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Denis Villeneuve Met ‘Star Wars’ Team to Prevent Desert Filming Crossover: ‘Let’s Protect Both of Us’

The "Dune" team was scouting locations in the Wadi Rum desert when they discovered "Star Wars" was already filming there.

Timothee Chalamet Dune


Legendary/Warner Bros.

Star Wars” is one of Denis Villeneuve’s favorite films, but it turns out that franchise almost got in the way of his “Dune” adaptation. As production designer Patrice Vermette told The Hollywood Reporter, the “Dune” team was scouting locations in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert when he noticed what “looked like a big tech scout” that was unrelated to Villeneuve’s project. What other studio tentpole had crews in Wadi Rum? “Star Wars,” of course. The desert was already being used for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”

As THR reports: “When the [‘Dune’ team’s] chopper was back on the ground, Vermette followed his instincts and texted a friend, Paul Inglis, who had worked on Villeneuve’s ‘Blade Runner 2049’ and since had been hired as the supervising art director on J.J. Abrams’ ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,’ then in production. ‘Hey, man, random question. Do you happen to be in Wadi Rum right now?’ Vermette recalls writing. Inglis texted back, ‘Yup, was that you who just flew over us?’ The ‘Dune’ crew’s concerns were confirmed: ‘Star Wars’ already was there, shooting in Villeneuve’s dream desert location.”

Because “Star Wars” and “Dune” already share similar story points, Villeneuve was extra-adamant about making sure there was no overlap between his movie and “The Rise of Skywalker” production. The filmmaker and Vermette arranged a meeting with the “Star Wars” team at a hotel bar to see if the two tentpoles could both use Wadi Rum without filming the same exact locations.

“We told them, ‘We don’t want to know anything about your story, but let’s protect both of us and make sure we don’t end up shooting the exact same areas of the desert,'” Vermette said. “It was all cool.”

Wadi Rum was Villeneuve’s dream shooting location for “Dune.” The director also made the decision to film in Wadi Rum during July and August, the hottest months of the year there. Special tents had to be created with air conditioning to keep the heat from affecting the crew and camera equipment.

Robbie McAree, whose Epic Films provided production services for “Dune” in Wadi Rum, said that Villeneuve decided to go ahead with shooting “Dune” in the heat for a particular reason: “Summer in the UAE has grayer skies and a lot more haze. For Denis’s vision of ‘Dune,’ it was absolutely perfect. We all knew that it was going to be harsh but he wanted that for a reason.”

“Dune” is no longer streaming on HBO Max, but it is playing in theaters. The tentpole is set to return to IMAX locations for a limited time starting December 3.

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