Dune: Everything We Know About Denis Villeneuve’s New Sci Fi Movie

Frank Herbert’s Dune is one of the most celebrated sci-fi novels ever written. First published in 1965, this epic saga combined cerebral science fiction and high fantasy and went on to become an award-winning international bestseller. It won the praise of such established sci-fi writers as Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein and the success of the book led Herbert to write another five novels in the series.

Inevitably, there have been attempts to adapt Dune for the screen. Maverick Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky tried throughout the 1970s, attempts that were documented in the superb 2013 documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune. In the early ’80s, legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis hired rising director David Lynch–fresh off the success of The Elephant Man–to helm a lavish adaptation. While the resulting film, released in 1984, was often visually stunning, the confused plot and terrible reviews led it to become one of the decade’s most notorious flops.

Dune was adapted a second time in 2000, this time as a five-part miniseries produced by the Sci-Fi Channel (subsequently rebranded SyFy). The show was much better received than the movie and won two Emmys. It was followed in 2003 by Children of Dune, a three-part series based on two of Herbert’s follow-up novels.

In 2016, it was reported that a new Dune movie was in the works. This wasn’t the first attempt to make another film–director Peter Berg had been attached a decade earlier–but with Frank Herbert’s son Brian, who has written several follow-up novels in the Dune series, on board as producer, it seemed likely that the movie might finally happen.

The new adaptation of Dune is now set for release later this year. Obviously many of 2020’s big films have been postponed and delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Dune’s current December release date makes it likely that it will arrive on schedule. The first publicity material for the film has now started to emerge, so here’s everything we know so far about Dune.

When will it be released?
Dune is currently scheduled to hit theaters on December 18, 2020.

Who’s in the cast?
A hugely impressive cast has been assembled for Dune. Call Me by Your Name star Timothée Chalamet takes on the lead role as Paul Atreides, with Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica, Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck, and Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto. Other high profile names include Zendaya as Chani, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, Javier Bardem as Stilgar, Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, Dave Bautista as Glossu Rabban, and Stephen Mckinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat.

Who’s the director?
Dune is being directed by Denis Villeneuve. He is one of the most acclaimed filmmakers working today, and this is his third big sci-fi movie in a row, following 2015’s Arrival and 2017’s Blade Runner 2049. His other films include Sicario, Prisoner, and Enemy.

Who wrote the script?
Dune has three credited scriptwriters. Villeneuve is one, along with Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts. Roth is one of the most successful screenwriters of the past 30 years, having worked on movies such as Forest Gump, Munich, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and A Star is Born (2019). Spaihts previously worked with Villeneuve on Prisoners, and also co-wrote the Marvel movie Doctor Strange and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.

What’s the story?
The main setting of Dune is the planet Arrakis, where the galaxy’s most important substance–spice–can be found. The basic story focuses on the noble Atreides family, including Duke Leto, Lady Jessica, and their son Paul, who are sent to Arrakis to oversee the harvesting of spice. But their enemies, the Harkonnen family, have other ideas, leading to an epic mix of political intrigue and thrilling sci-fi drama, plus psychic visions and giant sandworms.

What has been released so far?
We have yet to see a trailer or any footage from the movie. However, various images from the film were revealed recently, along with the official logo. The images show many of the cast on the planet Arrakis, including Timothy Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem, and Oscar Isaac. There was also an initial image of Chalamet as Paul Atreides on his home planet of Caladan.

What about Dune sequels?
Dune adapts half of Herbert’s novel, and Villeneuve plans to make a second movie to complete the story. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Villeneuve explained that being able to split the book was vital. “I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie,” he said. “The world is too complex. It’s a world that takes its power in details.” There is also a spin-off TV series in development for HBOMax titled The Sisterhood. However, showrunner Jon Spaihts–also one of the movie’s writers–was fired in November, so the status of the series is currently unknown.