Today—almost 3.5 years after it was initially ordered—production started on HBO Max’s Dune prequel TV series. Emmy Award-winner Johan Renck, who is directing the premiere episodes, shared this exciting news via his Instagram account, alongside the original Dune novel’s cover. Yes indeed, as of November 22, 2022, Dune: The Sisterhood is being filmed in Hungary.
On this day, we commence filming Dune: The Sisterhood for HBO Max. Through machinations taking place millennia before the story you all know, we descend into the coven that one day shall be named the Bene Gesserit.
Looking closely at Renck’s Instagram post revealed some (potential) casting news, as he tagged several actors in the Dune image—two of whom had not been previously announced! Assuming the director was intentional in mentioning them, that means television actor Gizem Kling Erdogan (The Playlist, Caliphate) and film actor Mark Strong (1917, Shazam!) have also joined the cast of Dune: The Sisterhood in as-yet-unknown roles. At time of writing, no formal communication has been shared with regards to their casting.
In what’s expected to be another major role, Indira Varma will play Empress Natalya. Other announced members of the predominantly-female cast include Sarah-Sofie Boussnina, Shalom Brune Franklin, Faoileann Cunningham, Aoife Hinds, and Chloe Lea.
The source material for this Dune prequel TV series is the 2012 novel Sisterhood of Dune, book one of the Schools of Dune trilogy by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. We now know, based on the casting news, that this will not be a direct adaptation. Of the show’s characters revealed so far, only Valya Harkonnen plays a major role in aforementioned book. The rest are largely original characters or, in two cases, only mentioned a few times.
Like the book, Dune: The Sisterhood will tell the Bene Gesserit origin story. The TV series’s official synopsis reads as follows:
Set 10,000 years before the ascension of Paul Atreides, the series will follow the Harkonnen Sisters as they combat forces that threaten the future of humankind, and establish the fabled sect known as the Bene Gesserit.
Dune: The Sisterhood is being co-produced by HBO Max and Legendary Television. In addition to filming currently taking place in Budapest, Hungary, the cast and crew are also expected to head to Limerick, Ireland. Today marks the first time ever that two Dune video projects are in production concurrently. The Dune: Part Two movie—set to premiere in November 2023—is wrapping up its final leg of principal photography, in the Liwa desert of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Dune: The Sisterhood was created and written by Diane Ademu-John, however she’s since stepped down as the showrunner. Alison Schapker has taken over as the TV series’s sole showrunner. Johan Renck is directing the premiere. Other executive producers include Denis Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts, Scott Z. Burns, Matthew King, John Cameron, and Cait Collins. The Frank Herbert estate is represented by Brian Herbert, Byron Merritt, and Kim Herbert. Kevin J. Anderson is a co-producer.
Update (November 23): Edited final paragraph to reflect today’s news that Diane Ademu-John is no longer showrunning Dune: The Sisterhood. Further coverage will follow.