Advertisement

How “Dune Messiah” informs Zendaya’s expanded role in “Dune: Part Two”

How “Dune Messiah” informs Zendaya’s expanded role in “Dune: Part Two”

Even if director Denis Villeneuve isn't able to make a third film in this sci-fi universe, he wanted to use Chani to introduce critiques from the later books.

Even as 2021’s Dune succeeded at the pandemic box office and cruised to six Oscar wins, many viewers were left with a similar question: Why wasn’t there more Zendaya? The Euphoria star plays the Fremen desert warrior Chani in director Denis Villeneuve’s big-screen adaptations of Frank Herbert’s iconic sci-fi novel, but she was only on the set of the first film (which filmed its Arrakis scenes in Abu Dhabi and Jordan’s Valley of the Moon) for a single week.

“After that wonderful week I had, I really wanted to come back,” Zendaya tells EW in our new cover story on Dune: Part Two. “I listened to the book over and over again to see if there was anything that I missed, or things about her that I could hold onto.”

But to her delight (and hopefully that of viewers), Chani’s role in Dune: Part Two is expanded even beyond her presence in Herbert’s book.

“In the second part of the book, Chani and Lady Jessica are a bit more in the background — which I didn't like, because I am absolutely in love with both characters,” Villeneuve says. “I felt it was more meaningful to give them more substance and presence, their own agendas.”

Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros. Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya in 'Dune: Part Two.'
Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros. Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya in 'Dune: Part Two.'

In Dune: Part Two, in theaters March 1, Chani helps teach Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) the ways of her people: how to eat food laced with the spice melange, how to fight with a crysknife, how to ride a sandworm. They even begin to fall in love.

But the romance between Chani and Paul is complicated. As much as she cares for him, Chani is steadfastly opposed to what he represents politically. The Fremen want to defeat the Harkonnens who have long oppressed them, but Chani isn’t sure if that’s worth falling under the leadership of a different pale-skinned off-worlder in the form of Paul.

“You have to earn it,” Zendaya says of Dune’s romance. “It’s harder for her to love this person because of what they represent to her and her having to get over that. It’s constantly something that she's battling inside of herself. That gave me something more to hold onto, and I really appreciated that. It was fun to figure out and live with her a little bit longer, because a week wasn't enough!”

Her internal conflict is also a change from the book Dune, where Chani is a steadfast supporter of her messianic lover. But Villeneuve thought his adjustment would be a way of introducing critical ideas from Herbert’s second book, Dune Messiah, into the story earlier.

“When Frank Herbert wrote Dune, he was disappointed at how people perceived Paul,” Villeneuve explains. “In his mind, Dune was a cautionary tale — a warning against charismatic figures. He felt that Paul was perceived as a hero, when he wanted to do the opposite. So in order to correct that, he wrote Dune Messiah, a kind of epilogue that makes it very clear this story is not a victory, it’s a tragedy.”

Villeneuve continues, “With humility, I hope that this adaptation is closer to Frank Herbert’s original intentions. I used Chani’s character to do so. I gave her a different agenda, and used her to bring a different perspective to the story.”

<p>Peter Ash Lee</p> 'Dune: Part Two' stars Zendaya and Florence Pugh

Peter Ash Lee

'Dune: Part Two' stars Zendaya and Florence Pugh

Villeneuve has already told EW that he wants to make a third Dune film based on Dune Messiah. If Dune: Part Two performs as well or better than its predecessor at the box office, that could very well happen. If it does, viewers should expect a similar expansion of Florence Pugh’s role as Princess Irulan that Zendaya got in this movie.

“When I approached Zendaya for Part One, I said, ‘I'm going to introduce your character, and if it is a second movie, then you will be one of the main protagonists.’ And she agreed,” Villeneuve says. “I made the same deal with Florence. Her character is introduced in Part Two, but then if there is an adaptation of Dune Messiah, of course Princess Irulan is one of the main characters in that story.”

Want more movie news? Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free newsletter to get the latest trailers, celebrity interviews, film reviews, and more.

Related content:

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.