Why Denis Villeneuve Says 'Dune' is the 'Most Difficult Thing' He's Ever Done

Denis Villeneuve's new look at Dune offers us excitement and a window into what challenges the filmmaker. 

When Frank Herbert sat down to write Dune he imagined worlds and details that filmmakers have struggled to adapt to the big screen for ages. David Lynch tried his hand, Jodorowsky tried his, as well. 

But Dune often feels like a movie white whale,  and who better to play Captain Ahab than Denis Villeneuve? 

He's proven he can make money with big, heady science fiction like Arrival and balance big ideas and mythology like he did in Blade Runner 2049. In a groundbreaking interview with Vanity Fair, Denis Villeneuve opened up about what it's like taking on a Frank Herbert classic. 

He said, “I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie,” he says. “The world is too complex. It’s a world that takes its power in details.”

But now we get a first look at Villeneuve's attempt. 

Deeper in his talks, Villeneuve adds, “No matter what you believe, Earth is changing, and we will have to adapt. That’s why I think that Dune, this book, was written in the 20th century. It was a distant portrait of the reality of the oil and the capitalism and the exploitation—the overexploitation—of Earth. Today, things are just worse. It’s a coming-of-age story, but also a call for action for the youth.”

Villeneuve continued, “It’s a book that tackles politics, religion, ecology, spirituality—and with a lot of characters,” Villeneuve continues. “I think that’s why it’s so difficult. Honestly, it’s by far the most difficult thing I’ve done in my life.”

Wow...that's a huge bar set to jump. 


Villeneuve wrote the script with Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts. Aside from the book, which is super long, a lot of time was spent crafting characters. That included taking a character historically portrayed as a man and changing them into a woman.

Sharon Duncan-Brewster plays Kynes, a peacekeeper. “What Denis had stated to me was there was a lack of female characters in his cast, and he had always been very feminist, pro-women, and wanted to write the role for a woman,” said Duncan-Brewster. “This human being manages to basically keep the peace amongst many people. Women are very good at that, so why can’t Kynes be a woman? Why shouldn’t Kynes be a woman?”  

These types of changes are great to see. 

Adaptations are about creating the best movie and story, that also feels accessible to wider audiences. 

As the film comes together we're going to know a lot more, but these early images give us lots of reasons to be excited. 

Shot in Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and on many a soundstage, Dune is set up to be a huge part of Hollywood's bounceback from corona. Only time will tell if this investment in humungous science fiction is a smart bet for the studio. 


Warner Brothers is confident in Villeneuve's vision and casting choices. It feels like every image released features another famous face like Jason Momoa, Oscar Isaac, and Josh Brolin. 

The movie will debut in 2 parts, with the first coming Christmas of 2020. 

As of right now, Dune hits theaters on December 18th, 2020.      

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Your Comment


Turning male book characters into female onscreen characters, because you are pro-women sounds like a bad start. I am a fan of Villeneuve and I just hope the virtue-signalling ends there.

April 14, 2020 at 1:43PM, Edited April 14, 1:43PM

Pavel Tsvetkov

Just going to chime in here. No attacks just thoughts. In Dune, Liet was Arrakkis' planetologist and ecologist for the Emperor, along with being a Fremen leader. I always saw him as more of a effeminate character because he wanted to turn the planet into a green, water filled paradise and also wanted what was best for the Fremen people. For Villeneuve to turn Liet Kynes into a female character rather than male, personally I felt like it was an alright move. Now you might have a different reason than myself and thats ok, just thought I would share.

April 14, 2020 at 2:46PM

Bennett Todd
Director of Photography, Gaffer, Key Grip (IATSE 491 Grip)

Science fiction is a genre of ideas. Book adaptations are interpretations, not visual transcriptions. The source text and the other adaptations still exist. Masters & experts of an art-form are worth studying even if you don't agree with their politics.

Thank you for keeping the content & aggregated content coming, NoFilmSchool.

April 15, 2020 at 10:12AM, Edited April 15, 10:13AM

Dan Maher

Yeah, sure: I totally agree.

I'm also sure Hollywood studios are doing this because the current market wants to see more diversity.

For me, it's a pc business move: just change a black character into white, a women into a man, a gay into hetero and you'll see your "genre of ideas" will start a riot.

April 16, 2020 at 10:35AM


What the hell happened to Liet Kynes? You are pro woman so change a character? What's wrong with this people? I'm the first to be for the equality but this thing is going to be ridiculous in Hollywood, equality mean same cachet for the actors or the the technics not change a character, so what's next? A female Hamlet or male Lady Macbeth? This is pure humbug, it's not about equity it's all the same marketing story, "not enough women" "not enough afro-americans", "we need to attract the attention of this community" bla bla bla, just market research as usually.

April 15, 2020 at 1:04PM, Edited April 15, 1:09PM


Changing the characters gender is about making the film more interesting to a wider audience and updating a book written in a more sexist time. It will either be a good or bad film and it will have nothing to do with whether the gender of a character was changed. The fact that two of the current six comments are about this makes me despair.

April 15, 2020 at 8:59PM

Stu Mannion

"making the film more interesting to a wider audience, and updating a book written in a more sexist time." Do you know what are you talking about? This is historical revisionism, respectability and hypocrisy, do you know who behaved like this? The fascist. So The Godfather was thought to get a wider audience by compromising? Or Gone With The Wind or The Lord Of The Rings? O Tarantino movies or Scorsese movies or Spike Lee movie, changing gender? No one landmark movie in the history did a such thing, only crap z-level blockbusters. This is an insult to the film industry.

April 16, 2020 at 12:47AM


If it makes you despair, you're missing the point of the article: generate clicks and lots of comments.

April 16, 2020 at 10:36AM


Dune is full of amazing and powerful female characters. Changing the gender of Kynes is a huge and absurd mistake which will infuriate all the true fans of the book series like myself. But it is insignificant compared with those horribly ugly and cheap costumes.

April 16, 2020 at 5:55AM, Edited April 16, 5:56AM


Let me see your costume sketches.

April 16, 2020 at 10:37AM



April 16, 2020 at 8:42AM

In Quảng Cáo
Công ty in ấn - Xưởng in | Chuyên in quảng cáo giá rẻ Hà Nội

Please Proofread.

Who is Frank Herbery?

April 16, 2020 at 3:43PM


Cant' wait to experience it in Dolby Cinema!

April 17, 2020 at 6:33AM


What was this written by a 7th grader? That included taking a character historically portrayed as a man and changing them into a woman.

And that's not all...

May 1, 2020 at 9:52PM


in the book, the problem of exposition was solved by providing the characters with an inner monologue/voice. The Lynch movie tried to adapt that by making it a literal voiceover from each character. I wonder how this movie solved that problem? Probably why they needed to split it in half. Splitting it in half also allows them to flesh out the battle scenes.

May 13, 2020 at 10:35AM, Edited May 13, 10:35AM