The first trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming movie Dune has teased plenty of interesting visuals from the filmmaker’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal 1965 sci-fi novel. One character that did not get much screentime was Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, ruler of House Harkonnen and arch-rival to Duke Leto Atreides, father of the story’s protagonist Paul Atreides. In an interview, Villeneuve explained how his take on the Baron will delve deeper than previous versions of the character.
“I didn’t want the Baron to be a buffoon or caricature, I wanted him to have the feeling of strength, a strategist. I wanted the Baron to be seductive, someone who has a certain kind of sensuality to him. Most importantly, I wanted the Baron to have a deep intelligence.”
The Baron is the head of powerful House Harkonnen, who ruled the desert planet Arrakis before being forced to hand over the reins to Duke Atreides and his family, thus igniting the feud that the rest of the novel deals with. Aside from making the character of the Baron a deeper, three-dimensional character, Villeneuve spent a long time thinking about where the people of House Harkonnen came from, and how they fit into the world of Dune.
“Geidi Prime, the Harkonnen planet, is one where the sun is obscured most of the time by heavy clouds of pollution. It’s an artificial world, it’s a world made out of plastic and cut off from nature. Their skin is not used to sun, so they have to protect themselves from sunlight when they go on Arrakis. Their armor is almost closer to an astronaut suit than anything else. I tried, for each tribe coming from different planets, to see how they would use their technology to try and adapt. The Harkonnens are brutal colonizers, brutal invaders, but they are still vulnerable to the environment.”
Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, scion of House Atreides, and a young man with some unexpected innate abilities that make him both a target and the savior of his people. Paul is tasked with traveling across the planet Arrakis on a quest to ensure the future of his family and his people, even as malevolent forces that perform the bidding of the Baron and House Harkonnen race against Paul to lay claim to the planet’s most precious resource, a type of drug called ‘the spice’ that grants supernatural abilities to its user.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve from a script he co-wrote with Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts, Legendary Pictures’ Dune features a lead cast of Timoth&ée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, Zendaya as Chani, Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica, Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides, Stellan Skarsg&ård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, Javier Bardem as Stilgar, Chang Chen as Dr. Wellington Yueh, Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Dr. Liet Kynes, Charlotte Rampling as Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, Dave Bautista Glossu Rabban, David Dastmalchian as Piter De Vries, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, Stephen Henderson as Thufir Hawat, and Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck. The film is expected to arrive in theaters on December 18. Entertainment Weekly was the first to drop this news.