When news about Legendary buying up Dune rights broke earlier this week, reactions around the Cinelinx crew were…subdued. To be fair, the Dune franchise in terms of adaptations don’t have the best track record and it’s best representation is a Sci-Fi mini-series that you can barely find on DVD these days.
As such, Garrett and I found ourselves quietly geeking out to each other, which prompted a slew of ideas on who we think should bring our favorite characters to life in the new adaptation (which hopefully actually happens this time). What you see below is the result of that conversation, fleshed out and explained a little better than excited ramblings:
Garrett’s Pick: Ansel Elgort
Paul needs to be young, ambitious, and someone who commits himself entirely to the task at hand. I think Ansel Elgort exhibits those qualities. We already know he is multi-talented, and so too Paul is someone who picks up things easily. There is a sense of eagerness with the manner Elgort conducts himself that would help create a young man ready to take on the universe. We’ve seen him in both action and drama movies, showing his abilities in both realms.
Jordan’s Pick: Asa Butterfield
I think Elgort has the acting chops (based off Fault in our Stars alone), but when I think about Paul, he isn’t the first thought that comes to my mind. Seems odd to say, but Elgort may come off as too “smooth”, if that makes sense? One of the driving factors within Dune, is that Paul is an untested prodigy. He has oodles of potential, but the tribulations he faces is what ultimately shapes him into the badass superhuman. Elgort’s inherent charm/charisma immediately throws me off of the vibe.
Instead, I’m going with Asa Butterfield. He stands out to me as Paul in terms of appearance and demeanor. He can pull off the “unsure about himself” aspects, while also being able to pull off the confidence later on (he was easily the best part of Ender’s Game).
Duke Leto Atreides
Garrett’s Pick: Viggo Mortensen
In my mind, Duke Leto is the ideal representation of royalty. He is supposed to be calm-headed, intelligent, and above all, loyal to his subjects. He is not corrupt with power, but conflicted by the many compromises that it requires. This is something that weighs on him considerably, which is why I think Viggo is the perfect choice. His work in Lord of The Rings shows that he can believably portray the burdens of such a role. He has shown both strength and softness in many roles, both attributes which Leto exudes. Finally, his ability as an actor to win the audience over with his charisma would make Duke Leto’s fall in Dune that much more intriguing.
Jordan’s Pick: Same
At one point, I had a couple different actors in mind for the role of Leto Atreides. As I’ve watched certain actors in other movies, there’s a part of my mind that thought, “man, they’d be perfect for Leto.” All that changed, however, when I saw Garrett’s pick, Viggo Mortensen. Now that it’s in my head, I simply can’t come up with another choice who I think would do any better. He’s got the solemn nature down, the stern appearance that belies a softer side, and looks the part already. I mean, damn. I think I might be disappointed now if he ISN’T cast in the role.
Jordan’s Pick: Amy Adams
Lady Jessica is Paul’s mother and while she’s only the ‘concubine’ of her beloved Duke Leto, she carries herself with a regal bearing and the poise of a highly trained Bene Gesserit (the super-women of the Dune universe). Thus we need someone who can convey that sense of a royal bearing and can act worth a damn. To that end, I think Amy Adams would be perfect for this role. She’s proven time and again her acting talent (just look at Arrival), proving she can take the reigns on the most important female role in the entirety of the Dune saga.
Garrett’s Pick: Rachel Weisz
Amy Adams is a great pick for Lady Jessica simply because she has the capability to fit into any role and no doubt she would work well here. However, I feel that the character needs someone with a certain sense of regality about them, and the best way to get that is to cast a Brit. Rachel Weisz has the composure to fill both the roles of Duke Leto’s wife as well as later becoming a Reverend Mother. We’ve seen her in roles with supernatural powers (Oz, The Great and Powerful), and dealing with an incredible emotional burden (The Light Between the Oceans). This role would combine those elements and I think Rachel Weisz would fit in well.
