What Shooting ‘Dune’ in 120-Degree Heat Was Like for Timothée Chalamet

Can Warner Bros. buck recent history with its blockbuster two-film 'Dune' adaptation?

Dune First Look Timothee Chalamet Denis Villeneuve Warner Bros.
What should fans expect from WB’s blockbuster Dune adaptation? David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Thanks to an Academy Award nomination for 2017’s tender Call Me by Your Name and a string of impressive follow-up performances, 24-year-old Timothée Chalamet has quickly become a must-watch actor. Thanks to a series of gripping and uniquely delivered films like SicarioArrival and Blade Runner 2049, filmmaker Denis Villeneuve has catapulted himself into the upper echelon of Hollywood directors. Naturally, a collaboration between the two was sure to be big news. That it comes in the form of a blockbuster adaptation of arguably the most iconic science-fiction novel of all time is just a bonus.

Sign Up For Our Daily Newsletter

By clicking submit, you agree to our <a rel="nofollow noreferer" href="http://observermedia.com/terms">terms of service</a> and acknowledge we may use your information to send you emails, product samples, and promotions on this website and other properties. You can opt out anytime.

See all of our newsletters

Chalamet will lead a deep bench of talented actors—which includes Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Jason Momoa, Zendaya and more—in Villeneuve’s two-picture Dune adaptation for Warner Bros. The dense and multi-layered 1965 novel, written by Frank Herbert, is considered both an iconic contribution to 20th century literature and a notoriously tricky property to adapt read. But deep in regions across the Middle East, the film crew attempted to transport audiences to the far off galactic world of Arrakis.

SEE ALSO: The Online Festival Giving Quarantined Filmmakers an Outlet for Home Movies

“It was really surreal,” Chalamet told Vanity Fair. “There are these Goliath landscapes, which you may imagine existing on planets in our universe, but not on Earth.”

Herbert’s book—which is set in the distant future amidst a feudal interstellar society in which various noble houses control planetary fiefs—largely takes place on a hostile desert world. Chalamet will play the young Paul Atreides, whose family accepts the stewardship of the planet Arrakis, the only known source of the galaxy’s most precious resource, known as “spice.”

To mimic the otherworldly environment, certain scenes were filmed in remote regions in the United Arab Emirates, where temperatures could reach the triple digits. “I remember going out of my room at 2 a.m., and it being probably 100 degrees,” Chalamet said. To make matters worst, the cast is adorned in “stillsuits,” which Vanity Fair describes as “thick, rubbery armor.” While they may look quite cool and badass on the big screen, they were not exactly designed with the actor’s comfort in mind.

“The shooting temperature was sometimes 120 degrees,” he said. “They put a cap on it out there, if it gets too hot. I forget what the exact number is, but you can’t keep working. In a really grounded way, it was helpful to be in the stillsuits and to be at that level of exhaustion.”

Beloved creator David Lynch attempted to bring the novel to the big screen in 1984, but the final product was largely panned by critics en route to a disastrous box office run. While maintaining the utmost respect for Lynch, Villeneuve has promised that his two-parter is nothing like that movie. He describes it as “by far the most difficult thing” he’s tackled in his career as he attempts to translate the novel’s focus on politics, religion, ecology, spirituality and a vast array of characters into two feature length films.

“No matter what you believe, Earth is changing, and we will have to adapt,” Villeneuve told the outlet. “That’s why I think that Dune, this book, was written in the 20th century. It was a distant portrait of the reality of the oil and the capitalism and the exploitation—the overexploitation—of Earth. Today, things are just worse. It’s a coming-of-age story, but also a call for action for the youth.”

One concern for Warner Bros. as it attempts this costly and ambitious two-picture adaptation is that the cerebral story may not connect with mainstream audiences. Villeneuve’s own Blade Runner 2049, a brilliant cinematic masterpiece, was championed by critics but largely ignored by moviegoers. Elevated sci-fi has struggled at the box office in recent years as have new-to-screen concepts. Dune may not be an alien title completely foreign to audiences, but it’s not exactly Harry Potter either.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on Hollywood’s theatrical release schedule, Warner Bros. still has Dune scheduled to arrive on December 18.

What Shooting ‘Dune’ in 120-Degree Heat Was Like for Timothée Chalamet