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Dune’s Denis Villeneuve Explains Why He Wanted To Elevate The Female Characters

Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson in Dune
(Image credit: screen shot from trailer)

We are only a few weeks away from finally getting a chance to see Denis Villeneuve’s Dune in all its glory. The story has been viewed by many as “unfilmable” and there are a couple of less than successful attempts that have helped to prove that point. This new film might finally be the movie that makes it work. And if it is, it may be because of Villeneuve’s focus on the women of Dune

Dune is a massive story full of characters and worlds and politics. There's a ton of material to cover, which may be why making a film version is so hard. There’s just a lot to cover. Denis Villeneuve recently explained to Empire that he made a decision early on that his Dune would focus more on the women of the story, by telling the screenwriter to concentrate his efforts there. He explained...

For me, it was important to bring more femininity to the story. I am fascinated by the relationship of femininity and power, the place of women in society. Eric Roth said, 'If you had one aspect of the novel you would like me to focus on, what would it be?' I said, 'The women.' The entire story unfolds because of Lady Jessica, because of a decision she made to give birth to Paul instead of a girl [via a breeding programme]. She's a fascinating character, one of the most influential and most interesting in the novel.

Denis Villeneuve has previously spoken about the fact that Rebecca Ferguson’s Lady Jessica would have a much bigger and more important role in Dune. Here the director explains a bit more exactly why that is. 

It comes down to the fact that, by virtue of giving birth to Paul, she’s the reason the events of the story ultimately happen. The expectation in the story is that Jessica will have a daughter, and the fact that she has a son is a big deal.

When you have a story as big as Dune you have little choice but to make decisions about what you include and what you don’t. Some elements of the Frank Herbert novel will almost certainly be missing entirely. Others will be less important than perhaps they were in the book.

And the topic of femininity and power will likely be a strong through line not just in this movie but in the next one if and when it gets made. While it’s unclear how big a role Zendaya will have in this movie, we know she’ll be a big part of the next one, and her character’s influence on Timothee Chalamet’s Paul is equally important to his journey as his mother’s. Dune hits theaters and HBO Max on October 22.

Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.