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Denis Villeneuve Reveals the Key Difference Between Directing ‘Dune’ and ‘Blade Runner 2049’

Directing "Blade Runner 2049" was an act of love, but "Dune" is something far different for Villeneuve.

"Dune" and "Blade Runner 2049"

“Dune” and “Blade Runner 2049”

Warner Bros.

Tackling a “Dune” adaptation might seem like a gargantuan task given how sacred Frank Herbert’s novel is, but Denis Villeneuve knows a thing or two about pulling off new takes on beloved science-fiction properties. Enter “Blade Runner 2049,” Villeneuve’s 2017 sequel to Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” that earned critical acclaim. “Blade Runner 2049” underperformed at the box office, but it’s beloved by critics (IndieWire’a A- review calls it a “mind-blowing neo-noir”), filmmakers (James Gunn calls it better than the original), and Academy voters who awarded it the Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects. Can Villeneuve make “Dune” succeed in similar fashion?

In a virtual discussion screened for select press ahead of the “Dune” trailer launch, Villeneuve stressed that tackling “Dune” and “Blade Runner 2049” could not have been more different. While both science-fiction tentpoles presented massive challenges for the filmmaker, the pressures that were created by signing onto them remained unique to each project.

“With ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Dune,’ its two different pressures,” Villeneuve said. “With ‘Blade Runner’ I had to be respectful of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece. It was more an act of love. Here’s it’s totally different. I’m dealing with the pressure of the dreams I had as a teenager. I was a big dreamer. I dreamed big when I was younger. That teenager in me is totalitarian and I had to please those dreams. That was the biggest challenge.”

Villeneuve has been vocal from the start about his “Dune” adaptation being driven by “the images” and dreams that he envisioned while first reading Frank Herbert’s novel as a teenager. For this reason, Villeneuve has told fans that his “Dune” will have no stylistic similarities to David Lynch’s 1984 “Dune” film adaptation.

“David Lynch did an adaptation in the ’80s that has some very strong qualities,” Villeneuve told Yahoo back in November 2017. “I mean, David Lynch is one of the best filmmakers alive, I have massive respect for him,” Villeneuve said. “But when I saw his adaptation, I was impressed, but it was not what I had dreamed of, so I’m trying to make the adaptation of my dreams.”

Timothée Chalamet was handpicked by Villeneuve to lead his “Dune” adaptation because, as the director explained to press ahead of the trailer debut, the 24-year-old Oscar nominee “is the best actor of his generation.” The director loved the contrast on display in Chalamet’s screen presence in that the actor looks young on camera but has a soul and depth beyond his years in his eyes. Villeneuve said Chalamet had the “rock star charisma” needed to pull off the hero of the story.

Warner Bros. is currently scheduled to open “Dune” in theaters December 18.

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