'Dune' Director Denis Villeneuve Spent A Year Perfecting The Sandworm Design

There has not yet been a truly successful adaptation of Frank Herbert's seminal sci-fi classic Dune. Directors have tried and failed to bring Herbert's dense sci-fi novel to the small and big screen, but ended up stumbling over the more audacious and weirder parts of his story. That is why Denis Villeneuve is working hard to get every little detail right about the sandworms for his upcoming feature film adaptation. The giant, deadly monsters that inhabit the planet of Arrakis are essential to the narrative of the story, even as they've been the subject of many a phallic comparison. So Villeneuve spent the better part of a year perfecting the design of the sandworm so that they — and his Dune — can be taken seriously.

In a recent interview with Empire Magazine, Denis Villeneuve describes the year-long process that went into designing the sandworms, the original inhabitants of the desert planet of Arrakis, the only planet in which the highly-demanded psychotropic drug known as "spice" can be found:

"We talked about every little detail that would make such a beast possible, from the texture of the skin, to the way the mouth opens, to the system to eat its food in the sand. It was a year of work to design and to find the perfect shape that looked prehistoric enough."

The imagery of the sandworms are synonymous with the Dune series, appearing in almost every installment of the saga, and gracing the cover of many a Dune book. Though Herbert's inspiration for the sandworms of his series were the dragons of European mythology that guard treasure, the popular image of the sandworm comes from David Lynch's 1984 film, which depicted the massive creatures as fleshy, phallic-looking monsters. It's actually quite an impressive design, but the inappropriate comparisons are something that I'm sure Villeneuve wants to avoid. Though we have yet to see what the sandworms of Villeneuve's Dune look like, they're apparently cool enough to earn Javier Bardem's obsession.

Aside from the sandworms, Dune's ridiculously good-looking cast includes Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides, Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck, Rebecca Ferguson as Paul's mother Jessica, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, Stellan Skarsgard as Baron Harkonnen, Zendaya as Chani, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, Javier Bardem as Stilgar, Charlotte Rampling as Reverend Mother Mohiam, David Dastmcalchian as Piter De Vries, Chang Chen as Dr. Yueh, and Dave Bautista as the Baron's nephew Rabban.

Here is the official synopsis for Dune:

A mythic and emotionally charged hero's journey, Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet's exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity's greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive.

Dune is currently slated to hit theaters on December 18, 2020.