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Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson, Dune
Photo by Chiabella James

Denis Villeneuve shares his struggles to finish Dune film in quarantine

The director says the pandemic has ‘crushed’ his schedule

While a multitude of films and TV series have been suspended or pushed back amid coronavirus and quarantine – from big-budget Mulan to HBO’s EuphoriaDenis Villeneuve has been pushing on with Dune.

The upcoming, highly-anticipated remake is still on course for its December 18 release, starring Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya. Previous reports from the set highlighted that Villeneuve is intending to “honour everything” about the mammoth original novel by Frank Herbert, and choosing to steer clear of David Lynch’s own 1984 movie. The pandemic, however, has made life for the director and the finished film quite difficult.

In a new interview from the Shanghai International Film Festival, as Indiewire reports, Villeneuve said that the pandemic and subsequent lockdown had “crushed” the film’s editing and post-production schedule. Though most of production had been completed just in time, Villeneuve shared that planned reshoots had to be delayed following the film industry’s shutdown.

“I was planning to go back and shoot some elements later because I wanted to readjust the movie. I needed time. At the time I didn’t know that it would be a pandemic…as we were about to go back to do those elements,” he said in the filmed interview. “The impact was that it crushed my schedule right now. It will be a sprint to finish the movie on time right now, because we were allowed to go back to shoot those elements in a few weeks…it meant also that I have to finish some elements of the movie, like VFX and the editing, being in Montreal as my crew stayed in Los Angeles.”

“As a director there are things that can be done remotely to deal with technology. The supervision of VFX with some equipment is easy to do from afar but, editing, for me, the big lesson from this is I thought it would be possible to edit at a distance,” he added. Villeneuve refers to Joe Walker, the editor who he has frequently collaborated with on previous projects included ArrivalBlade Runner 2049, and Dune. “with my editor, sharing equipment, being far from (each other), but I realise how much editing is like playing music with someone – you need to be in the same room. There’s something about the interaction, human interaction, the spontaneity, the energy in the room. I really miss not being in the same room as my editor. It’s very, very painful.”

“Maybe one of the reasons is that the editor is someone…is also a psychiatrist,” he continued. “He’s the only one dealing with my OCD and my panic attacks and my fears, and receives my joys. In the future, if something like that ever happens again, I will definitely make sure my editor is close to me.”

The 1965 space epic book follows the adventures of a young nobleman, Paul, forced to move to the inhospitable planet Arrakis to extract a powerful ‘spice’. It is hailed as a great cornerstone of the sci-fi genre, and the inspiration behind cinematic greats such as George Lucas’ Star Wars. Several attempts to bring it to film to screens have ostensibly failed over the years, from Alejandro Jodorowsky to Ridley Scott. Lynch’s was universally canned, and the director himself has detached himself from it.

Back in April, Chalamet shared some of the first images from the set, showing himself as the iconic protagonist Paul. Rebecca Ferguson stars as Paul’s mother and concubine of Duke Leto Atreides, Lady Jessica, with Oscar Isaac as the Duke and steward of the planet Arrakis. Zendaya plays Chani, who develops a relationship with Paul.

Read back on some of the more disastrous attempts to remake Dune here, including a Jodorowsky project that cast Salvador Dali and the Ridley Scott-written two-part epic that he sacked off for Blade Runner. Watch the full interview with Villeneuve below.