‘Dune’ Director Denis Villeneuve Spent Over a Year Designing the Massive Sandworms

The highly anticipated release of Denis Villeneuve’s movie Dune is nearly here. Sci-fi fans everywhere are itching for the new adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 masterpiece. David Lynch’s 1984 version of Dune was fairly underrated–many fans of the novel enjoyed the attempt to bring it to the big screen, but others felt the film was cheesy. 

Cast members and director of 'Dune' pose in front of the Eiffel Tower on a rooftop
(L-R) Actor Rebecca Ferguson, director Denis Villeneuve, actor Timothee Chalamet, and actor Zendaya | Lucas Barioulet/Getty Images

It’s definitely tough to bring such a complex universe to the big screen, and in 1984, there were limitations to what filmmakers could do. Villeneuve really wanted to wow audiences with his version of the sandworms–a very important creature in the story.

According to Polygon, Frank Herbert spent a lot of time when he originally created the critters when writing his novel. Villeneuve did his research as well. In fact, he spent a year developing the perfect way to bring those worms to life.

Making giant sandworms isn’t easy

Villeneuve went to great lengths to ensure that the entire Dune film is full of sweeping visuals, and there was one aspect that he had to get just right. The giant sandworms–or Shai-Hulud–that inhabit the planet of Arrakis are central to the Dune story.

The natives of Arrakis–Fremen–view the sandworms as a symbol of their faith. For others, the sandworms represent a much more tangible asset. The sandworms are the source of a substance known as “spice melange”, which is one of the rarest commodities in the Dune universe.

Consumption of this spice has impressive benefits, such as an increased lifespan and the ability to see into the past and future. The substance is highly addictive, and a symbol of wealth on Arrakis. So what does that have to do with the sandworms? A lot, actually.

The spice is found in the sandworms’ excrement. It’s formed far beneath the surface where it mixes with water and then rises due to the extreme heat. The collection process is difficult and requires the use of special machines. It’s also incredibly dangerous because the machinery (and the people in it) can be swallowed whole by the sandworms. 

According to Slashfilm, Villeneuve spent an entire year creating these critters. He pored over every aspect of the creature;

“We talked about every little detail that would make such a beast possible, from the texture of the skin, to the way the mouth opens, to the system to eat its food in the sand. It was a year of work to design and to find the perfect shape that looked prehistoric enough.”

Villeneuve mentioned that he put so much work into the sandworms because he wants people to take his film seriously. He might be referring to the fact that the sandworms in David Lynch’s 1984 version of Dune were often the butt of the joke due to their phallic design.

Denis Villeneuve accomplished a lifelong dream with new ‘Dune’ adaptation

Denis Villeneuve is no stranger to sci-fi. The incredibly talented director has already impressed audiences with two top-notch sci-fi flicks, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. According to IMDb, these two films prepared Villeneuve for the daunting task of accomplishing his lifelong dream–creating a brilliant adaptation of the epic novel, Dune

Villeneuve has been dreaming of creating his own Dune film since he read the book as a child. The story actually was quite an important part of his childhood, helping him to cope with anxiety. The Playlist talked about Villenueve’s MasterClass interview in which he revealed some secrets about the upcoming film. 

The director shared that he had severe anxiety as a kid, and that may be what brought him to a career in filmmaking;

“I was very afraid of the world, and as I was going to sleep, the only way I could sleep was to start to design stories in my mind.”

He went on to say that he and a friend started working on storyboards for Dune when they were about 12 years old, and the process helped calm his anxiety. 

‘Dune’ did very well in its overseas box office debut

Dune is most likely going to be a blockbuster, and it’s already performing well overseas. ScreenRant says Dune’s international box office numbers are currently outpacing those of Shang-Chi and Godzilla vs. Kong

In addition to Villeneuve’s innovative creativity and the film’s incredible visuals, Dune has a star-studded cast. Timothee Chalamet leads the film as Paul Atreides, and he is joined by powerful stars like Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista, and Zendaya. 

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