Director Denis Villeneuve speaks at a 'Dune: Part Two' press conference in South Korea.

‘Dune Messiah’ Movie Script is “Almost Finished”

Denis Villeneuve also discusses vision of his 'Dune' adaptation, including expanded focus on the Bene Gesserit.

After his visit to Brazil for the Dune: Part Two panel at CCXP, Denis Villeneuve’s next stop on the movie’s promotional tour was South Korea. There the director spoke at a press conference, offering insightful commentary into this hotly-anticipated second installment. However, it was his comments on the prospective third Dune movie that captured headlines.

Completing a Dune Movie Trilogy

Villeneuve often speaks of his dream to film Dune: Messiah—Frank Herbert’s second Dune novel, published in 1969—as “a third movie that will be the end of the journey of Paul Atreides.” In earlier interviews the director mentioned that writing had begun, however now he divulged that its script is nearly complete.

It will make absolute sense for me to do this movie. [Dune Messiah] is being written right now. The screenplay is almost finished, but it is not finished. It will take a little time…

Denis Villeneuve

That doesn’t mean production on Dune: Messiah will be kicking off any time soon. Villeneuve himself doesn’t have a definite timeline. The third movie being green-lighted is likely tied to Dune: Part Two‘s success at the box office and, regardless, the director may want to work on another project first. Villeneuve is attached to direct Cleopatra and Rendezvous with Rama.

I don’t know exactly when I will go back to Arrakis. I might make a detour before just to go away from the sand… For my mental sanity I might do something in between, but my dream would be to go a last time on this planet that I love.

Villeneuve’s Most Challenging Movie

Like that time gap between stories of the Dune and Dune: Messiah novels, the director could certainly use a break from the desert. Villeneuve emphasized that filming two Dune movies back-to-back has been intense, with the second being the “most challenging” film he has ever made.

The thing is that I always, when I make a movie, I commit 100%. There’s no place for anything else. I went from Part One to Part Two immediately. There was no gap in between…

Indeed, for now, director and fans should be fully focused on the upcoming release of Dune: Part Two. Moviegoers can anticipate a truly epic experience, of watching the movie in theaters, in just a few short months.

For me, [Dune: Part Two] is much better than [Dune: Part One]. There’s something more alive in it. There’s a relationship to the characters. I was trying to reach for an intensity and a quality of emotions that I didn’t reach with Part One and that I did reach with Part Two.

I’m not saying the film is perfect, but I’m much more happy with Part Two than I was with Part One. I can not wait to share it with the fans and the moviegoers.

For more on Dune: Part Two, including key choices Denis Villeneuve made for this adaptation, watch the full interview (21 minutes) here. A transcript is also available, with press questions translated from Korean, at the end of this article.

The movie will premiere in domestic theaters on March 1, 2024. Refer to our up-to-date list of Dune: Part Two‘s international releases dates, for other countries.

Denis Villeneuve Interview Transcript

Question from the press: All right, so before we open up the floor to the press for questions, I just want to ask you, it’s been quite a few years since you were last year in Korea with your film Incendies. I believe back in 2011, so could you tell us a little bit how it feels to be back this time?

Denis Villeneuve: Well it feels like I’m never here long enough. I’m always here yes, landing doing press, press, so it feels like I would love to come here either to … I was saying to my wife and partner and producer, Tanya Lapointe, that I think the only way to spend more time in Korea would be to shoot a movie here.

It’s like no, I would love to, it just always feels like a glimpse that is going too fast. My link with Korea has been to movies, like movies of Bong Joon Ho or Park Chan-wook, that are filmmakers of that I admire. My favorite movie last year was Decision to Leave, and so I know more about Korea than anything else I would say.

Q: That’s wonderful to hear and we definitely agree we should stay longer in Korea. All right so we will now open the floor up for questions if you have any questions?

Thank you, so director Villeneuve, your previous work so Dune: Part One was extremely popular here in Korea. And so my first question is, how do you feel or what is your impression of the Korea cinema goers or the Korean audience, and my second part of the question is you just briefly spoke about your relationship or how you know of Korean cinema, are there any particular actors or directors you would like to work with from Korea?

DV: I would say that Korea have the repetition to be movie lovers and from my understanding it’s also people that love to watch movies in theater, and for me that’s very meaningful because I think that the theatrical experience is part of the language of Cinema. We don’t shoot the movie the same way when it’s for the big screen, we don’t design the sound the same way, we don’t even direct movies in the same way, when you direct for a wide screen canvas instead of a a smaller screen.

So I love the idea that, I love the fact that the audience here really loves the theatrical experience and it’s like a it’s a very rewarding for a filmmaker to know that people care about the theatrical experience.

Q: That’s great, any Korean actors or directors you’d like to work with?

DV: For me, frankly, I never had the chance to … filmmakers are lonely wolves … but the makers I mentioned earlier are people admire a lot, I don’t think I will dream to work with them, I mean unless there’s like a collection of … I don’t know it’s … I don’t have the chance to work with the other directors unfortunately.

