It’s been a few years since the last real push for a new film version of Frank Herbert’s Dune. While both the 1984 David Lynch film and the SyFy miniseries have their fans, both were missing something when it came to really capturing Dune. Given the scope of the novel (not even counting the sequels that Herbert wrote) and the depth of the lore, some fans may wonder if we’ll ever get something that comes close to getting the look and feel of Dune right.
Recently, there’s been talk of Blade Runner 2 director Denis Villeneuve wanting to take a shot at Dune. While he doesn’t believe he’ll actually get the film rights to the property, it’s good to see that there’s still at least some interest in the property in Hollywood. Let’s assume that things go well and Villeneuve (or someone else with a passion for the project) gets the rights to make Dune and a studio commits to the sort of budget that we’d need to see Dune done right (instead of the “very different” take that almost happened). Who would star in it? Here’s our crack at casting Dune.
Paul Atreides – Tom Holland
If your primary exposure to Dune is Lynch’s adaptation, you may not realize that Paul Atreides was only 15 years old when Dune began. While he does a lot of growing up in a hurry once the book gets going, the previous live-action adaptations make him seem like he’s in his 20s at the youngest. Given the wonderful job that he did making Peter Parker young again in Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland could do equally well as a young Paul Atreides. The role would also give Holland a chance to flex his acting muscles, as he’d get to go from a slightly naïve Duke’s son to the commander of one of the fiercest fighting forces in the known universe over the course of the film.
Duke Leto Atreides and Lady Jessica – Hugh Jackman and Gwyneth Paltrow
Paul’s parents each have an air about them – a sense of power – but they carry it in different ways. Hugh Jackman could easily pull off the role of the powerful duke who knows that he’s walking into a trap, but has no choice but to spring it. Gwyneth Paltrow, meanwhile, has both the look and the subtle nature of the Bene Gesserit that would make her both a loving companion to Leto and a very dangerous adversary to anyone who might cross her. The two of them together could capture the subtlety and the passion of Leto and Jessica’s romance without having to dive too deep into it explicitly.
Duncan Idaho – Orlando Bloom
In Dune, Duncan Idaho is described as having “curly black hair” and being a handsome man who’s popular with the ladies. He’s also a Swordmaster of Ginaz, giving him specialized training that makes him lethal in melee combat. This all falls pretty well in sync with Orlando Bloom’s biggest roles, and it’s not a stretch to picture Idaho as a mix between Legolas and Will Turner. He’s also eight years younger than Hugh Jackman, which works pretty well with the extended timeline of the Brian Herbert/Kevin J. Anderson novels (if you count them as canon) since Duncan Idaho joined House Atreides as a boy while Leto was still a teenager.
Doctor Wellington Yueh – Ralph Fiennes
Doctor Yueh is perhaps one of the most tragic characters in Dune. A Suk doctor, he’s supposed to be conditioned to be unable to cause harm to those he treats; leave it to Baron Harkonnen to find a way to break that conditioning. Yueh betrays House Atreides and goes down in history as one of the greatest turncoats of all time in an attempt to save his wife, only to have the hope of her salvation cruelly ripped away from him. It takes a strong actor to portray such a complex and conflicted character without making him or his motivations seem shallow; we believe that Ralph Fiennes is up to the task. Given the heroes and despicable villains Fiennes has brought to life, he could do wonders with Yueh in only a short amount of screen time.
Baron Vladimir Harkonnen – John Goodman
John Goodman is best known for playing bigger characters, though he’s lost quite a bit of weight in recent years. His size isn’t the reason that he’s our pick for Baron Harkonnen, however. Goodman possesses a wide range in his acting ability, portraying a goofy family man like Dan Conner, a smoldering psychopath who’s just barely keeping things under control like Walter Sobchak and most recently an unhinged survivalist like Howard Stambler. A range like this is a necessity for the Baron, as disease and hedonism have him calm and almost charming in one moment and plotting murder and revenge in the next. With Goodman under prosthetics to portray Baron Harkonnen, he could become one of the great villains of film.
Feyd-Rautha and Glossu “Beast” Rabban – Alex Pettyfer and Jonah Hill
The Baron’s nephews are both instrumental to his plans in Dune, though Feyd tends to get a bit more of the spotlight. Glossu is the older brother, a bit short on brain but possessing a cruel streak matched only by the Baron himself. Feyd, meanwhile, is the “pretty” and smart one who was produced by the same centuries-long Bene Gesseret breeding program that produced Paul himself. The 26-year-old Pettyfer has the looks for the part of Feyd and some decent acting skills just waiting for a definitive role. Hill, on the other hand, is mostly known for his crude comedy but has shown a desire to grow as an actor with films like The Wolf of Wall Street; shave his head and give him John Goodman to work off of and he could deliver a knockout performance as the Beast.
Paddishah Emperor Shaddam IV – Damian Lewis
Another break from how the character has traditionally been portrayed on film, we’ve chosen Homeland‘s Damian Lewis as our Shaddam IV. Though he’s appeared as an older man in both Lynch’s Dune and the miniseries, in the book Shaddam was described as having red hair and appearing to be 35 years old despite being in his 90s. Lewis is 45, but we’ll certainly not hold that against him… Given his experience in the Royal Shakespeare Company and the wide range of roles he’s taken in film, on television and on stage, we have no doubt that he could play a commanding role as Paddishah Emperor of the Known Universe.
Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam – Jessica Lange
Jessica Lange’s years on American Horror Story reminded us of just how powerful of a character she can portray, which is important for the Reverend Mother of the Bene Gesserit. Though the reverend mother has appeared older (or outright stranger) in past adaptations, the 67-year-old Lange in the role could easily serve as a reminder of how big of a role beauty and sensuality play in the machinations of the Bene Gesserit order. She could make the woman downright sinister while still maintaining a regal air that few others could match.
Stilgar – Travis Fimmel
Stilgar is a mighty warrior and the leader of the Fremen of Seich Tabr, so it makes sense to cast someone who has shown he can handle the ferocity of the Fremen. One look at Fimmel’s portrayal of Ragnar Lodbrok on the History Channel’s Vikings shows that we’ve found the right man for the job. Once the Fremen attack in the final arc, Fimmel would definitely be in his element and would show everyone why Stilgar is the one who leads the Seich.
Chani – Maisie Williams
We’ve already seen how dangerous Maisie Williams can be on Game of Thrones, and her time spent as Arya would serve her well as Paul’s love interest and eventual concubine, Chani. Much like Travis Fimmel, seeing Williams’ Chani taking down the enemies of the Fremen would be a sight to behold. She’s close in age to Tom Holland as well, so the two of them would likely pair nicely onscreen.
Rounding Out the Cast
If you’re a Dune fanatic, you’ve probably noticed a few important characters who weren’t covered on the list. We opted to cover only those characters who one might consider the key players in the “core” story; almost any character in Dune could be considered important, and covering everyone involved in the various plots of the novel would make for a fairly exhaustive list indeed. If you disagree with some of our choices or want to add your two cents on who would be the perfect Liet-Kynes, Princess Irulan or Gurney Halleck, feel free to chime in over in the comments.