‘Dune’ Cast 2021: Rebecca Ferguson Was ‘Very Nervous’ To Work With This Actor: ‘I Was Having Heart Palpitations’

The 2021 Dune cast is a star-studded group. From young Hollywood stars like Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya to veteran actors like Charlotte Rampling and Stellan Skarsgård, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune movie cast has something for everyone. Rebecca Ferguson plays Lady Jessica Atreides in Dune. And most of her scenes have high emotional stakes, frequently resulting in Jessica rippling with anxiety. Ferguson said one Dune cast member had her feeling just as nervous before filming their first scene together.

'Dune' actor Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica with symbols on her skin and wearing a hood
Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides in ‘Dune’ | Warner Bros. Pictures

‘Dune’ cast 2021 includes Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides

In Dune, Jessica is Duke Leto Atreides’ concubine. She’s part of the Bene Gesserit, a matriarchal society with incredible magical abilities. They use their power, reputation, and a breeding program crafted over hundreds of years to advance their place in society and politics. The Bene Gesserit are mostly women. They can control their fertility and the sex of their children, among other capabilities. And they mostly produce daughters.

Women of the Bene Gesserit can be assigned to powerful houses throughout the universe. They’re given orders about when to have children and which sex to choose. Jessica was instructed to have a daughter with Leto, but she defied orders and had a son instead. Her goal was to be the mother of the Kwisatz Haderach — a male Bene Gesserit prophesied to be a messiah. The Bene Gesserit leadership had its own plan for when the Kwisatz Haderach would come to pass. Jessica trying to accelerate that plan angered them.

Jessica’s actions before Paul was born is what makes Dune‘s plot possible. That’s why Villeneuve expanded Jessica’s role in his film beyond what Frank Herbert’s book described. And the movie shows the consequences of Jessica’s choices. One of them is Paul having to take the pain box test in the Dune Gom Jabbar scene. The test is life or death. If Paul passes, he lives. If not, he dies immediately. The test is carried out by Gaius Helen Mohiam, Reverend Mother of the Bene Gesserit.

RELATED: ‘Dune’: Rebecca Ferguson Could Quit Acting Happily, But Not Before Crossing This Off Her Bucket List

Rebecca Ferguson was anxious about working with Charlotte Rampling in ‘Dune’

In the Dune 2021 cast, the Reverend Mother is played by Rampling. This is the cast member Ferguson was shivering in her boots about before their first scene, the Gom Jabbar scene. The Dune Gom Jabbar scene is one of the most iconic from the book, and Villeneuve says it’s one of the most important in the movie. It was the first scene Ferguson filmed for Dune. Day one, scene one, and you’re working with Rampling. Oof.

“I was very nervous,” Ferguson told The Cut. “I was having heart palpitations knowing she was going to walk in.” But the Mission: Impossible actor had nothing to fear. According to Ferguson, Rampling was a delight to work with. She said:

“I am drawn to French f*cked-off-ness. In my head, she was going to be difficult to talk to, and my plan was to break through that. And then in walks this … cool kitten. There was no ego and no meanness. There was just respect. It’s a very cool thing for an actor to do, to be so comfortable in their own presence. I’ve got her phone number, by the way.”

RELATED: ‘Dune’ Star Rebecca Ferguson’s First Acting Job Had a Surprising Twist

Charlotte Rampling in ‘Dune’ also intimidated Denis Villeneuve and Timothée Chalamet

Ferguson wasn’t the only Dune cast member who was scared by Rampling. Villeneuve said Chalamet was just as afraid of working with the film icon. Well, everyone, really.

“We were very afraid of Charlotte. We love her,” Villeneuve told The AV Club, laughing.

Chalamet added, “We love her, but, man, she has that power. You feel it. And she had those platform [shoes], so she was kind of like floating on set.”

Rampling only has two scenes in Dune, but they’re powerful. Her performance as the Reverend Mother is indeed memorable. And hopefully audiences will get to see more of her in Dune: Part Two, set for an exclusive theatrical debut on Oct. 20, 2023.