Garrett’s Pick: Richard Armitage
The original Duncan Idaho is described as something of a ladies’ man. He has to have good looks but also seem like he would be deadly in combat. He has to seem trustworthy because he is fiercely loyal to the Duke, to the point of being suspicious of Lady Jessica. Richard Armitage comes to mind as one actor who could accomplish all of this. Other possibilities might be Richard Madden or even Kit Harrington who have similar qualities, but Harrington may be too young for the role.
Jordan’s Pick: Donnie Yen
Duncan is something of a badass in Dune, being one of the exalted swordmasters of Ginaz. He’s also very intelligent and has a sense of humor that’s infectious to those around him. With this in mind, one of the first choices that popped into my head was Donnie Yen.
I know it doesn’t seem like the typical option for the charismatic character, but frankly, I’d love to see the filmmakers get a tad more diverse in this adaptation of the story. Not to mention Donnie Yen’s epic martial arts abilities (if you haven’t seen his Ip Man movies, you’re missing out), which would give real weight to the character’s much talked about (and demonstrated) abilities. It would make for some memorable battle scenes, while continuing to make use of the charm Donnie Yen has the potential to bring to the screen.
In a more traditional pick, with multiple sequels in mind (especially considering how Idaho becomes the series’ primary character in later novels), I’d have to go with Kit Harrington.
Garrett’s Pick: Ian McShane
The actor that plays Gurney has to be a perfect balance of tough-guy attitude and sophistication. The character’s primary motivation has to be one of loyalty to the Duke and his friends, and hatred towards their enemies. However, he is also defined by his abilities with a baliset, showing a soft side that a traditional warrior figure doesn’t have. Ian McShane, in my opinion is a great choice. He’s played roles of both ruthlessness (see John Wick or On Stranger Tides) and grace (his appearance in Game of Thrones) with equal proficiency.
Jordan’s Pick: Bruce Willis
In the Dune series Gurney Halleck is the wizened old warrior who’s been through Hell and then some. He’s a tough old man who can adapt to just about any situation, and though he wasn’t formally trained, he could give even the highly respected Swordmasters a run for their money. He’s one of the most loyal members of the Atreides household and also possesses a wry sense of humor.
I can’t think of anyone else to play this role outside of Bruce Willis. Let’s face it, the man is getting older and he can’t exactly pull off the complete action star package on his own any more. Yet for the grizzled old battle veteran, he’s absolutely perfect. He’s still got some star power on his side and the acting chops to make this role every bit as enjoyable as it is in the book.
Jordan’s Pick: Jared Harris
Dr. Yueh is such a pivotal character within Dune, being the primary catalyst for just about all that happens. At once he is both a tragic character and vile villain, considered to be a close family friend of the Atreides. Despite his deeds, Yueh shows warmth and concern for Paul and his mother Jessica, doling out advice while carefully hiding his true intentions. Jared Harris has the performance range to encompass the multifaceted character, bringing in the intelligence factor, empathy, and ultimately vengefulness.
Garrett’s Pick: Michael Kelly
This is a tough one because Yueh isn’t really defined by much besides a love for his wife and an ability to betray House Atreides, something no one else claiming loyalty to Duke Leto would do. Therefore, the actor that portrays Yueh has to be someone who can believably be both incredibly loyal and believably selfish. Jared Harris is a great choice, I didn’t actually think of him for this role, but it works. His performance in Mad Men showed that conflicted nature which would work well. An alternate suggestion would be Michael Kelly, who has a lot of versatility as an actor which I think is what the role needs.
Garrett’s Pick: Willem Dafoe
Hawat is a near-legend in the universe of Dune because of his intellectual abilities as well as his honor. To Paul, he was a teacher, and I always imagined him as a tough teacher who held his student to the highest regard. Therefore, the actor to portray Thufir needs to be able to have an intensity that shows an unwavering commitment to the task at hand. He also has to seem brilliant, not just a boisterous buffoon. I feel that Dafoe is one actor who can fill these shoes.
Jordan’s Pick: Max Von Sydow
Man, Dafoe is a pretty solid choice, but despite him being older, is it weird that I still think he might not be “old enough”. As Garrett mentions, Thufir is a walking legend in Dune, and that stems from him being one of the primary men in the Duke’s employ since LETO’s father was still around.
