• Golden Globe Awards

Nominee Profile 2022: Denis Villeneuve, “Dune”

Frank Herbert’s acclaimed 1965 science fiction novel Dune has always proved a cinematic challenge to filmmakers trying to adapt the sprawling story set in the distant future of a feudal interstellar society where various noble houses control planetary fiefs. Whereas David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation received mixed critical reception, Denis Villeneuve, the French-Canadian director who brought Sicario, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 to the screen, not only received critical and commercial praise for his revision, but two Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director.
“My biggest challenge doing Dune was by far to deal with and master Timothée’s hair,” laughs the 54-year-old Quebec native, amusingly referring to his star, Timothée
Chalamet’s much-desired mane. Premiering the film at the Venice Film Festival, Villeneuve revealed that he knew his greatest challenge with the beloved novel was that it was filled with such rich detail, and he needed to find an equilibrium between the fans of the book and those who have not read it. “I needed to find the information that they needed to understand the movie without crushing them with exposition and trying to be as cinemagraphic as possible. So that was the big challenge, trying not to write a lot of information so the audiences could follow the story correctly and follow this adventure.”
Calling Herbert’s novel a ‘20th century foreshadow of the 21st century,’ Villeneuve points out how relevant the story has become today as the dangerous mix between religion and politics, the impact of colonialism and issues with the environment are playing front and center on our front pages. “I think it is time for us to get angry,” he continues. “I think it is time for us to push, to make changes. I still have hope and think it is time for us to get into action.”
Raised in the village of Gentilly in Becancour, Quebec, Villeneuve, the eldest of four siblings, initially studied science before he switched to cinema at the University of Quebec in Montreal. From there, he began his career making short films, winning Radio-Canada’s youth film competition, La Course Europe-Asie, in 1999. His first feature film, August 32nd on Earth premiered at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival and his second, Maelstrom, won Best Canadian Feature at the 2000 Toronto Film Festival. While his fourth film Incendies (2010) was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, it didn’t win, but the director took solace when it swept the 31st Genie Awards, winning eight including Best Director and Best Film and being named one of the top 10 films of that year by the New York Times.
In 2014, Hollywood took notice and Villeneuve directed Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal in the crime thriller Prisoners. His next feature, Enemy, brought him the Best Director prize from the 2nd Canadian Screen Awards and was honored as Best Canadian Film of the Year by the Toronto Film Critics Association. Two years later, he received both Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Director for Arrival.
While audiences worldwide have been enthralled with his adaptation of Herbert’s work, there was also some frustration that they only saw half of the story, a fact that Villeneuve is keenly aware of.
“I’m the one who asked to make the movie in two parts,” he admitted during its North American premiere at this past Toronto Film Festival. “I wanted at the beginning, to do both parts simultaneously, in the same time. For several reasons, it didn’t happen. I agreed with the challenge of making part one. And then we wait to see if the movie brings enough enthusiasm, which I think is an honest approach.”
And with both critical and commercial fervor, Villeneuve is pleased that enthusiasm dictated that soon he will be setting course to make part two.