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'I cried': 'Dune' star Rebecca Ferguson reveals the emotional journey of Denis Villeneuve's movie

·6-min read

There is no better word to describe the movie Dune (in theatres on Friday, Oct. 22) than epic, but the emotional, visceral feeling you get from watching a film of this scale, from Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, even brought one of its lead actors, Rebecca Ferguson, to tears.

“I cried,...I was hit by the sound, I was hit by the cuts, by Greig Fraser’s work,” Ferguson told Yahoo Canada. “I asked for a second screening very quickly afterwards and then I got to see it with an audience, which was yet another emotion.”

“This couldn't have been more of an incline of happiness for me.”

Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides and Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “Dune,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Chiabella James)
Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides and Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “Dune,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Chiabella James)

What is the movie 'Dune' about?

Based on Frank Herbert’s 1965 science-fiction novel, Dune largely follows the character Paul Atreides, played by Timothée Chalamet, his mother Lady Jessica (Ferguson), part of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, and Duke Leto Atreides, played by Oscar Isaac.

Duke Atreides becomes the ruler of Arrakis, a desert planet known for its “spice” resource, which is difficult to mine with enormous sandworms inhabiting the land. Through the story, it’s realized that this move to Arrakis was actually an effort by the Emperor and the previous rulers, House Harkonnen, to reclaim Arrakis, wiping out the House Atreides.

The movie also stars famed actors Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista, just to name a few.

Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck, Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides and Stephen McKinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures)
Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck, Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides and Stephen McKinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures)

‘IMAX format was just exactly what was needed to bring this book to life’

Ultimately, Dune epitomizes the magic of the movie theatre. Crisp colours, sweeping landscapes, sounds that shake your body, and tiny details that look so alive it almost feels like you’ve crossed through the screen.

Villeneuve also admits that this movie would not have been possible without the advancements in visual effects we have today.

“I don't think I would have been able to make this movie a decade ago, the visual effects needed to be at a level of excellence that was not there,” he told Yahoo Canada. “I wanted the movie to be as close to nature as possible, I wanted the movie to feel completely real.”

“I wanted it to be so real that the audience will only focus on the inner journey of the character, I wanted the planet to feel close to us, I wanted the elements to be very close to us… I think that the IMAX format was just exactly what was needed to bring this book to life.”

Zendaya as Chani and Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “Dune,” a Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary release. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures)
Zendaya as Chani and Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “Dune,” a Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary release. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures)

While there is a lot of set up in terms of the actually plot of the movie (with a two hour and 35 minute runtime), it is understandable, given the details of this world that need to be established to follow the story, for those who have not read Herbert’s book.

It’s the complexity of the narrative of “Dune” that made it seem almost impossible to transform into a film, evident in the less than successful 1984 movie from David Lynch, but the mesmerizing nature of this execution of this story makes Villeneuve’s upcoming Dune: Part Two very intriguing, with the expectation that the audience has the foundation of the narrative covered.

Director Denis Villeneuve and Javier Bardem on the set of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “Dune,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Chiabella James)
Director Denis Villeneuve and Javier Bardem on the set of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “Dune,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Chiabella James)

Denis Villeneuve did not want to ‘disappoint’ himself

For Villeneuve, this is a story that has been with him since he was around 14-years-old, which did add pressure for the filmmaker to create a movie that lives up to his childhood imagination.

“That was one of the big challenges, [to] make sure that I did not disappoint myself because it's a book that I loved for four decades,” Villeneuve said. “Those images, those characters have been with me through all those years and I wanted to...give justice to those dreams I had when I was younger.”

Ferguson applauded Villeneuve’s work in Dune, describing the experience as him “bringing [her] into the world of the characters that he had seen.”

“They were already portrayed perfectly,” she said. “There was nothing that could have been better, there was nothing that could have been added.”

“I just got to defibrillate a character for him… It was quite incredible. I didn't have to sit down and go, ‘Oh, by the way, I feel like, why is she having supper in her room?’ I didn't have to, he had dissected this book since the age of 14, and he's a person who is so humble and kind and equal in his way that his film will be mirrored to his persona.”

Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary release. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures)
Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary release. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures)

The praise for the filmmaker comes from the actor tasked with portraying a character, Lady Jessica, that Villeneuve highlights as being particularly complex.

“It's a character that has more than one agenda,” he explained. “She has tremendous pressure on [her shoulders], there's a pressure coming out from her own order, the Bene Gesserit, and then she has the pressure of being in a specific family and then to be a mother.”

“In the novel Lady Jessica, I would say, is more cold. I wanted to feel the vulnerability of Jessica, I wanted to feel that yes, you can control the emotion but still, she's struggling with the emotions. It's something that I thought would make her...more human and more believable.”

The way Villeneuve speaks about the character of Lady Jessica is an example of how effectively the filmmaker was able to balance the massive scope of Dune with the intimate thoughts and emotions of the characters.

If you’ve been holding out to venture into the movie theatre during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dune is an excellent candidate for your first (safe) trip back.

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