Denis Villeneuve on Casting for ‘Dune’: Jason Momoa Is “a Ballet Dancer When He Fights”

     August 3, 2020

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We’re still a few months away from Warner Bros. Dune (hopefully) hitting theaters just in time for the holiday moviegoing season. In the meantime, Dune helmer Denis Villeneuve is getting a head start on hyping up the forthcoming sci-fi epic based on the first novel Frank Herbert‘s groundbreaking science fiction series and boast one of the most star-studded casts of 2020.

Over the course of a special 50-minute conversation conducted for the 2020 Shanghai International Film Festival, Villeneuve opened up about the thought process behind casting some of the Dune actors. ICYMI, the cast for Dune is massive, but Villeneuve made sure to highlight some of the biggest names. One of those names Villeneuve touched on was Jason Momoa, who plays Duncan Idaho, a skilled fighter for House Atreides. In one of the most ear-grabbing bits of commentary, Villeneuve explained Momoa “was someone that I chose for his bohemian relationship with adventure and his elegance onscreen. And, at the same time, his fantastic smile where we see that he has this insane charisma on the camera. The way he’s like a ballet dancer when he fights, and he portrays one of the best fighters in the galaxy, so I needed that kind of knighthood, [that] kind of elegance and bravado and sense of humor. ”

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Image via Warner Bros.

Villeneuve also shared his thoughts behind casting Timothée Chalamet as Dune‘s hero, Paul Atreides. The director recalled how “I met Timothée and we both agreed spontaneously that we would work together. It was not difficult to convince Timothée,” and continued, highlighting the specific reasons behind choosing Chalamet to play Paul: “I chose Timothée for several reasons. First of all, he is a phenomenal actor. He is someone that has a lot of depth, someone that is very mature for his age because Paul Atreides is an old soul in a young body, and Timothée has that. […] Also, he has features that remind me of old school Hollywood stars. He’s a real movie star. He has that insane charisma. Insane charisma. You put Timothée in front of a camera and it’s just an explosion.”

After these stunningly good, very plausible, and very fun explanations about why Momoa and Chalamet were cast, Villeneuve went on to shout out additional cast members. The director also mentioned Josh Brolin, cast in part because “I love him as an actor and a poet,” before describing Brolin’s character as a “grouchy poet.” Oscar Isaac, who plays Paul’s father, Duke Leto Atreides, was someone Villeneuve had wanted to work with for a long time and was referred to as “one of the best actors working today.” Rebecca Ferguson, who plays Paul’s mother, Lady Jessica, was also mentioned by Villeneuve. The director shared that Ferguson is a “great artist” and he needed an actress that would be able to portray the different layers” of this complex Dune character.

Dune is currently holding on to its December 18, 2020 release date. You can watch Denis Villeneuve’s full interview for the Shanghai International Film Festival below. For more, check out our most up-to-date 2020 and 2021 release calendar.

Allie Gemmill is the Weekend Contributing Editor for Collider. You can follow them on Twitter @_matineeidle.

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