We're going to have to wait a little longer to see Dune: Part Two
Denis Villeneuve’s Dune was built on the assumption that we’d get to see more of it. From the briefest glimpses we get of intriguing characters, like Zendaya’s Chani and Charlotte Rampling’s Gaius Helen Mohiam, to the rumblings of gigantic plot threads - including intergalactic political intrigue, murder and the emergence of a long-prophesied messiah - left hanging… we’d feel pretty short changed if we didn’t get a Dune: Part Two. Thankfully, we know by now it’s on the way, it’s just that we’re going to have to wait a little bit longer to see it: the movie’s release date has officially been pushed back.
Dune: Part Two was officially greenlit in October 2021 for a 2023 release and will continue where the last film left off. There’s also a prequel series in the works over on HBO Max. The first part of Denis Villeneuve’s expansive, contemplative sci-fi epic spends most of its 155-minute run time building bigger and bigger and bigger until it slightly subverts itself. Ending not with an epic battle on the planet Arrakis between Duke Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and the villainous House Harkonnen (lead by an increasingly slug-like Stellan Skårsgard), but instead focusing on Paul’s decision to join the native Fremen tribe (lead by Javier Bardem and featuring Zendaya as the mysterious Chani) and disappear (literally) beneath the dunes.
Since, Denis V himself has said that a third Dune movie is likely to be green-lit. In an interview with Screen Daily, the filmmaker expressed confidence in another sequel based on Frank Herbert’s Dune Messiah. “I think Dune Messiah would be a beautiful film,” he told writer Dan Jolin. “And it would complete Paul Atreides’ journey. But I’m going one movie at a time. It’s so difficult, and I’m a bit lazy! But I think three movies is a possibility.”
We think so too, Denis. As such, here is everything we know so far about both Dune: Part Two, the (admittedly more hypothetical) Dune: Part Three and Dune: The Sisterhood TV series.
What would Dune: Part Two cover?
Roughly, it would cover the second half of Frank Herbert’s Dune novel - where Paul joins the Fremen and plots both the downfall of House Harkonnen, but also reckoning with his own identity as the Kwisatz Haderach, a messiah-like figure who will be tasked with leading the future of humanity.
“It’s the journey where Paul Atreides and his mother, Lady Jessica, make contact with the Fremen culture and meet with the Fremen,” the filmmaker teased to Deadline at the PAG Awards. “It’s Paul’s journey against the enemy… It’s a movie that will be more cinematic.”
Would we finally get to see more of Zendaya?
In a nutshell; yes. Zendaya’s screentime in the first film itself is a little misleading given her dominance in its marketing, but if anything, her character Chani only makes sense given the (very large) role she’ll play in the sequel, and in Paul’s life in general.
We know this for certain, because director Denis himself promised that if we did get a sequel, Zendaya will be a major part of it.
Who joins the cast of Dune: Part Two?
Most recently, Deadline has revealed Léa Seydoux — who recently starred in the gross-out David Cronenberg body horror Crimes of the Future — will now be stepping into the role of Lady Margot in the second part of the Dune franchise. Lady Margot is part of the Bene Gesserit, a secret religious order of female witches we were introduced to in the first movie.
Elvis star Austin Butler also recently confirmed to The New York Times that he will play the villainous, sadistic nephew of Baron Harkonnen Feyd-Rautha (memorably played by Sting and his codpiece in David Lynch’s Dune), and that he has “started intensive knife-fighting training” for the role specifically.
Timmy’s Little Women co-star Florence Pugh will play Princess Irulan, the Emperor’s daughter. Although it’s a seemingly minor role, only appearing towards the end of the Dune novel, she plays a much larger role in Dune Messiah and thus the third film, should it be greenlit.
Additionally Princess Irulan’s father, the mysterious Emperor of Dune’s Imperial Empire Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV, will be played by Christopher Walken (Pulp Fiction). His political machinations were hinted at many times in the first film. (Fun fact: in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ill-fated attempt to make the first Dune film in the 70s, he wanted Salvidor Dalí to play the Emperor).
There could be a whole host of other characters introduced thanks to the novel’s time jump too… but those would spoil the plot too much to reveal just yet.
Will there be a Dune cinematic universe? What about that spin-off prequel series?
There’s definitely room for further sequels. Frank Herbert’s original Dune series comprises of six whole novels, and countless other prequels, spin-offs and continuations have spawned following the author’s death in 1986.
Denis V has said previously that he had always envisioned a two-part Dune duology based on the first book, and then a sequel based on the book’s own sequel, Dune Messiah. After his comments to Screen Daily: that Dune Messiah would make for “a beautiful film” that would “complete Paul Atreides’ journey”, we’re even more confident in this eventuality.
There’s also a standalone Dune prequel TV series coming to HBO Max entitled Dune: The Sisterhood although Denis V has sadly stepped down from the production, due to scheduling conflicts with Dune: Part 2. Chernobyl director Johan Renck is set to replace him, and Diane Ademu-John (The Haunting of Bly Manor) will act as showrunner.
The series will explore the witchy cult of the Bene Gesserit. “The TV series is a work in progress, it’s moving forward,” Denis also added. So far no casting, plot or release dates have been announced as of yet.
What would Dune: Part Three cover?
A third Dune film would ostensibly be based on Frank Herbert’s second novel in the original series, Dune Messiah. The story takes place twelve years after the events of the original Dune novel, following Paul as he struggles against the threat of an unstoppable religious juggernaut. I mean, we’re here for it!
According to Denis, a working script has now been written. “The screenplay is finished mostly, but it's always a work in progress. It'll be a work in progress until final cut, but I will say it's solidified. I have a script in my hands. We are in prep right now," he told Collider. Hans Zimmer has also been crafting a whole new soundtrack for the sequel. “It’s going to be another beautiful journey in the desert again,” Denis confirmed.
When is Dune: Part Two released?
With shooting scheduled to take place this summer in Hungary, it looks like it’ll be a fairly quick turnaround for a sci-fi movie of Dune’s scale: we’ll see the sequel on 17 November 2023.
The original plan was to release the movie a month earlier, on 20 October 2023, but whether it’s shooting schedules or release conflicts, they’ve given Denis a little more time to wrap up what’s bound to be another sci-fi masterwork.