Q: All right so first of all it’s been such an honor to be able to speak with you today despite the Covid pandemic when Dune Part One was released in Korea it was hugely loved by the Korean audience to the point where we actually have a unique term to describe the fans of Dune you may have heard of the word it’s called “Dunchinja” which is a compound word of Dune and a word like fanatic so I think the best way to translate it would be like “Dune-iacs” so we’re wondering if you are aware of the word and the second part of the question is you still have about two months until we are able to see the film, so why did you choose to visit Korea at this particular time?

DV: The thing is that I heard about “Dunchinja” the term here, it’s very moving for me to know that there are some people here that love the movie that much, and the idea is that when we released Part One we released the movie in very difficult conditions it was a pandemic the end of the pandemic there was the day to date in the United States, we were the movie was released against a lot of we had the wind not an our back the wind were facing the wind it was not easy, it was not an easy release.

And this time it’s the opposite, I think that the gods of cinema are with us right now and I want to take care of this film, it’s a film that I’m proud of, it’s a film that I’m looking forward to share with the audience, it’s a movie that we work very hard to make sure that will the movie will be released as soon as possible and we were supposed to release the movie in November but because of the strike it was delayed of a couple of months.

Also why I’m here now, because I’m impatient, because I’m looking forward to share the movie with you guys and I wanted to start to share the word. I wanted to share some images, so I’m traveling like that right now just to create what I hope would be a kind of appetite a desire.

Q: Well I think we’re definitely benefiting from your impatience so thank you.

DV: By the way, I wish I was showing the whole movie to you today. I would have loved to show the whole movie to you but it was not possible, but I can’t wait.

Q: All right, so first of all I enjoyed the footage thank you so much for the footage and Dune is a, you know, the story that many filmmakers and people have tried to create into live action some have done so some failed to do so. And I’m sure that you know with your version of Dune, because Dune the original story is so epic and such a challenging feat to bring to the screen. I’m sure there were many challenges, so I’d like to know what was your biggest challenge in creating Dune the film, and also how did you overcome it, and I’d also love to know in terms of the novel, how far did you cover in Dune: Part Two?

DV: The thing is that adapting … to make an adaptation you have to kill a lot of darlings you have to … a there’s some kind of I would say violence in the act of adaptation when you adapt of course you had have something you love but it’s impossible to make a direct perfect translation of a book to the screen you have to make choices you have to take your own view, you have to bring to the book to the screen with your own sensibility and there are specific choices.

One of them was to focus the adaptation of the Bene Gesserit world. For those you know the book, the book is very dense very complex there’s a lot of a different factions, a lot of different tribes, families, planets and I made some bold choices. It’s a Bene Gesserit adaptation of the book, instead that there are other disciplines in the book like the Mentats. For those who know the book with those terms, let’s say that in my adaptation the Mentats suffered, but it’s a declaration of love to the Bene Gesserit world, which I thought was the most meaningful thing to bring to the screen today.

And so those choices are what is the difficult thing to do, it’s like it’s a big responsibility when you [adapt] the book that so many people love, you know that you will please some and others will be angry at you those choices, but that’s what I learned about this book. And frankly, those books can be adapted in different ways and maybe in 15 or 20 years from now, someone else will bring it to the screen and differently it’s like that’s the beauty of … its such a beautiful book. What was the second part of the question?

Q: Can you tell us how far you got in terms of the novel?

DV: Thank you, the first book Dune was absolutely completed with the Part One and Part Two so the first book is absolutely finished with this second part.

Q: All right, so as you were directing and creating Part Two, what were some things that from the original story, so from the novel that you thought “I have to bring this exactly as is written to the screen” and then what were some parts that you thought “I’m going to bring my own twist on”? So that’s the first part of the question and then the second part, is you did mention briefly as you were answering the questions, we know that the film is going to be a trilogy so in deciding how far to cover up to Dune: Part Three what were some of your standards in terms of this is going to be included and from here we just don’t want to tell?

DV: As I said that the first book was divided in two parts, Part One and Part Two that covered the book. If there’s a part three it would be a adaptation of Dune Messiah, the second book, which is a smaller book.

Dune Messiah was written by Frank Herbert as a kind of epilogue, as a kind of a warning. He felt that the way people received the first book was not exactly according to his desire, he felt that there was some kind of a misconception, and that for it was more … from my understanding, Frank Herbert felt that felt that people thought it was a celebration of Paul Atreides and he wanted to be more of a warning towards charismatic figures, people who are blending religion and politics together. He wanted to it to be more of a warning, and he wrote [Dune: Messiah] in order to correct the view of the first book.

Which means that I had that knowledge during my adaptation, so I tried at my best to be close to Frank Herbert’s main idea that Dune is a warning, an exploration of the danger of charismatic figures, of heroes the danger of blending politics together, so in order to do so that’s why I made some choices. I made some decisions that to bring this into, to create that perspective, I made sure that the character of Jessica, who they kind of disappear in the second part of the book would be more present. She represents, she’s the main architect of the story, so I made sure that she was more present and we understood more her agenda, what she represent the kind of colonialist figure, religious figure.

