In 1984, visionary director David Lynch did the impossible: he adapted Frank Herbert’s epic novel, Dune, into an ambitious live-action feature film. However, as we all know, this adaptation turned out to be a disaster for almost everyone involved.
Now, almost four decades later, “Dune” is back in the spotlight thanks to Denis Villeneuve’s brilliant adaptation. What was once thought of as an unfilmable series has become a potentially leading sci-fi franchise — a true testament to Villeneuve’s skills in outstanding sci-fi films.
However, one piece of news that should be quite significant for Dune fans is that the new film, slated to be released next November, will have Elvis’ star Austin Butler as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. For those of us who might not be all that acquainted with Herbert’s works, the name alone might not seem like much. Dune fans, however, are already theorizing what Feyd’s involvement could mean for the series moving forward.
Before we dive deeper into Austin Butler’s role, let’s start by getting an idea of who Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen is, and what his role in the upcoming Dune sequel could be.
The Harkonnen Drama
House Harkonnen was featured prominently in the 2021 film. This noble family serves virtually the same role in the film as they did in the 1965 novel — that is, ruining everything for the Atreides. In the original “Dune”, we got to see Baron Harkonnen giving command of Arrakis to his nephew, “Beast” Glossu Rabban Harkonnen, played by Dave Bautista from the “Guardians of the Galaxy”.
However, House Harkonnen has a bit of a leadership problem. While Baron Vladimir Harkonnen knows that he must pass the torch at some point, he knows that relying on someone like Rabban to lead an entire House would be madness, which is why he prefers Feyd for the role.
As you might have guessed, this doesn’t sit too well with Rabban. This sibling rivalry plays a somewhat central role in the upcoming film — so, for now, let’s just keep the spoilers to a minimum. What we can expect, however, is that there will be lots of scenes involving both Bautista and Butler, not to mention Timothée Chalamet, who is sure to return as the star of “Dune: Part Two”.
What is important to know about Feyd is that he was Baron Harkonnen’s favorite for multiple reasons. Not only is he a skilled warrior, but his cunning and leadership skills are almost unparalleled in Arrakis.
He holds the same grudge against the Atreides as the rest of the Harkonnen family does, so expect his character to butt heads with Paul Atreides on more than one occasion when “Dune: Part Two” comes around.
A Troubled Live-Action History
Perhaps one of the reasons why this adaptation of Dune has found success whereas the 1984 movie failed is how it handles the source material. Villeneuve and his team opted for an adaptation of just the first half of the first book, while Lynch went for the whole thing in just one two-hour-long film.
This means that this is not the first time that Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen has been in a live-action Dune film — he was in the 1984 film… and he was played by Sting. Yes, Sting the English musician. No, it wasn’t very good.
This time, however, Dune fans don’t need to hold their breath, as now we know that actor Austin Butler will be the one playing Feyd in the upcoming sequel.
Butler turned out to be a true revelation in the modern Hollywood landscape, landing coveted roles in some high-profile productions that have demonstrated his stellar acting chops. That said, to Butler, the experience of filming a movie as ambitious as “Dune: Part Two” has been truly eye-opening.
“It’s like walking on the set of any film that you admire,” Butler mentioned in a Variety interview. It’s safe to say that the jump from realistic dramas like “Elvis” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” to a sci-fi epic such as “Dune” must not be easy to make — but we have ample reason to believe that, if there’s someone who can do this effectively, that would be Austin Butler.
From recent interviews dealing with his role in “Dune: Part Two”, one thing has been made abundantly clear: the casting was on point when they chose Austin Butler to play the role of Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. Not only is he one of the most promising young faces in the entertainment industry right now, but he has also mentioned time and time again how much of a fan of the first film — and Denis Villeneuve — he is.
When asked about the first Dune film, he mentioned that “It [Dune] was a cinematic masterpiece.” He also mentioned how much he respects Villeneuve as a filmmaker, who — after the success of the first “Dune”, “Arrival”, and “Blade Runner 2049” — might already be considered the greatest sci-fi director of the current generation.
The actor has mentioned that starring in a large-scale sci-fi feature such as “Dune” has been “surreal.” “You feel sort of like a kid in your favorite film,” the actor commented. For him as a fan of the franchise and the talent involved in it both behind and in front of the cameras, joining the cast of “Dune: Part Two” sure sounds like the gig of a lifetime.
As for the future of the series after Part Two releases, Denis Villeneuve has already confirmed that there will be a “Part Three” sometime after the release of the Dune sequel. Considering the narrative potential of the book series, and how long Paul Atreides’ journey really is, it’s no surprise to hear that the director has been planning way ahead with this franchise.
One thing is for sure: if Part Two adheres to what happens between Feyd and Paul in the book, then fans are in for one heck of a cinematic event. After all, if there’s one filmmaker right now who knows how to film the fanciest interstellar rivalries, that’s Denis Villeneuve. November 17, 2023 can’t come soon enough!