Denis Villeneuve says Dune: Part One an 'appetizer' for 'main meal' sequel

"In this first one, the truth is, I had to build the foundation of the world," the Montreal filmmaker says

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For Dune filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, seeing his vision of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi masterpiece on an IMAX screen for the very first time with an audience was a memorable night.

“The movie was designed to be seen in IMAX,” the Montreal director says in a Zoom interview following the film’s Canadian premiere at the Ontario Place Cinesphere at the Toronto International Film Festival. “The idea of being all together in a movie theatre and having this communal experience is something that deeply moved me.”

Based on Herbert’s celebrated novel, Dune follows young Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet), who is dispatched to a barren desert planet Arrakis that contains a plentiful “spice” drug that could help ensure the future of his family.

“Paul sees that he’s on a potential path greater than he understood,” Chalamet said, briefly summing up his character’s arc during a separate press event. “Perhaps he’s not simply a regular man.”

Dune, which also stars Zendaya, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Oscar Isaac, Javier Bardem and Rebecca Ferguson, will be released in cinemas and stateside on HBO Max on Oct. 22.

But the film, Villeneuve says, is meant to be experienced in movie theatres. “At the end of the day, cinema is meant to be shared together,” he says.

Villeneuve, who also directed Blade Runner 2049, Sicario and Arrival, read Herbert’s book as a teenager and long dreamed of bringing its sweeping futuristic story to the big screen.

“Frank Herbert’s novel is a masterpiece and one of the hallmarks of a masterpiece is you can discover different qualities as you age,” Villeneuve tells the Sun. “Of course, when I read it as a boy at 13 or 14 years old, I was interested in Paul Atreides’ journey and his curiosity toward another culture …  later on, I was more impressed by the Bene Gesserit sisterhood and that new take on feminism.”

Ferguson, who plays Ilsa Faust in the Mission: Impossible films, joined Villeneuve for the Canadian premiere and says she counts herself lucky she was asked to join the ensemble cast. Seeing it in IMAX during her first time at TIFF was just the icing on the cake.

“It was magical,” Ferguson, 37, says in a separate interview. “It was more than I ever could have thought it would mean to me. It was phenomenal.”

Rebecca Ferguson attends the “Dune” premiere during TIFF at the Cinesphere. Emma McIntyre / Getty Images

Heartened by an eight-minute standing ovation the film received earlier this month following its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, Villeneuve says he took great care when adapting Herbert’s book, which follows Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed cinematic attempt in the 1970s and David Lynch’s critically-panned 1984 version.

“I knew that it’s a book that has been beloved for years,” he says. “I wanted to make sure the hardcore fans will find elements that make it a true adaptation and that I didn’t betray the book. That was the big goal. At the same time, I wanted to make something that people with no familiarity with the book could understand.”

Villeneuve, who labelled the film Part One of the story, is already working on the second movie’s script and is set to produce the prequel series Dune: The Sisterhood for HBO Max.

“The thing I can say about Part Two is, if ever such a thing happens it will be great to do because it will be much more fun,” Villeneuve, 53, says. “In this first one, the truth is, I had to build the foundation of the world … There are so many elements that you need to understand. But those elements are there now. That means the second one can be pure cinematic joy. It will be much more dynamic. I’ll say that this will look like an appetizer and the main meal will be Part Two.

“That’s the truth. It sounds pretentious, but it’s true.”

Dune opens across Canada on Oct. 22