Jason Momoa Recalls “Terrifying” First Dune Shoot

Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

Jason Momoa spoke to The New York Times, in an especially forthright discussion about his career and upcoming roles. The actor—who turned 42 on August 1—found mainstream acclaim with his role in the first season of Game of Thrones (2011), however is regularly candid in interviews about the challenges he’s overcome thereafter to be in a position to land roles such as Duncan Idaho, in Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 Dune movie.

I’m finally getting to play characters with depth and color. It’s been a long road, bro.

Jason Momoa, speaking to The New York Times

Last year, the director elaborated on his decision to cast Momoa in his adaptation (see also short clip below):

Duncan Idaho is a true heroic knight figure, a proud, courageous, righteous, and ruthless man, famous for his [unmatched] fighting skills. He’s also a bit of a bohemian. I thought that Jason would be perfect to embody him. Like Duncan Idaho, Jason has an insane charisma that makes people gravitate around him. Jason is a force of nature. He’s bigger than life.

Denis Villeneuve, writing to Men’s Health

Momoa has previously talked about how honored he felt to be chosen for this part in Dune. During the behind-the-scenes Q&A with the cast he declared, “This film set the bar for how I want to have my career go. Working with Denis and this level of actors, I learned so much every day.” His unbridled enthusiasm was apparent even now when interrupting the interviewer mid-sentence, “Oh, you lucky [expletive]. How great is that?”—in response to the latter mentioning he saw a preview screening of the upcoming movie.

Feeling the Nerves on the Set of Dune

Duncan Idaho reports to the Atreides council about his time with the Fremen.

This wasn’t the first interview where the actor admitted to being nervous when initially filming Dune, especially in relation to expository lines he had to deliver. One of his first scenes was together with Javier Bardem, playing the Fremen leader Stilgar, a performer who Momoa has expressed great admiration for. Following answer reveals much about their different acting styles, as well as Villeneuve’s approach to directing:

That scene was terrifying. I’m like, “If you [expletive] this up, Momoa.” You want to know how I delivered that? I was having the time of my life. Because I’m so stoked to be getting a master class with these actors around me. And the crazy thing is, I see Denis, he goes up to Javier Bardem, and he’s giving him notes. I’m like, “How is he giving him notes?” He’s giving him notes, he’s coming back and the delivery is even better! I’m the worst at notes. If I don’t come in and know my [expletive], I’m going to get too much in my head. I’m not good in my head. I’ve got to be animalistic, primitive. I’ve got to book it in the first three takes. After that I’m [expletive]. So I do my stupid jargon and not one note. I’m like, “Thank Christ.”

Jason Momoa

Above refers to the scene when Stilgar enters the briefing room in Arrakeen, carrying himself with commanding presence in the face of so many “outsiders”. For most members of the newly arrived House Atreides, this is their introduction to Fremen culture. Duncan Idaho—the noble House’s loyal sword-master—however, had already been sent to Arrakis in advance, as Duke Leto’s ambassador to the planet’s native peoples. That’s when he first meets Stilgar.

In an April 2020 interview (video since removed), Momoa touched on that earlier encounter and gushed about his overall experience with Dune.

An Extended Version of the Dune Movie?

Like some of his fellow cast members, Jason Momoa has already seen the entirety of the Dune movie and clearly it left a huge impression on him. “It is a masterpiece”, he said previously on the Tonight Show. It wasn’t surprising then, to hear him now spontaneously advocating for an extended cut:

You know what they need to do? They need to make the four-to-six hour version of the first half. It’s like, “Let’s watch the four-to-five-hour movie like a TV show; I can choose when I want to watch the whole thing.” I want to see Denis’s whole vision. I don’t want it to be trimmed.

It’s awesome to see this sheer excitement from the actor, however these comments should be taken from within that context. As with all movies, a lot more footage is shot beyond what is destined for the theatrical cut. That is film making and by no means an indication that the director’s creative freedom was limited, in any way, for Dune. In fact, this the first of Villeneuve’s films where he’s directed, produced, and written.

As we’ve covered earlier, Dune‘s runtime of 2 hours and 35 minutes is higher than almost all movies being released in recent years. Neither Warner Bros. nor Legendary Entertainment have had a longer theatrical release since 2014. The version that we’ll see, starting from September, will undoubtedly be Villeneuve’s vision as it is meant to be seen on the big screen…and, we still have Dune: Part Two to look forward to.

See below the full video (6 minutes) of Momoa’s appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon (June 10, 2021). The actor’s analogous comments regarding Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)—the four-hour cut that was released exclusively on streaming—provide a more clear frame of reference for his thoughts on a theoretical long-form cut of Dune: Part One.

I like the four hours and normally we watch shows that are, you know…It’s just a four-part series.

He also talks about his reaction to seeing Dune at the 3:30 mark:

As stated by the producers, Dune was shot for the (IMAX) theatrical experience, and we know Villeneuve has not released extended cuts for any of his previous movies, when it came to their home video releases. Having said that, with the exponential growth in streaming, who can say how we’ll experience the two completed halves of Dune together in the future? For now though, hopefully the film makers are prioritizing creation of that part two, before entertaining any ideas for different versions.

Sources: The New York Times via David Marchese (July 30, 2021), Men’s Health via Molly Knight (November 18, 2020)