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James McAvoy Learned a Valuable Lesson About Sci-Fi After Starring in 2003 ‘Dune’ Series

McAvoy is "whetting my lips" for Denis Villeneuve's new adaptation of "Dune."

James McAvoy in "Frank Herbert's Children of Dune"

James McAvoy in “Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune”

Everett Collection

When people think of “Dune” adaptations, three projects most likely come to mind: David Lynch’s maligned “Dune” from 1984, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed attempt in the 1970s (immortalized in the documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune”), and Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming 2021 version. But there’s a fourth adaptation that often goes overlooked: John Harrison’s 2000 miniseries for Syfy (known then as Sci Fi Channel) titled “Frank Herbert’s Dune.” The series was a ratings bonanza for Syfy and won two Emmys, leading to the 2003 sequel miniseries titled “Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune.” That’s where James McAvoy enters the picture.

Long before “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “Atonement,” McAvoy was cast in a main role for “Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune” miniseries, which adapted the events of Herbert’s novels “Dune Messiah” and “Children of Dune.” McAvoy played Leto II Atreides, the son of original “Dune” hero Paul Atreides and Chani (played by Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya in Villeneuve’s film). In a recent chat with /Film, McAvoy was asked if he had any advice to give Chalamet from his own “Dune” experience.

“I was in an adaptation of the second and third books. He is in the first book. And he’s playing a character who ultimately becomes my father, in terms of the character dialogue. So, no. I’ve got no advice for him,” McAvoy said. “And he doesn’t need any advice from me, he’s a cracking actor.”

However, McAvoy did get good advice for starring in projects like “Dune” from “Farscape” actress Claudia Black. “It was at the L.A. premiere of ‘Children of Dune,’ and she said to me, that the thing with this shit, i.e. science fiction, is that you have to believe it more than you believe good writing,” the actor said. “Good writing, you can just do. It’s easier. But this stuff is hard, because it’s so bonkers, you know what I mean? I’ve really, I’ve always remembered that advice and taken it to heart.”

Like many cinephiles across the globe, McAvoy is anticipating Villeneuve’s adaptation. The Warner Bros and Legendary Entertainment release opens in U.S. theaters and HBO Max on October 22.

“It’s dead exciting,” McAvoy said. “Those were a bunch of books, I mean, I’ve read them all cover to cover, and I love those books. They’re crazy. As they get into their final two or three books, I mean, the level of bonkers is unparalleled. But I love them. And so I’m dead excited to see what he does. He’s a brilliant filmmaker. A brilliant maker of science fiction. And I do love my science fiction, as well as fantasy. So yeah, I’m whetting my lips.”

Head over to /Film’s website to read more from McAvoy’s latest interview.

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