Set to release in the United States this Friday, Warner Bros.’ “Dune” has sparked conversation throughout campus and the entertainment industry.
Warner Bros. hosted a virtual roundtable event for college journalists across the country on Oct. 17.
Student journalists from top campus papers got the chance to discuss their thoughts and questions on the film, which they were given access to prior to its release in the U.S.
Two of the film’s biggest stars — Timothée Chalamet, who plays the protagonist, Paul Atreides, and Zendaya, who portrays Chani — were present at the roundtable.
Denis Villeneuve, the film's director and producer, said in a press release that he discovered“Dune” – a 1965 science-fiction novel by Frank Herbert – as a teenager and quickly became fascinated with the story. Little did he know then that just a few decades later, he’d assemble and direct a cast of internationally renowned actors for a modern film adaptation of the text.
The roundtable discussion
Despite the unique emotional and environmentally challenging circumstances their characters face in the harsh desert of Arrakis, both Zendaya and Chalamet said they felt personally connected to their roles.
“I think the character we meet at the beginning of the movie, a young man struggling with his identity, is something that all of us struggle with,” Chalamet said. “(In him) I see, certainly when I was younger, that lack of identity and the struggle to find it. The journey Paul is on is much more significant than any journey I've ever been on, but the ability to grow — not only as a young man, but also to face his prophecy — was incredibly exciting as an actor.”
In an environment as physically taxing as Arrakis, Zendaya said her character was forced to grow up quickly. As a young actress, she said she resonates with this.
“Where I connect with Chani is a sense of a deeper wisdom to her,” Zendaya said. “I’ve always been called an old lady — like, since I was born, I’ve always been grandma. I think part of both of us had to grow up in a more adult space and grow up a little bit faster. I can relate to that sense of not necessarily being able to just be a normal teenager.”
“Dune” was previously adapted for the big screen in 1984, but the latest Warner Bros. adaptation is expected to dominate theaters. It has already earned near $130 million at the international box office despite still being unreleased in the U.S.
Given the scale, premise and ambition of the film, both Zendaya and Chalamet said they were greatly excited by the opportunity.
“I’m a huge fan of (Villeneuve) and his work,” Zendaya said. “This felt like a no-brainer. I saw the cast being assembled, and I was like, ‘I just wanna get in the room.’ So I kind of pursued it quite aggressively.”
Chalamet said that virtually everything about the opportunity was attractive, from the development of an award-winning cast to the film’s unique plot.
“I’ve only worked on one movie of this size, and it’s this,” he said
Warner Bros. has hosted college roundtables for a number of films, including “Judas and the Black Messiah” and “Godzilla vs. Kong.”
According to UNC student Kaitlin O’Sullivan, UNC's Warner Bros. ambassador, the roundtables are held to give collegiate journalists the opportunity to interview actors about their experiences and write about the latest cinematic pieces to generate publicity.
“What I think is really cool about Warner Bros. is the diversity of stories that they cover,” O’Sullivan said. “You have films that are relevant to the time. A big reason why they did ‘Judas and The Black Messiah’ was because of the Black Lives Matter movement. It was culturally relevant and struck a chord with a lot of audiences.”
O’Sullivan said she feels “Dune” is a unique story that fits well into Warner Bros.’ repertoire.
“I think it's really cool that the original novel was written in the 1960s,” she said. “The fact that they're putting a new modern spin on it is really interesting, and I'm excited to see how they do that. But also, I’m never going to be upset about watching Zendaya and Timothée Chalamet on the same screen.”
“Dune” is set to premiere in the U.S this Friday, Oct. 22.
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