Dune's Denis Villeneuve Says One Cut In Adapting The Sci-Fi Book Was 'Painful' For Him

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is an exceptionally faithful adaptation of author Frank Herbert’s beloved sci-fi epic. It’s a full blockbuster dedicated to just the first half of the first book, and that real estate allows the writer/director the amazing capacity to deeply dig into the dense details of the source material and portray elements never before captured in live-action. All that being said, however, Villeneuve still wasn’t able to include absolutely everything from the novel – and he says it is “painful” that he was unable to include a sequence where Josh Brolin’s Gurney Halleck plays the character’s iconic instrument: the baliset.

With the film premiering last week at the Venice Film Festival, Denis Villeneuve participated in a virtual roundtable with journalists to talk at length about the making of the new movie, and during the conversation he was specifically asked if there were any elements from the source material he regretted not getting his adaptation. His mind clearly went directly to the fact that he was unable to include a scene with the Dune universe’s most famous original instrument. Said Villeneuve,

Okay, I will say something to you guys, there's one thing that is painful for me: it's Gurney Halleck's baliset. It's something that I shot; it's something that exists. Josh [Brolin] was awesome, but I couldn't, for several reasons, put it in part one.

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There are many elements of the Gurney Halleck character that are adapted perfectly in Dune, and that very much includes his dual nature as a warrior and a poet. He is tough as nails while training Timothee Chalamet’s Paul Atreides – firmly expressing how dangerous their enemies in House Harkonnen are – but in times of introspection and meditation he has just the right proverb to express. It’s all great stuff, but one detail the film just doesn’t have time for is a scene where he performs a song on his baliset.

Similar to a zither, a baliset is an instrument with nine strings and its music, when performed by Gurney Halleck in Dune, is of great comfort to the members of House Atreides. Sadly, though, audiences won’t be able to experience its delight when the film hits theaters next month.

Of course, just because it’s not featured in the theatrical cut of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune doesn’t mean that fans will never get to see the footage. It certainly sounds like it would be a great inclusion as a deleted scene on the inevitable home video release. And if one is given permission to speculate wildly, perhaps one day in the future Villeneuve will cut the movie together with its sequel (assuming it actually gets made) and edit the material back in.

Those are (appropriately) dreams of a distant future, but for now audiences can stay busy anticipating what is going to be hitting theaters in just a matter of weeks. Dune, featuring a phenomenal cast including Timothee Chalamet, Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, , Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem, and Zendaya, will be playing on the big screen everywhere on October 22.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.