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Dune (2021): 10 Best Behind-The-Scenes Facts | ScreenRant

Frank Herbert's Dune series has been called a complex sci-fi opus that's unfilmable (book fans often discredit the ambitious but flawed 1984 version by David Lynch), presenting director Denis Villeneuve with quite a challenge in telling one of the genre's most famous --and multi-layered-- stories. Despite the odds, he has showcased the alien world of Arrakis and revealed the purpose of legacy hero Paul Atreides, pushing the parameters of cinema at the same time.

RELATED: Dune & 9 Other Sci-Fi Novels That Were Adapted To Film More Than Once

With a compilation of in-depth interviews and exclusive Q and A panels with the director, the VFX supervisor, and the stacked cast of the "spice opera" that includes Timothée Chalamet, Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, and several other A-listers, the making of Dune turns out to be as remarkable as the movie itself.

10 It Was A Long And Brutal Shoot

It's clear that Arrakis is one of sci-fi's harshest planets, and it wasn't brought to life through greenscreens and the magic of CGI. Instead, Villeneuve took his cast to the sprawling deserts of Jordan, where they toiled for months at a time under the blazing sun, creating a movie --and an experience-- they will never forget.

While speaking with Stephen Colbert, the cast explained how the harsh conditions --described as "Mother Nature engulfing you"-- of the shoot made them become a tight-knight unit forged by grueling days spent in some of the most inhospitable terrains in the world (according to Chalamet, shooting days could reach 120 degrees). It's not hard to see how their struggles contributed to authentic and honest performances.

9 It Stripped Away The Actors' Egos

The cast is undeniably massive, incorporating some of the biggest names in Hollywood today, from Timothée Chalamet and Josh Brolin to Oscar Isaac and Jason Momoa. It's not difficult to imagine all of the different egos on set coming into conflict, but the manner of the production ensured that would never happen.

In the same interview with Colbert, actors Rebecca Ferguson and Josh Brolin explained how being in the middle of the desert made them realize how insignificant they were. Brolin commented on how the project revealed "the things that get in the way of connecting," which is true to the spirit of the book, which focused on the importance of community and the capacity of adaptation.

8 It Has Relatively Little CGI

According to an interview with Villeneuve for the Shangai International Film Festival, only "real sets could bring true inspiration" to the movie, and aside from filming in a notoriously extreme shooting location like Jordan, enormous sets were constructed in Budapest for the indoor portions (such as the Emperor's palace on Arrakis). CGI was still used in the movie for scenes involving things like hundreds of spice harvesters or sandworms, but a large majority of its sets and props were practical.

In most blockbusters today, filming with greenscreens and having entire environments made with CGI are expected, but some level of believability can be lost with an overreliance on the technology. By building practical sets and using CGI only to enhance what's already been constructed, the actors can react to a real environment, and even the most bizarre sci-fi planets can seem like real places.

7 Timothée Chalamet's Performance Made Denis Villeneuve Cry

In the same interview with Colbert, Villeneuve admitted to crying in one of the first few days of filming over a scene involving Timothée Chalamet's performance as Paul Atreides. The director was crying "tears of joy" because he realized he hadn't made a mistake casting Chalamet -- his instincts were right, and the young actor was indeed the perfect person to bring Dune's prophetic hero to life.

RELATED: Timothée Chalamet Is The Perfect Paul Atreides For Dune – These 10 Past Roles Show Why

Amazing visual effects and wonderful cinematography will only serve as distractions if actors aren't able to effectively convince viewers that what they're experiencing is real. Though Chalamet looks young, he has an extensive filmography of very dramatic roles and possesses a groundedness that allows him to seem both innocent and wise, a perfect amalgamation for the mercurial character of Paul.

6 Giant Platforms Were Created For The Sandworm Effects

According to OSSA Movies, VFX Supervisor Paul Lambert incorporated giant platforms on rigs placed in the middle of the desert, where the sand was placed on top of them and actors positioned themselves like they were in the dunes. When a sandworm "passed" beneath them, the platform would rumble and shake, and the actors' limbs would visibly start "sinking" into the earth.

Practical visual effects on this scale are costly and sometimes considered cumbersome, but under the right circumstances can generate genuine reactions from actors, and save the emphasis for the actual sandworm when it finally makes its impressive appearance.

5 The Ships Were Real

In the same interview clip from OSSA Movies, Lambert explained how many of the ships were created using real practical effects, such as the 'thopters that were constructed using gimbals on the highest hills in Budapest. Actors could sit inside their cockpits and be moved by the effects crew in whatever way was necessary for the scene.

RELATED: 10 Amazing Sci-Fi Movies That Didn’t Use CGI

With a means to raise, lower, pivot, and rotate the 'thopter on an axis, the use of the gimbal makes something otherworldly feel more real, and therefore the dramatic tension experienced by the actors piloting it in dangerous situations translates into a more captivating and exciting scene for the fans.

4 Interiors Were Constructed To Reflect The Culture On Arrakis

Looking at some of the interior shots of the Emperor's palace, fans can see fresco paintings and other artwork covering the walls. Not only were they hand-made by expansive design teams for the movie, but they were also created to reflect the culture of the people on Arrakis. One huge fresco showcasing the sandworms being used for their spice was meant to look like it had been built by Fremen working for the governor.

This attention to detail, much of which may go unnoticed by the casual viewer, is reminiscent of the costumes of the Lord of the Rings movies, where Elven robes and Dwarfish armor were designed with runes and phrases that might only be appreciated after a 10th viewing (or never at all) but were meant to add to the depth of the world-building.

3 Stellan Skarsgård Spent Over 80 Hours In The Makeup Chair

According to an interview with IndieWire, veteran actor Stellan Skarsgård spent almost 30% of his time working on the movie in the makeup chair (about 8 hours total a day). Skarsgard professed to "not do much acting" himself because most of his intimidating presence comes from "the power of his physicality" and the suit he was fitted in as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.

Harkonen's corpulence is well-documented in Herbert's novel and is a defining part of his character as someone whose defining quality is greed and avarice. He feels entitled to luxury and power, and his pursuit of it has made him ironically more physically dependent on apparatus to keep him alive.

2 There Were Over 1,000 Costumes Made

Costume designers Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan created more than 1,000 costumes for the movie, taking inspiration from Greek and Roman mythology and the dramatic tragedy that defines the source material. The stillsuits, one of the most famous garments from the books and designed to preserve the wearer's moisture, had to be created based on a live cast of the actors. This worked out well, considering the actors' movements technically "activated" the suit, requiring them to be as form-fitting as possible.

Not only are there elements of Greek and Roman tragedies in the book, but by using costumes inspired by antiquity, the movie achieves a timeless, regal aspect that works surprisingly well even in the far reaches of space.

1 Hans Zimmer Invented New Musical Instruments For The Score

A huge fan of the original books, Hans Zimmer readily agreed to compose the music for the movie, though the pandemic made it an even bigger challenge. According to Variety, forced out of his comfort zone, he ended up inventing new instruments and also developed his own language for the choral arrangements, making the score sound like it incorporated music "from another world."

It's important that the sounds of Arrakis have a sense of a different culture and an alien landscape, without borrowing too heavily from the identifiable sounds of Earth. Music is one of the most important ways viewers are transported into a movie's narrative, and Zimmer knew fans needed to feel like they were in an entirely different universe.

NEXT: 10 Movies To Watch To Get Excited For Dune

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