With that in mind, I’m going to go with Max Von Sydow. The actor is a somewhat a legend himself, and manages to bring an air of sophistication and poise to every role he’s in. While he certainly has that elderly look about him, the way in which he carries himself lets you know he’s anything but fragile.
I think he could bring a lot to the table as the Atreides Mentat, not to mention it’d be a fun cameo for fans of the David Lynch Dune, in which Sydow played Liet-Kynes! My alternative here would have to be Tom Wilkinson.
Jordan’s Pick: Stellan Skarsgård
The easiest thing to do with Baron Harkonnen is find the fattest actor you can and cast him in the role. I feel that’s a disservice to the character, though. The Baron is smart, conniving, ruthless, and one of the most effective villains around. At its MOST basic Dune is about the feud between Harkonnen and Atreides, so you can’t just throw any actor into this role. You need someone with the strength to pull it off.
Skarsgård seems perfect to me, despite some only knowing him as the goofy professor from the Thor films. The man has great talent and can be a great villain. Watch his role in Melancholia, where he’s essentially a bad guy. He’s not over-bearing, but manages to convey malice and menace in very subtle ways.
Garrett’s Pick: Vincent D’Onofrio
I think Skarsgård makes a great villain (see Fincher’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), but to me the Baron is quintessential evil. Intimidating, boisterous, smart, and yes, a bit insane. I’d want my Dune villain to be a bit more off the wall, and I think D’Onofrio brings that intensity and energy. Although Vincent has played the intelligent villain before (Netflix’s Daredevil), he always seems to bring something unexpected to his roles. That wildcard element makes him interesting, not just a generic out-of-control bad guy, which would be required since the Baron is rarely in the same scene with his adversaries. He needs to be exciting by himself.
Feyd-Rautha and Glossu “Beast” Rabban
Garrett’s Pick: Jack Gleeson and Tony Way
Feyd-Rautha is a teenager, who is described as lean and athletic, which is in strict contrast with his Uncle and brother’s rotund qualities. He is given false confidence by cheating in gladiator style combat, but also a lesson in how the Harkonnens play in the political realm. As such, I feel like the character has to be someone who can portray a fiery temperament and exude extreme confidence with a wicked grin on their face. Gleeson’s blood-boiling performance in Game of Thrones makes him seem like a perfect fit for that role.
The Beast is a different story, a splitting image of his boisterous uncle, but without the intelligence. I think Tony Way would work in the role. He has done work in both comedy and drama, so he can give the character the aloofness that he requires as well as the somewhat tragic nature of the position he is thrust into.
Jordan’s Pick: Theo James and Tony Way
To be fair, you could take pretty much the entirety of the Game of Thrones cast, put them in various Dune roles and be perfectly fine. It would still work out fairly well, and I like Garrett’s choices here, especially for Rabban. In terms of Feyd, however, I’m going a different route. In many ways, Feyd is presented as the antithesis of Paul. They’re roughly the same age, have similar training and abilities, but were raised to be entirely different people.
To that end, my pick for Feyd would be Theo James (Four from Divergent). He’s got the physique and the cock-sure attitude that can easily come off as arrogant if pushed in the right direction. Funny enough, I think Ansel Elgort, Garrett’s pick for Paul, would also be a pretty awesome Feyd.
Piter De Vries
Garrett’s Pick: John Malkovich
De Vries is the Baron’s right hand man, and is arguably the person who sets everything in Dune in motion. He is beyond brilliant, but perhaps over confident in his plans. He is also a bit crazy. No one does crazy quite like Malkovich, who can also be incredibly intimidating. The perfect combination for the role.
Jordan’s Pick: Mark Strong
Mark Strong has the weasley, intelligent, bad guy schtick down tight which is almost exactly what you want out of the twisted mentat, Piter De Vries. The character is designed to be off-putting in a creepy sort of way, while also being highly intelligent. Strong can pull that off, and his body of work is virtually riddled with such performances. That said, I wouldn’t be sad to see Malkovich play it either.
Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam
Garrett’s Pick: Alice Krige
Krige played Lady Jessica in the Children of Dune miniseries, and it would therefore be fitting to have her return to Dune. Not only is she familiar with the story, but she has a long career in science fiction roles. Whomever plays the Reverend Mother will need to be able to clearly portray the character’s special powers in a way that is understandable to the audience. Since she has already played Lady Jessica who had those same powers, it seems like she is a perfect fit.
Jordan’s Pick: Helen Mirren
The Reverend Mother Mohiam is a central figure in Dune, whose influence was felt/mentioned in both the sequel and prequel book series. She’s a commanding figure and demands respect…so who better than Helen Mirren? Seriously, I don’t even know how to justify this pick other than to say it’s HELEN MIRREN. What more could you need?
Jordan’s Pick: Ian McShane
Trusty Stilgar, the fremen leader of the sietch that takes in Paul and his mother when they are deposed, cast out, and left for dead. He’s a great character, filled with strong morals borne of the hard life on Arrakis. Paul learns much from Stilgar and the fremen becomes integral into the man Paul becomes.
He’s also kind of a badass with a hard attitude; thus I think Ian McShane would be perfect, which is funny considering Garrett picked him as Gurney for similar reasons! He’s got the grizzled, hard-nosed acting bit down, but he can also come off as wise. It’s the perfect combination and everything Stilgar needs to be. My alternative here would be Liam Cunningham (Davros from Game of Thrones).
Garrett’s Pick: Michael Shannon
I had to go with Michael Shannon because in my mind, Stilgar is somewhat of a mysterious and intimidating person as a leader among the Fremen. Shannon’s physical presence creates that initial impression and really makes him feel like he could be a leader in the desolate deserts of Arrakis. He is also one of the most tremendous actors of our time, which would allow the character to have additional depth beyond the physical portrayal. Shannon’s characters are often quiet and stoic, yet strong in the face of danger – exactly the kind of person Stilgar should be.
Garrett’s Pick: Hailee Steinfeld
I’m probably going a bit conservative with this pick, but I think Hailee Steinfeld would do a good job. What’s important for this character is chemistry with Paul, and for the actors that’s not something you can determine until you get a chance to work together. Chani is strong and loyal in the way that the Fremen are as a group, so the actress portraying her has to have those qualities as a minimum. Steinfield has been cast in roles where here character is head strong, which would be an important additional aspect of Chani’s persona.
Jordan’s Pick: Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Chani is more than Paul’s love interest in the Dune franchise, she’s an integral part in his journey and one of the strongest females in the galaxy. She helps teach Paul the ways of the desert, and as he rises to power, becomes one of his strongest warriors in the battles ahead.
Gugu is really starting to come into her own as an actress with impressive performances in Belle and Free State of Jones. She’s got charisma as well as a stern, no-nonsense quality about her that would be perfectly fitting for the desert dwelling Fremen. She has the range to be a badass while still bringing in the more nurturing aspects of the character.
Steinfeld isn’t a bad pick by any means, and her recent turn in Edge of 17 shows off just how far she’s come as an actress. If she got the role, I don’t think I’d complain, but I would really love to see Mbatha-Raw pick up this important character.
Jordan’s Pick: Ben Kingsley
Kynes is an older planetologist who grew up on Arrakis despite being in the employ of the Emperor. He’s more “native” than he lets on, and is one of the primary leaders of the Fremen people. While his interactions with the Atreides is shorter, it’s super important. I think Ben Kingsley would be perfect for the role of Liet. He brings a level of gravitas to any performance, which would be well suited for the wizened Fremen leader.
Garrett’s Pick: Hugo Weaving
I think Ben Kingsley is a bit old for the role since Chani is the character’s daughter, but otherwise his talents would not be wasted. In my mind, Kynes is kind of mysterious, and definitely skeptical of outsiders having devoted so much of his life living on Arrakis. He should be patient, but above all intelligent. Hugo Weaving always seems to bring an intelligence to his roles, which will be important here. At the same time his characters often seem a bit off-putting and arrogant, also important to convey the sense of hard-earned trust.