Dune 2: Denis Villeneuve’s intimate blockbuster

This article first appeared as a daily newsletter. To receive these direct to your inbox every morning sign up to The Industry Newsletter!

Good morning: In today’s edition of The Industry, we look at:

Dune 2‘s intimacy, Austin Butler’s voice, IASTE’s breaking point, Girls 3.0, The Anatomy of Anatomy of a Fall, and Daily Planet.

Let’s go!


AN INTIMATE BLOCKBUSTER

The miracle of Dune 2 is how tightly we’re focused on Timothée Chalamet’s journey.

In a film with megalithic sandworms, galactic colosseums, and hallucinogenic spice, the true driver of action is the weight of Chalamet’s messianic burden.

And that’s the beauty of the film, despite the large scale, it’s tightly focused–literally.

Director Denis Villeneuve, through a myriad of intimate close-ups of Chalamet, forges the thematic territory of the film.

Villeneuve explained:

“It’s always a lot of extremes. Landscapes and human faces. The human face is a landscape itself. A landscape changes according to the light. Every day it’s different. And it’s the same with the human face… Frank Herbert wanted the book to be a cautionary tale, a warning against charismatic religious leaders.”

Villeneuve continued:

“Chalamet has those very aristocratic features. You feel a strong intelligence in the eyes. And he looks very young onscreen, and I needed that youth, that candor, that vulnerability—that young man who was struggling with his identity, trying to find a spot.”

The emotional foil to Chalamet’s vulnerability is his toughness.

I’ll reserve any spoilers, but the mid-point scene of Dune 2 shows the landmark identifier of a messiah, which catalyzes Chalamet’s character flip.

In the vast expanse of Dune 2, it is the profound exploration of Timothée Chalamet’s character—his messianic journey, etched in vulnerability and strength—that encapsulates the soul of this masterwork, elegantly directed by Denis Villeneuve.

For More:

Dune 2 trailer.

This film finds its spiritual twin in Lawrence of Arabia (1962, trailer).

A Villeneuve film where a character makes a long journey through immense landscapes to find their identity? Dune 2 shares a lot of DNA with Incendies (trailer).


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Dune 2 box-office blow-out. Dune 2 delivered the strongest opening weekend of 2024.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • $81.5 M Domestic
    • 2x Dune 1’s opening
  • $97 M international
  • $178.5 M total worldwide

By comparison, Oppenheimer grossed $82.4M domestically on its opening weekend (Barbie did $155 M).

Dune 2 was supposed to be released on November 3rd of last year but was prudently pushed due to the labor strikes restricting the film’s long list of stars (Zendaya, Chalamet, Austin Butler, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Ferguson, etc.) from promoting.

Dune 1 underperformed due to its simultaneous release on HBO as WarnerBros tried to bulk up their subscriptions during a 2021 COVID-era box-office slump.

Major props to Legendary for believing in the sequel and footing 80% of the $190M budget.

IASTE and AMFTP talks begin today. The 170,000+ IASTE member guild, which includes almost every below-the-line crew position from DPs to gaffers to make-up artists to set decorators to script supervisors and editors, are considering a strike on July 31st when their contract expires.

To this end, they have teamed up with the Teamsters Local 399 and Hollywood Basic Crafts to take negotiate with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

At a rally yesterday, IATSE President Matthew Loeb spoke:

“This is our family… every union in the entertainment industry is standing here together… we are the balance, we are the antidote to the greed that has been layed upon us and all the efficiency we have created flow up to make the rich richer….[we] demand a living wage, a LIVING WAGE for everybody that works in this business.”

Demands range from streaming residuals to AI protections to unaddressed concerns from the last potential strike in October 2021, where the crew were sick and tired of long hours, and unsatisfactory wage due to inflation.

It’s been speculated that the studios cannot withstand another strike and will give into IASTE’s demands.

Two big upcoming projects:

  • Wolf Night
    • Status: Multiple Studios bidding
    • Dir: Jonathan Liebesman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
    • Production Company: Platinum Dune (Michael Bay)

Pitch:

District 9 by way of The Purge — but with werewolves.

  • The Bluff
    • Status: Amazon MGM Studios
    • Starring: Priyanka Chopra (Citadel)
    • In talks to star: Karl Urban (The Boys)
    • Dir: Frank E. Flowers (Bob Marley: One Love)
    • Distributor: Amazon
    • Production Company: AGBO (Russo Brothers)

A former pirate in the Caribbean (Chopra) gets her secret past revealed when her island is invaded by vicious buccaneers.

Chopra as a pirate, sounds all sorts of wonderful.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

Austin Butler has the biggest transformation in Dune 2. It’s not his sinister shaved-head look (still), which director Denis Villeneuve characterized as:

“Something that would be a cross between a psychotic, sociopath serial killer and Mick Jagger.”

Instead, Butler’s biggest transformation was entirely vocal.

No spoilers, but suffice it to say it’s just as impressive as his renowned vocal work in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis (trailer, 2022).

Butler began his journey playing the sleek but forgettable cool guy in:

  • Yoga Hosers (2016)
    • Dir: Kevin Smith
    • Smooth-talks Lily-Rose Depp
    • Clip
  • The Dead Don’t Die (2019)
  • Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)

But it was when Butler played the ultimate cool guy, Elvis Presley, that his career ascended meteorically.

It’s refreshing to see him take on such another wild vocal transformation playing a sociopathic villain in Dune 2.

Rebecca Hall is at her best when she is tormented. In the new BBC Series, The Listeners, Hall will play a popular teacher whose life goes off-kilter when she hears a mysterious low humming noise.

