Denis Villeneuve Wanted to Film His Two Dune Movies at the Same Time, but the Plan Got Axed

Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve agreed to direct “Dune” for Warner Bros. and Legendary on one condition: that the studios would allow him to split Frank Herbert’s science-fiction novel into two parts. The studios agreed, and thus Villeneuve’s upcoming “Dune” begins with a title card that actually reads “Dune: Part One.” A second “Dune” film is now being written, but Warner Bros. has yet to officially greenlight the project. In a new interview with Variety, Villeneuve confirmed his original plan to film both “Dune” films at once (think Peter Jackson shooting all three “Lord of the Rings” films simultaneously).

“I wanted at the beginning to do the two parts simultaneously,” Villeneuve said. “For several reasons, it didn’t happen, and I agreed to the challenge of making part one and then wait to see if the movie rings enough enthusiasm. As I was doing the the first part, I really put all my passion into it, in case it would be the only one. But I’m optimistic.”

Villeneuve previously told Total Film magazine that greenlighting “Dune: Part Two” would depend on the financial success of “Dune: Part One” at the box office. Given the continuing pandemic, it’s a greater question mark how “Dune: Part One” will perform. Warner Bros. is also launching the movie day-and-date in theaters and streaming on HBO Max, a decision that Villeneuve has condemned repeatedly over the last several months.

“The first thing was to prove that there was a beautiful, popular movie that can exist, and I think that I proved that — everybody at Warner Bros. and Legendary, they are 100 percent behind the project,” Villeneuve told Total Film. “They feel that it would need a really bad outcome at the box office to not have a ‘Dune: Part Two,’ because they love the movie. They are proud of the movie, so they want the movie to move forward. And they still did half of it. So, you know, I’m very optimistic.”

In his most recent interview with Variety, Villeneuve added, “If such a thing as ‘Dune: Part Two’ happens, I will say that it’s going to be an insane playground for me. … It’s going to be just like pure cinematic pleasure for the second part. I don’t want to speak for everybody on the team, but I will say that we really created on this movie a feeling of family and to re-unify everybody again together, that would be paradise.”

Villeneuve said that because he does not have to spend so much time setting up the world, he “can just have fun with cinema” in “Dune: Part Two.” The first “Dune” movie arrives in theaters and HBO Max on October 22.

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