In Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel Dune, an invaluable spice from the planet Arrakis fuels intergalactic travel and has the ability to open one’s mind to deeper awareness.
On Earth, the serious press blitz of Timothée Chalamet in support of Denis Villeneuve Dune has a comparably potent effect. The actor is so clearly thrilled to be a part of the ambitious blockbuster that just showing off his overwhelming enthusiasm for the filmmaker can rub off on you like a touch. It’s intoxicating.
Le Club AV experienced the exhilarating rush firsthand when we hopped on a Zoom with Chalamet and Villeneuve hours before Dune‘s previewed at the 78th Venice International Film Festival. Below, the actor and director talk about their early days of filming together, and Villeneuve shares the exact moment things fell into place for him – when it was clear Chalamet was the perfect choice to play his protagonist. , Paul Atreides.
Denis Villeneueve: I’ll tell you the truth: There is a scene that we shot at the very start of filming, called the Gom Jabbar scene, where we go through a strange process of unconscious transformation. And this transformation, when we did the scene, I saw this transformation in Timothy. When I saw this power rise in what he brought to the character, I saw with my own eyes Paul Atreides become something else. And, when it happened, Timothy didn’t see me, but I was dancing behind the camera. I was like, “Oh my god he was so awesome. He’s so powerful. I am so deeply happy. Thank you, gods of cinema. I didn’t screw it all up; I threw away the good Paul Atréides!
Le Club AV: So, Timothy, didn’t you see him dance then? What memories do you have of the shooting of this scene?
Timothée Chalamet: No I do not have [see him dancing]. But that’s great praise, and it comes from one of the – if not the best director in the world. So I’m pinching myself right now, even if you say that. So, a big thank you for saying that.
You know, how lucky to be able to start with this scene. A lot of times as an actor you shoot a streak, which feels like a certain responsibility of knowing exactly where you are as a character, where you want to go, where you’ve just been. And, luckily, with Charlotte Rampling, who played Reverend Mother Mohiam, we were able to—
DV : We were very scared of Charlotte. [Laughs.] We like it.
TC : [Laughs.] We love her, but, man, she has that power. You to feel this. And she had these platforms [shoes,] so she was kind of like floating on the set.
No, but it was a good start. And I kind of had an idea that it was important keep in mind that this is a marathon, not a sprint – for how much the character is asking, how much the program is going to require. And Yet you have those moments like the Gom Jabbar scene, or the Stilltent scene later, or – I don’t want to say too much about it, but – one of the fights at the end that require that intensity. So I felt like I was a horse being ridden. [Laughs.] Maybe that’ll sound… I’m trying to think of what the printed title of this will be.
DV : He is very shy. [Laughs.] Be careful what you ask of him.
TC : No no no. I felt like a workaholic who had his trainer for the first time. I say it was a great humility. I don’t want anyone to do it, I know it’s harder to be a workaholic than an actor.
DV : Workaholic !
TC : Oh no, where is it going? [Laughs.]
Dune opens in U.S. theaters – and is available to stream on HBO Max – on October 22. For two different versions of Denis Villeneuve’s film, you can consult Leila Latif’s Dispatch from the Venice Film Festival here, or read Ignatiy Vishnevetsky’s review here.