Hall excels at playing characters that suffer immensely. This is demonstrated in the chilling Resurrection (2022), in which she is tormented by Tim Roth (trailer). Hall has an unbroken 8-minute monolgoue that is one of most gripping long-takes in cinema.

She’s also magnetic in Christine (2016) as she plays the real-life Christine Chubbuck, a spiraling reporter who killed herself on live TV (trailer).

In BBC’s The Listeners, Hall will continue this trend of torment. Based on this first-look image of Hall, it seems the series has completed production. No release date has been set.

James Gunn’s Superman has added its latest cast member. Wendell Pierce will play Perry White, the editor-in-chief of Daily Planet. This is where Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent, works. There has been discussion about how Gunn seems to be creating a world that harkens back to the golden age of Superman comics. Everyone in the cast has a retro look (set photo), and even the choices of potential villains are a bit more fun than previous takes on the character.

Wendell Pierce has a packed CV of various Television roles:

  • The Wire
    • Clip
    • Watch Bank’s insidiously goofy interrogation
  • Suits
    • Clip
    • Watch Bank eviscerate the defendant in this deposition

Wendell Pierce seems like he will be a great fit for Perry White, a highly respected journalist who will defend his scoop.


FESTIVALS AND RESOURCES

The Anatomy of Anatomy of a Fall. One of the greatest scenes in the Palme d’Or winner and five-time Academy Award-nominated film is when, amidst the trial where Sandra Hüller is accused of killing her husband, she and the rest of the courtroom are made to listen to a tape of her and her husband fighting.

We bridge into a searing argument between the couple, one of the most honest film fights in recent memory.

Here’s a quick snippet of director Justine Triet’s explaining some of her formal choices:

“I wanted to shoot the scene in daylight with strong light and the sun shining. Often very dramatic intimate scenes are used to be filmed at night as if intimacy were separate from the rest of life and here I choose the opposite.”

Watch the Anatomy of Anatomy with Triet’s commentary here.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

Lena Dunham’s next TV show is Too Much. Dunham has set the cast for her new Netflix series Too Much.

Here are some of the new cast members, including a few people she worked with in Girls:

Here’s the official synopsis:

After a breakup, New York workaholic Jessica (mid-30s) moves to London, planning on being alone. She meets Felix, who causes her to reconsider finding love again. Now they have to ask themselves: do Americans and Brits actually speak the same language?

If this show about 30-somethings trying to figure out their life is anything like its spiritual predecessor, HBO’s Girls (2012 – 2017) about 20-somethings, it will be profound.

What Dunham did so beautifully with her Girls was an extreme and often grotesque but always wonderfully heartfelt attention to girls’ lived experiences in NYC (S1 trailer).

While that show ended seven years ago, we hope Dunham has built up enough life experience in the new decade of her life to lay bare its truths.

This first-timer feature about an Australian Iranian women’s shelter won Sundance’s World Cinema award and is being distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. It’s an impressive feat for director Noora Niasari.

Here’s the official synopsis for Shayda:

A young Iranian mother and her six-year-old daughter find refuge in an Australian women’s shelter during the two weeks of the Iranian New Year (Nowruz).

The trailer situates the mother in a unique dichotomy of rebellion and fatigue. There’s an understandable exhaustion from her life at the shelter, her religion, and her husband. But there’s a lot of light and joy in the maternal bond between her and her young daughter. It’s why it’s so tough to watch her let her go.

The film opened in theaters on Friday. Cate Blanchett is the EP.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

BBC Studios biggest deal ever. BBC Studios bought BritBox International from ITV for $312 M. BritBox is a streaming service with 3.8 million subscribers, which was co-founded by BBC and ITV.

BBC Studios CEO, Tom Fussell, stated:

“This is an important acquisition for us. We are taking full ownership of a successful, growing service we know well and that fits with our stated ambition to double the size of our business. Britbox International has British content at its heart and it generates and satisfies demand for British shows outside the UK. We will continue to make significant investments in the future to deliver long term value to the BBC.”

And in a separate win for the BBC, the WGGB (British Writer’s Guild) has just won a 10% pay increase for writers and an increase in residuals.


READER SPOTLIGHT

Howard Nash is an independent producer, writer, and actor. His producing credits include:

  • John Leguizamo’s Road to Broadway (2018) / PBS
  • American Wisper (2020) / Cinema Epoch
  • Filth Fighter (2021) / Discovery Plus-TLC
  • Sleepless Nights (2022) / Leomark Studios U.S.

He produced one of the first reality TV specials, The Deep North (1990), for CBS Television. It was part of a television series called A World of Difference and was nominated for a NY-area Emmy Award.

His John Leguizamo’s Road to Broadway (2018) featured Mark Ruffalo and Rueben Blades and won the prestigious Imagen Award for Best Documentary in 2019.

Watch American Wisper here.

If you’d like to be featured in our “readers spotlight,” click here for more information.


ON LEAP YEAR

David Bordwell, who authored the seminal book Film Art: An Introduction, which was required freshman reading at film schools, has passed away at 76.

He will be missed.


That’s all for today. See you tomorrow.


Written by Gabriel Miller. Research by Spencer Carter.

Editor: Gabriel Miller.

Share the Post:

Other Editions

Become a Film Industry Insider!

Sign up for The Industry!

It’s a curated newsletter read by almost 100,000 film professionals.

We synthesize the latest film & TV news and send it to your inbox every morning. 

It takes less than 5 minutes to read.

Plus it’s FREE forever.