‘Blade Runner’ before they were made, sitting next to Denis in the cutting room when he formulated them, but, on this one, I’ve rather enjoyed being kept in the dark,” said Walker, who’s also cut four films for director Steve McQueen and has been nominated twice for Oscars (“Arrival,” “12 Years a Slave”).
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However, Walker believes the director is best suited to open up the rich and exotic universe created by Herbert (filmed once before by David Lynch in 1984 with unsatisfying results, and as an acclaimed 2000 miniseries). “For me, there’s great synaptic pleasure working within [Villeneuve’s] worlds.”
Walker even recalled Villeneuve telling him why he’s been passionately drawn to “Dune” since childhood. “The one thing he said to me was that it’s almost like an aficionado writing it,” Walker said. “It’s not necessarily a super-polished piece of fiction, but it taps into two things that are fascinating: oil and religion.”
And therein lies the timeless appeal of “Dune,” which could be rebooted as a compelling Middle East allegory:” What’s tantalizing about it is there’s a wealth of material there,” Walker said. “Having to encounter other cultures and create stability out of unrest.”
But for Villeneuve, there’s also a fascination with Herbert’s portrayal of female empowerment. “I’m fond of the way they approach power and politics, and influence the world through a very powerful, undercover movement that is ruling society,” Villeneuve told IndieWire.
But, unable to lure back Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins (“Blade Runner 2049”) for the fourth time, Villeneuve tapped DP Greig Fraser (“Vice” and the Oscar-nominated “Lion”). Currently, they’re testing various formats (including large-format) and deciding on a desert location. They’re also considering making “Dune” in two parts.
“The word epic is overused, but it has that quality,” said Walker.