Denis Villeneuve Wanted To Film Two Dune Movies Back To Back, But That Plan Got Axed

In some corners of the internet (present company included), rampant excitement over the fact that a filmmaker as capable and qualified as Denis Villeneuve would be attempting to translate "Dune" to the big screen has steadily turned into concern over the fact that "Dune" has all the makings of being the exact opposite of a "Movies are back, baby!" billion dollar-grossing crowd-pleaser.

As influential as the original Frank Herbert novel undeniably is, the target audience for the lore-heavy fantasy story has to be considered roughly on par with Villeneuve's last major project: "Blade Runner 2049." As that previous film performed at the box office very much like you'd expect a decades-later sequel to a cult classic would perform, it's understandable that fans would be nervous about getting to see a glowingly-reviewed Part 1 of "Dune" ... only for a sequel to never come to fruition. Ideally, Villeneuve would've managed to film both halves back-to-back but, as it turns out, those plans had to be adjusted.

Two Be or Not Two Be?

The most famous example of filming an entire series of movies all at once has to be Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings." At the time, epic fantasy movies were no sure thing at the box office and New Line Cinema was taking a mind-bogglingly massive gamble on the young, relatively unknown Kiwi filmmaker from New Zealand. Obviously, that bet paid off on an historic level and fans never had to worry about an incomplete story. Fast forward two decades later and "Dune" is scheduled to release in a very different moviegoing landscape. The ever-present pandemic has severely depressed the box office totals of any movie that doesn't start with the Marvel Studios logo ... although even then, "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" can only be considered to be exceeding pandemic-adjusted expectations.

That will obviously have an effect on "Dune," which will be released later this year both in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service. The industry and invested fans will have to hold their breaths to see whether the film performs well enough to justify a return trip to the sand dunes of Arrakis. Amid increasing second-guessing that Villeneuve should have tried to film Part One and Two either simultaneously or back-to-back, Villeneuve has set the record straight in an interview with Variety and revealed how that was, in fact, the initial plan.

"I wanted at the beginning to do the two parts simultaneously. For several reasons, it didn't happen, and I agreed to the challenge of making part one and then wait to see if the movie rings enough enthusiasm."

"As I was doing the first part, I really put all my passion into it, in case it would be the only one. But I'm optimistic."

It's at least encouraging to see that Villeneuve is taking the glass half-full approach, although one wouldn't exactly expect the filmmaker of a highly-anticipated movie to start publicly griping about an inevitable box office flop, either. Villeneuve clearly put everything he had into this first film and, as is the nature of the commercial aspects in creating art on such a massive scale, he must simply wait along with the rest of us to see if audience interest and a safe moviegoing environment will result in a sequel. In the meantime, Villeneuve teases how excited he would be to continue his exploration into the world, explaining that getting the introductory film out of the way will give him the chance to "...just have fun with cinema."

"If such a thing as 'Dune: Part Two' happens, I will say that it's going to be an insane playground for me."

"It's going to be just like pure cinematic pleasure for the second part. I don't want to speak for everybody on the team, but I will say that we really created on this movie a feeling of family and to re-unify everybody again together, that would be paradise."

Our fingers and toes remain crossed and all nearby wooden surfaces continue to be knocked on in the hopes that the filmmaker will get his wish. Until then, we'll have to wait until "Dune" releases on October 22, 2021 in theaters and on HBO Max.