Editors note: Deadline’s Read the Screenplay series debuts and celebrates the scripts of films that will be factors in this year’s movie awards race.
For filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049), the opportunity to bring renowned sci-fi novelist Frank Herbert’s 1965 literary-franchise-launching masterwork Dune to life on the big screen wasn’t just the realization of a long-held dream; it was a chance to tell a multitude of film genre stories folded into one.
“To me, Dune is a psychological thriller, an adventure, a war movie, a coming-of-age movie. It’s even a love story,” says Villeneuve. “There’s a reason the book stayed on my shelf, beside my bed, all those years.”
Indeed, Villeneuve became a fan of Herbert’s allegorical, wildly influential opus during a formative period while growing up in Quebec. “I discovered the book in my teenage years, and I remember being totally fascinated by its poetry, by what it was saying about nature—the true main character of Dune,” he recalls. “At the time, I was studying science, I thought I could become either a filmmaker or a biologist, so the way Frank Herbert approached ecology in the book for me was so fresh, so rich, so poetic, so powerful. His view of nature was absolutely mesmerizing—all those beautiful ecosystems he created.”
The filmmaker also appreciated the way Herbert employed both trenchant real-world commentary and a classical hero’s journey into the narrative. “His exploration of the impact and chaos caused by colonialism was a portrait of the 20th century that is still relevant today,” he says. “And through all of this was a young man struggling with his identity, trying to find his way in the world, as I was doing myself. The way Paul discovers his identity
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