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Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Dune
via Warner Bros.

Here’s why Denis Villeneuve’s Dune changes the gender of a major character

In previous versions, Dr. Liet Kynes has been portrayed as a man, but the new film casts Sharon Duncan-Brewster in the role

In 2019, Denis Villeneuve explained that his Dune film will “honour everything” from Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel on which it’s based, unlike previous adaptations such as David Lynch’s self-proclaimed “total failure” from 1984. However, there will be at least one notable change in Villeneuve’s version – namely, the gender of the character Dr. Liet Kynes.

In the book, Kynes is a man, known as a prominent planetologist and ecologist on the planet of Arrakis, and the father of Chani (who’s played by Zendaya – watch her kiss Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides in the recently-released trailer). In the new film, however, Liet  Kynes will be portrayed as a woman, played by Sharon Duncan-Brewster.

“I think first and foremost, Denis was adamant that we just concentrate on what Kynes represents,” says Duncan-Brewster, in a recent intervew with the cast, explaining that the character’s role connects Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) and the native people of Arrakis, the Fremen, among other factions. “Thematically,” she adds, “he’s an integral role.”

So why did Villeneuve change the gender? Well, the director and Duncan-Brewster agreed that it just isn’t really integral to the character. “As far as Denis was concerned, it was all about concentrating on the essence of this person, not the fact that this person was a man, so that’s what we went with first,” she adds.

“Then we talked much later about the fact that Kynes was a man. To me and to Denis, it’s arguable and I’m intrigued to see what the fans will make of it. I’m excited to see how it all comes out, because I don’t think it matters that Kynes in the book is a man. I think what’s important is what Kynes stands for, and that’s definitely what Denis stayed true to.”

In a first look at the new Dune via Vanity Fair back in May, Duncan-Brewster also commented on the gender change, saying: “This human being manages to basically keep the peace amongst many people. Women are very good at that, so why can’t Kynes be a woman? Why shouldn’t Kynes be a woman?”

Dune is set to arrive in cinemas December 18. Watch the first trailer below.