Why ‘Dune’ Director Denis Villeneuve Felt ‘Total Peace’ with the Sci-Fi Project: ‘Dune Is My World’

Most filmmakers would feel intimidated creating a sci-fi epic like Dune. After all, many consider Frank Herbert’s novel one of the biggest influences on modern sci-fi and fantasy stories, including the Star Wars saga. And yet, no previous Dune adaptation captured the intricacy of Herbert’s world like the 2021 film from director Denis Villeneuve. His movie, technically titled Dune: Part One, wowed critics and audiences, earning 10 Academy Award nominations. But most amazingly of all, Villeneuve took the task of breathing life into Dune completely in stride.

Denis Villeneuve wears a dark suit and smiles on the red carpet
Denis Villeneuve | Amanda Edwards

‘Arrival’ and ‘Blade Runner 2049’ marked their director

Villeneuve made his film debut with 1998’s August 32nd on Earth and quickly followed it with another Canadian release, Maelström. And though neither of those movies made an impact in the United States, the director’s visual flair continued to gain steam over his next two films. 2010’s Incendies — his fourth directorial effort — even earned an Academy Award nomination for Best International Feature (then Best Foreign Language Film).

In 2013, Villeneuve made his Hollywood debut with both Prisoners, a harrowing thriller starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Viola Davis. That same year, Villeneuve released Enemy, a smaller movie that reunited him with Gyllenhaal. Sicario followed in 2015. But Villeneuve’s entrance into sci-fi with 2016’s Arrival — and the subsequent visual and narrative scope of Blade Runner 2049 — helped him build the necessary confidence for Dune.

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Denis Villeneuve’s career had been building up to ‘Dune’

Blade Runner 2049 gained strong reviews. But earned a disappointing $92 million domestically against a $150 million budget, according to Box Office Mojo. Nevertheless, the experience of making that movie gave Villeneuve the ability to take on his dream project in Dune. As he told Vulture in 2017, he believes his experiences making Arrival and then Blade Runner 2049 were building up to his vision of Herbert’s iconic novel.

“Taking the time to do these movies, I allowed myself to express some part of myself that comes from a deep, deep pleasure. I feel at total peace with myself when I get to go in this direction. … If you ask me how to do Spider-Man, I don’t know how to do it. I barely knew Superman. That was not my world. Dune is my world. I know how to do that.”

Given the warm reception to his Dune, it appears most fans and critics agree with Villeneuve. His attention to detail in creating the world of Dune set it apart in another year filled with effects-heavy blockbusters. The only question now is how Villeneuve will top himself when it comes time to make the announced Dune: Part Two.

‘Dune’ could make Denis Villeneuve an Oscar winner

While Dune received 10 nods at the 94th Academy Awards, Villeneuve was surprisingly absent from Best Director. Still, the filmmaker is nominated for Best Picture as one of the movie’s producers as well as Best Adapted Screenplay, which he co-wrote with Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth. So Villeneuve could still take home Oscar gold, although he isn’t the frontrunner in either category.

Given the success of Dune — which earned nearly $400 million worldwide — it’s possible the upcoming sequel could be even bigger. The closest comparison to Dune in modern cinema is The Lord of the Rings. Much like The Return of the King swept the Oscars, academy voters might wait to give Best Picture to Dune: Part Two. The fact that the ever-popular Zendaya will take on a more prominent role likely only lends weight to that theory.

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