Anticipation for filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi adaptation of Dune has been high pretty much ever since it was announced that the Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 director would be tackling Frank Herbert’s complex tome. But that anticipation was raised even higher when we learned that Villeneuve had tapped Rogue One and Foxcatcher cinematographer Greig Fraser to shoot the film. Fraser has quickly become one of the most in-demand DPs working today, as his unique and masterful touch (especially when it comes to lighting) has been an invaluable asset on films ranging from Zero Dark Thirty to Let Me In to Vice. Moreover, Villeneuve has gained a reputation for working with some of the best cinematographers in the field—Roger Deakins shot Prisoners and Blade Runner 2049 and Bradford Young shot Arrival—and Fraser certainly fits that bill.
So when I recently spoke with Fraser as part of our remote interview series Collider Connected about his career and groundbreaking work on The Mandalorian, I had to ask him about working with Villeneuve on Dune. While we’ll be able to share the full hourlong conversation soon, we figured fans of Fraser, Villeneuve, and Dune would be interested to hear what he had to say about the sci-fi epic, which stars Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, and many others.
While Fraser was tight-lipped with regards to specifics, I asked about shifting from the world of Star Wars—working on Rogue One and The Mandalorian—to a completely different sci-fi tale and Fraser discussed how fun it was to change things up:
“It was quite fun because I had to forget a lot of Star Wars when I was making Dune. It wasn’t hard, though. Denis and I spoke clearly about how the film should look and should feel, and the formats and this and that, so it was not hard to swerve and change lanes. There were some similarities like the deserts. I mean listen, ultimately I’m positive George Lucas was inspired by Dune when he made Star Wars. I don’t know if that’s sacrilegious to talk about, but there are a lot of similarities in some areas, so you could tell he was definitely influenced by that. So I had to be careful doing both [Dune and The Mandalorian] and not to repeat myself. Also not just for the sake of the movie, but for fun. I hate to do the same thing twice.”
Villeneuve has stated that Dune is only one half of the story, and the intention is to make a sequel that will conclude the story from Herbert’s book. But Fraser insists that despite the fact that the book was split in half, this first Dune will feel like a satisfying story in and of itself:
“It’s a fully formed story in itself with places to go. It’s a fully standalone epic film that people will get a lot out of when they see it… It was quite an adventure visually. It was a beautiful experience making it. The people involved with it, I was overwhelmed. Some of the actors, as well as being insanely talented actors, are just lovely, lovely people who I’ve become very close to since then.”
As for his working relationship with Villeneuve, the two got along extremely well because both were fond of being brutally honest with one another:
“I can tell you that Denis is a master and a lovely human being who is passionate and wild and sensitive and loving. What I love about Denis is French-Canadians and Australians tend to have a lot of similarities in that we can get a bit passionately aggressive when we need to be. The French-Canadians can be very, very passionate about life and things, so I found getting on with him really well on that, and also Patrice [Vermette] the production designer. I think we all had the same thing of, if something wasn’t good, it’d be like, ‘That’s bullshit!’ and Patrice would be like, ‘Yeah, that’s shit!’ They wouldn’t pull punches, which I found awesome, and we had the same relationship.”
Dune is currently slated for release on December 18, 2020. Look for my full conversation with Fraser—which also covers The Batman and many other subjects—on Collider later this month. And check out my nearly 90-minute Collider Connected interview with Roger Deakins here.