Frank Herbert’s epic science fiction novel Dune has been considered infilmable for decades. Mainly because it’s a massive, complex book with a narrative that rarely unfolds the way you’d expect, and stuffed with remarkable imagery – from deadly sandworms to mutant space navigators. Until 2021, the only feature film version of Dune was the infamous adaptation of surrealist master David Lynch. To this day, Lynch disavows him. Even if it stars Kyle MacLachlan!
Denis Villeneuve – director of Sicario, Arrival, and Blade Runner 2049 – decided to take on the challenge of bringing Dune back to the big screen. The task seems particularly daunting since the original nearly ended Lynch’s career before it really began.
On this week’s Galaxy Brains, Jonah Ray and I are joined by one of the stars of the new Dune, David Dastmalchian, to discuss what makes Dune so relevant in 2021 and how this film compares to the original cult classic from 1984.
As always, this conversation has been edited to sound less bizarre.
Dave: You’re in a really special situation to the extent that you’re in this movie and you’ve seen Denis Villeneuve perform this book, but you’ve also worked with David Lynch. You were at Twin Peaks and saw his creative process. And sure enough, Lynch was the first person to try and adapt these massive tomes, this series of books. What do you think of their unique creative process? Can you compare these two visionary directors in any way?
David: Absolutely, absolutely. There are a lot of similarities between these two artists. At the root of which, the greatest similarity is their heart, their humanity. They are both incredibly and intensely empathetic humans. The other thing that I think is incredibly close between the two of them and watching them work closely and personally is the strength and confidence of their vision being something that they know so deeply, it’s like in their DNA, so it There is no question that there is no stuttering in their ability to communicate.
Jonah: So when a manager comes in it’s like Hey we got that option and that option, and they are both able to say, Ah this one.
David: Absoutely. But with so much love and kindness that these department heads and all the other actors and artists helping to collaborate feel safe taking big swings and giving them big options. And they’re both kind of an alien. I know Denis much better than I know David. I only spent a few weeks with David, but there is something otherworldly about them, something that is hard to put your finger on the other. I was sitting behind David Lynch in my plaster chair while he was on screen and I was in between takes or something. And I would like in my mind to say, If you can hear me now I feel like you can just wave me. And we was in this casino that’s in the middle of the desert and I’m setting there and I’m just like sending the signal. And I’m not shitting you guys, he turns around and does that to me like a smiley nod. And then just back to work and I was like, I knew it.
Dave: So you step into big shoes in this movie. Brad Dourif plays your character, Piter, in the first film. Have you ever watched this performance? Did you take any notes there or were you worried about playing this character that one of the greatest actors of all time brought to life in the first movie?
David: Yes, to your second question, I was hectic. I was very nervous. I was very intimidated. But then what you need to do as an actor is remember how many people played Tom Wingfield in Glass factory? You have to try to tell yourself because it is very scary to feel like that. There is only one. There is only Piter de Vries by Brad Dourif.
So I read the book because I knew that Denis was passionate about the book and a devotee of the book, that the book was going to be a great source for me. I think there is less Piter in Denis’s version than in David’s. I think it’s a very, very, very different approach to both Piter and the Harkkonen and the whole story, in my opinion, in a really amazing and beautiful way. But I hope if Brad sees this movie at some point, he thinks what I did was interesting because he’s one of my acting heroes that I really admire and admire. .
Dave: Brad, if you’re listening to this for god’s sake, text David and tell him he did a great job.