And I use Chani, Chani also that’s one of the big difference is as we follow Paul Atreides, played by Timothée, we follow him to his engagement, his commitment to the Fremen culture, but now he has to make some very difficult decisions at one point. And Chani gives us the perspective and she gives, creates some kind of distance with Paul in order to be able to go in the direction that Frank Herbert wanted to do first, so it’s like … that’s one of the big differences. I would say the female characters in the movie are more developed than in the book, but that’s the big difference.

Q: I’d love to hear that, especially because the female characters that you mentioned, they are so wonderful in the film, so I can’t wait to see that.

So you did briefly mention this before, I have two questions. So the first question is you are visiting Korea about two months prior to the film launch, so if there are any other particular reasons as to why you chose to visit Korea so early I would love to hear more, and the second part of the question is, so I / we all believe that Dune is something created for the big cinema experience and for the Part One I felt like watching it on the big screen really brought us to the beauty of Arrakis. So if there’s one thing, maybe like a thematic or a particular element that you feel like would be the epitome of beauty or what you would like for people to enjoy watching Part Two in the big screen, please tell us?

DV: The thing is that Part One was shot, I think 35 or 40% in IMAX, because we use IMAX for the desert sequence and Part Two, being set mostly in the desert, the movie has been shot entirely in IMAX. It’s really a movie that is much more I would say immersive than Part One.

So I think you know, the thing I love about IMAX is that there’s this … the power of the screen allows us to create some kind of vertigo when you are like in the relationship with big landscape, but it create also a very strong intimacy with characters, and at the end of the day my job was to find that kind of equilibrium between intimacy and scope and the epic, all the epic moments and but to stay close to the characters.

And in the book we have access to the thought process of the characters, it’s a very paranoid book where everybody are trying to calculate and understand what are the strategies of the other characters. Everybody’s are afraid of everybody. And in the movie, the way to create this is to try to always be in contact with that in intimacy with the characters, and IMAX is fantastic for that.

Q: All right, so you did say this actually as you were speaking about the film, but I read that when you were doing an interview in a different country you talked about how Part Two is a more muscular film than the previous one, and in a way I think you can even say that it is you know guaranteed that Part Two is going to do extremely well, not only the film itself, but I feel like it’s very commercially successful, I feel like that’s a guarantee. So as you are expecting Part Two to release globally, how do you feel just in terms of how you know, how crazy the world is going to go with the opening of this film?

DV: As a filmmaker I’ve learned since a long time to take nothing for granted. I … and this is one of the reasons I’m here, and I’m traveling right now, is to just to promote the film because I don’t take things for granted, I’m not that arrogant.

I would say it is true that my colleagues and I, we are proud of the film. I mean that the film, me as one of the writer and being the director of the film, I would say that I feel the movie, is frankly much better than Part One. That there’s something more alive in it, is going further, deeper into the relationship between the characters and then it’s more much more that I was trying to reach for an intensity and quality of emotions that I didn’t reach with Part One, that I did reach with Part Two, so that I will say that …

I’m not saying the film is perfect of course, I’m just saying that I’m much more happy with Part Two than Part One, and I can’t wait to share it with the fans, I can’t wait to share it with the movie goers to see how they feel about it because we believe the movie has a soul.

I want you to know that it’s truly a privilege and an honor for me to be a in Korea today with you. It’s like I feel that … I love to be in contact with the exhibitors or with fans I would meet, with moviegoers later, that will watch Part One and introduce some the minutes of, as you saw the second movie. And it’s like as a filmmaker, you are like experiencing cinema in your bubble, you are traveling into creativity and you are in your own world, and it’s nice to finally share it with people so that I’m very happy to be with you, thank you.

Q: Yes I believe that Dune: Part Two has indeed probably will open a completely new chapter in the space opera genre so as we impatiently wait until we get to see Part Two I’m pretty sure you probably have plans for Part Three so is there anything you can share with us about?

DV: That, but the thing is that I always, when I make a movie, I 100% commit. There’s no place for anything else, and I went from Part One to Part Two immediately. I mean there was no gap in between both, we finished Part One and then I start prep on Part Two. The screen play was ready.

So now I didn’t have the chance to make the … move forward, because I was like working constantly on Part Two. With that, the schedule was crazy on that second movie, it was very intense, by far the most challenging, technically and narratively, movie I have ever made.

So there’s the dream of making an addition of doing Messiah, third movie that will be the end of the journey of Paul Atreides. It will make absolute sense for me to do this movie. The movie is being written right now, the screen play is almost finished, but it’s not finished. It will take a little time…

And well, so I don’t know exactly when I will go back to Arrakis. I might make a detour before just to go away from the sand, because to just do for my mental sanity, and I might do something in between, but my dream would will be to go a last time on this planet that I love.