Dune director ‘needed’ talent of Timothee Chalamet to make sci-fi epic

Screams echoed around London’s Leicester Square as Timothee Chalamet fans desperately tried to grab the attention of the young actor who has garnered a loyal – and very loud – following.

He was among a host of stars who turned out on Monday night to promote the new adaptation of Dune – an expensive looking sci-fi that will be hoping to attract the same numbers to the box office that the latest James Bond movie has when it’s finally released later this week after facing delays caused by the pandemic.

While the 25-year-old told Sky News he appreciates that many still won’t feel ready to return to the cinema, he’s clearly passionate that people do view the film on a big screen.

“It feels a little presumptuous to tell people they must go see this in the cinemas – there’s a pandemic, there’s crazy things going on, there’s no obligation to,” Chalamet said.

“But if you like movies and you like big movies and you like movies that are made where directors [are] given free licence to do it as he pleases, and there aren’t multiple corporate multinational interests that are guiding product placement, who gets cast in it, all sorts of s**t like that.

“If you like Christopher Nolan movies, if you like Denis Villeneuve movies, then going to see this in a movie theatre helps our ability to keep doing it.”

Chalamet plays the lead character, Paul Atreides, in the film – a young man with a big career ahead of him, something the actor can surely relate to.

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He said he sees the benefits of the weight of expectation.

“Live in gratitude – I’ll take this pressure over the pressures I had when I didn’t have a career, when I was in college, when I just wanted to be acting,” Chalamet said.

“People have worse problems than that, but for me, that’s what it was, so, you know, I’ll take this over that.”

Chalamet was the first and only choice of director Denis Villeneuve, who has assembled an A-list cast for the film, which is based on the 1965 novel of the same name by Frank Herbert.

He told Sky News the young star was perfect for the role.

“The thing is that Timothee had read the book, so he knew exactly what he was getting into,” Villeneuve said.

“And for me, I was looking to dig into the entirety of the character and to be very close to him.

“I needed [Chalamet’s] strength, I needed his talent – I would not have been able to make it with someone else.”

For other cast members, it was the director’s vision for the project that made them want to be involved.

Rebecca Ferguson, who plays Paul’s mother Lady Jessica, a role she describes as “one in a million”, told Sky News how it differed to other projects she’s worked on.

“There was a grandiosity to it, because of how big it is, but I think there was also, amazingly enough, this feeling of independence – the smaller in the large,” she said.

“We keep on saying it’s like an indie, huge movie, and I think it was the love for the project, there’s such a core fundamental belief in Denis, and that means it becomes a very tight bond between all of us because we care.”

Jason Momoa, who plays sword master Duncan Idaho, compared his role to Han Solo in the Star Wars films, and said winning it was “the most surreal thing” that’s ever happened to him.

Echoing Ferguson’s comments, he also referenced Villeneuve’s passion for the film.

“My first meeting with him, he sent me like an 80-page booklet, like his Bible, a lookbook for the whole movie,” Momoa said.

“Just sent it over without me even saying yes, I’m like, yeah, of course I’ll play, but he still sent that over, which I thought was just unbelievable.”

While the stars of Dune have clearly bought into Villeneuve’s vision, it remains to be seen whether the film can help cinemas continue to recover – and there’s a lot at stake for the director too, with a sequel planned, but not yet confirmed.

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But if the buzz in Leicester Square this evening translates to ticket sales, it seems likely Dune will have been worth the wait.

Dune is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday

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