Dune co-writer/director Denis Villeneuve opens up about Zendaya’s audition for the sci-fi epic and her ability to bring her character to life. The 25-year-old actress stars in the film as Chani, a young woman of the Fremen tribe who inhabit the desert planet of Arrakis who also serves as the love interest for Timothée Chalamet’s protagonist Paul Atreides. The story revolves around Paul as his father, Leto Atreides, is tasked with supervising the planet and the most valuable substance in the universe, melange, only for tragedy to strike and Paul and Leto’s concubine Lady Jessica forced to turn to the Fremen for help in a burgeoning war.
Zendaya and Chalamet are part of a large ensemble cast for Dune that also includes Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, David Dastmalchian, Dave Bautista, Rebecca Ferguson, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgård and Javier Bardem. Development on the new Dune has been underway for five years when Legendary Pictures acquired the rights to Frank Herbert’s novel and signed Villeneuve to co-write and direct the project with Doctor Strange‘s Jon Spaihts and A Star is Born‘s Eric Roth. Following numerous release delays due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the film is finally set to arrive in theaters and on HBO Max in late October.
In time for the film’s debut at the Venice International Film Festival, Villeneuve spoke with Vogue to discuss his adaptation of Dune. Reflecting on his all-star cast, the director praised Zendaya for her ability to bring her character Chani to life and detailing her amazing audition for the film. See what Villeneuve said below:
“I remember meeting Chani for the very first time when Zendaya made me believe that she has been raised on an alien planet, in the deep desert, in the roughest environment. We all know Zendaya is a brilliant actress but I was particularly amazed by the high precision of her acting skills, her intelligence, her graceful patience and her great generosity. She’s one of the most professional artists I’ve ever worked with.”
After originally making a name for herself on Disney Channel and in various reality competition series, Zendaya truly rose to stardom with her work in Sony and Marvel’s Spider-Man films and her Emmy-winning HBO drama Euphoria. The announcement she had been cast in Dune as Chani proved to be very exciting for fans of the actress and of the source material given her importance in Paul’s journey and the overall arc of the novels. Zendaya has certainly proven time and again to be a powerful actress but to hear Villeneuve’s high praise for her audition for the role should raise the bar even higher for her appearance in the film.
That being said, Zendaya has confirmed that she only spent four days filming Dune and expressed her excitement to further explore her character in the planned sequel. While early reviews for the film have certainly praised the film, there is a divide on its incomplete story that sets up the follow-up, namely in the further development of Zendaya’s Chani, who Villeneuve has promised will have a larger role in the film. With any luck, the first Dune will tick off all the successful boxes upon its October 22 release for Warner Bros. and Legendary to greenlight the sequel and properly explore her character further.