Dune director longs for sequel as film makes global debut

Toronto, Canada – Denis Villeneuve always planned for his wildly ambitious sci-fi blockbuster Dune to be seen on the biggest screen possible, and the Canadian director got his wish Saturday as the much-hyped film made its splashy IMAX premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Boasting terrifying giant sandworms, warring interstellar tribes and an A-list cast spanning Timothee Chalamet, Javier Bardem and Zendaya, the long-delayed epic based on a beloved novel has already drawn strong reviews.

The publicity blitz for Warner Bros studio’s US$165 million gamble moved from Venice to North America’s biggest festival this weekend, where Villeneuve said that watching his film in the extra-large, immersive screen format was “the proper way to see the movie”.

“You receive the full power and the landscape, and at the same time it’s the most powerful way to increase intimacy with the characters.” 

Opening in cinemas here on Sept 16, Dune splits Frank Herbert’s seminal 1965 sci-fi novel in two parts, but Warner has yet to officially green-light the sequel, presumably waiting to gauge its performance with the public.

“I can say nothing! If ever it happened it would be fantastic,” said Villeneuve, discussing sequel plans on the Toronto red carpet Saturday.

“Because for me, I just laid the ground – the world is explained to the audience now. Dune Two would be just pure cinematic pleasure for me.”

Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson, who plays royal concubine Lady Jessica, said she was in the dark about any sequel too, but would love to return.

“Has he written it? I don’t know. I’m hoping,” she said. “Unless he casts someone else!” 

The fact that Dune got made at all is in some ways remarkable, given the dire track record of previous efforts.

While it profoundly influenced later sci-fi epics such as Star Wars, the original novel – about the battle for a valuable resource called “spice” on a hostile desert planet of the future – has been considered unwieldy or even “unfilmable” for the screen.

That is largely due to its length, sprawling scale and elaborate detail concerning the universe’s various religions, technologies and Game Of Thrones-esque feuding families.

David Lynch’s 1984 film flopped after producers – alarmed by its run-time – savagely chopped it down. 

A previous bid by cult Franco-Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky never made it past its gargantuan draft screenplay.

But Villeneuve said he was not put off by any such fears.

“It’s a book that I’ve been haunted by (for) almost 40 years,” he said.

“I knew that I could try to take this challenge – when you make a movie you never know if it’s going to be a success or not. It’s part of the game. It’s part of the risk of making art. I didn’t think about what was made before.” 

However, that is not to say any part of making the film was easy.

“It was technically by far the most difficult thing I have ever tried with a camera,” said Villeneuve. - AFP