Dune 2021 – cast, release date, trailer and all we know about Denis Villeneuve’s Dune movie

Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) stand overlooking the desert of Arrakis, from Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve. Warner Bros. Pictures 2021.

© 2021 Warner Bros. Pictures

Frank Herbert’s seminal sci-fi novel Dune is coming to the big screen on 21 October 2021 with visionary director Denis Villeneuve behind the camera. Be excited, be very excited…

A mythic and emotionally charged hero's journey, Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding. He must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of the noble House Atreides and its loyal people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet's exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence – a spice capable of unlocking humanity's greatest potential – only those who can conquer their fear will survive.

Dune (2021) release date: 21 October 2021

Dune 2021: novel origins

The 2021 Dune film is based on Frank Herbert’s seminal 1965 novel, Dune. Joint winner of the 1966 Hugo Award, the book is considered to be one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written, selling nearly 20 million copies and having been translated into dozens of languages. Fellow sci-fi great Robert A. Heinlein (author of Stranger in a Strange Land) described it as “powerful, convincing and most ingenious”, while the Chicago Tribune called it “one of the monuments of modern science fiction”.

Herbert went on to pen a further five Dune novels before his death in 1986, while his son Brian has written 14 prequels and sequels in collaboration with Kevin J. Anderson.

Dune 2021: what's the plot?

Set in the far distant future, Dune’s epic storyline sees Duke Leto Atreides accepting stewardship of the treacherous desert planet Arrakis, famed for being the only source of the spice melange – a highly prized drug that extends life, enabling the prescience that – among other gifts – makes faster-than-light space travel possible, opening up the far reaches of space.

Chani (Zendaya) and Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) stand in a narrow, high-walled desert tunnel, from Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve. Warner Bros. Pictures 2021.

© 2021 Warner Bros. Pictures

Leto and his family, which includes his concubine wife, the Lady Jessica, and their son, Paul, are tasked with overseeing the harvesting of the ‘spice’ but this proves easier said than done as the substance is produced by the larvae of lethal, giant sandworms.

Leto must also contend with the planet’s native people, the Fremen, who consider the spice holy.

Meanwhile, the empire’s royal houses feud among themselves, eyeing the honour bestowed upon House Atreides jealously, and plotting to seize it for themselves.

Dune 2021: a visionary director

Dune 2021 is directed by one of Hollywood’s most exciting and revered filmmakers: Denis Villeneuve. A true sci-fi aficionado, Villeneuve’s CV includes Blade Runner 2049 (considered by some critics to be even better than the seminal Ridley Scott original) and the sublime Arrival. If you had to pick someone to film the unfilmable (which Dune has famously been touted to be), you’d choose this guy every time.

Of Dune director Denis Villeneuve and the sci-fi epic he’s created, co-writer Eric Roth told collider.com, “I don’t want to say Lord of the Rings, but I think it’s pretty spectacular. He’s a visionary of his own kind, Denis.”

Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) wields blades against multiple attackers, from Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve. Warner Bros. Pictures 2021.

© 2021 Warner Bros. Pictures

Dune 2021: previous film adaptations

A movie of Dune has been attempted before: in 1984, by David Lynch – another visionary director and incidentally a hero of Denis Villeneuve’s. Although it was much maligned upon its release, the film has gained cult status over the years thanks to its low-budget but memorable effects, breathy voiceovers and the unforgettable sight of an oiled-up Sting – the lead singer of band, The Police.

There was also a three-part, six-hour mini-series made for the Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy) in 2000 entitled Frank Herbert’s Dune and starring William Hurt. That one faired slightly better with the critics, and remains one of SyFy’s highest-rated programmes.

Not that Denis Villeneuve is daunted by what came before. As the movie’s brand new main trailer reveals, his Dune has a telling shift in perspective. While David Lynch’s Dune was seen almost exclusively through the eyes of the young nobleman, Paul Atreides, Dune 2021 does much to centre Chani (played by Zendaya) and Arrakis’s native people, the Fremen. She describes existence under a series of oppressive outsiders brought in to mine the planet’s previous ‘spice’.

It marks the departure of the brutal House Harkonnen and the imminent arrival on Arrakis of the House Atreides, and to Chani’s crucial role in Paul’s transformation from pampered noble to warrior and spiritual leader. 

We love that, just as with Blade Runner 2049, Villeneuve is deeply respectful of his cinematic predecessors without feeling restricted or compromised by their visions.

Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) looks to Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Issac), from Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve. Warner Bros. Pictures 2021.

© 2021 Warner Bros. Pictures

Dune 2021: cast and characters

A director of Villeneuve’s stock was always going to attract a talented cast, but Dune’s line-up is truly something else. Here’s our rundown of who’s who…

Oscar Isaac is Duke Leto Atreides
Steward of the ocean planet Caladan but recently reassigned to Arrakis.

Timothée Chalamet is Paul Atreides
Son of Leto Atreides and his concubine wife Lady Jessica. Potentially a super being.

Rebecca Ferguson is Lady Jessica
Paul’s mother and Leto’s concubine wife. Also a member of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood – a powerful religious force in the Dune universe.

Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), Chani (Zendaya), Stilgar (Javier Bardem) and Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) stand by a vertical rockface, from Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve. Warner Bros. Pictures 2021.

© 2021 Warner Bros. Pictures

Josh Brolin is Gurney Halleck
House Atreides’ master of weapons and a valuable mentor to Paul.

Stellan Skarsgård is Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
Former steward of Arrakis, current bitter enemy of the House Atreides. A nasty piece of work.

Dave Bautista is Glossu ‘The Beast’ Rabban
Baron Harkonnen’s thuggish nephew. An even nastier piece of work than his uncle.

Javier Bardem is Stilgar
Wise Fremen tribe leader who offers Jessica and Paul sanctuary.

Sharon Duncan-Brewster is Doctor Liet-Kynes
Planetologist and ecologist based in Arrakis. Male in the book.

Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) crouches, blade in hand, from Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve. Warner Bros. Pictures 2021.

© 2021 Warner Bros. Pictures

Zendaya is Chani
The Fremen daughter of Liet-Kynes and Paul’s ally.

Jason Momoa is Duncan Idaho
House Atreides’ master of swords and another important mentor to Paul.

Charlotte Rampling is Gaius Helen Mohiam
Soothsayer to Shaddam IV, emperor of the Dune universe, and a Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother.

Chang Chen is Dr. Wellington Yueh
Duke Leto Atreides’ personal physician has been conditioned to be unable to cause harm. But harm can take many different forms…


Dune 2021: potential sequels

Dune 2021 is the first of two planned movies by Denis Villeneuve. The director is also overseeing a Dune TV series for Warner Bros’ new streaming service. “I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie,” Villeneuve told Vanity Fair. “The world is too complex. It’s a world that takes its power in details.” Co-writer Eric Roth has confirmed that the film covers “pretty much the first half” of the novel.

Official poster for Dune directed by Denis Villeneuve. Warner Bros. Pictures 2021.

© 2021 Warner Bros. Pictures

So, we’re potentially looking at two Dune movies by Denis Villeneuve at least. And, given the massive back catalogue of Dune novels that cascade from the events of Herbert’s first book, we could well be looking at only the first chapter of a smart, spectacular new sci-fi franchise.

As the new character posters say – “It begins”.



Dune is coming to ODEON on October 21

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