Dune Villain Baron Harkonnen Was Inspired By Marlon Brando In Apocalypse Now [Exclusive]

Author Frank Herbert famously pulled from many different sources for inspiration when crafting his original "Dune" novel in 1965, but the story itself proved to be as widely influential as any sci-fi or fantasy tale that we've seen in the time since — even leading to some surprising echoes of "Dune" in unexpected places. Though many of its spiritual successors (chiefly "Star Wars") would end up beating the property to the big screen, it's still perfectly fitting that Denis Villeneuve's adaptation of the sprawling epic would, in turn, pay homage to the greats that came before it. As it turns out, Villeneuve and his entire creative team traced their influences back to one of the most revered movies of all time: Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now."

Influences and Inspirations

Upon its release, "Dune" ended up giving viewers a little crash course in film history. For instance, it's not terribly surprising that the director behind "Blade Runner 2049" would capture our first extended look at the city of Arrakeen by evoking very similar sequences of the camera floating over immense cityscapes in both the original "Blade Runner" and Villeneuve's masterful 2017 sequel. That's not where all the cinematic references end, however. To their credit, many on Twitter quickly put two and two together and drew parallels between the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (played by Stellan Skarsgård) and Colonel Kurtz in "Apocalypse Now," the legendary officer-turned-warlord who was brought to life through an unforgettable performance by Marlon Brando.

Well, those parallels weren't by accident according to Bob Morgan, a co-costume designer on "Dune" who has previously worked as a costumer on "Speed" and costume designer on "Inception," "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," "Live by Night," and "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil." /Film's Jack Giroux caught up with Morgan and dug into how Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" couldn't help but seep into their vision for the monstrous villain Baron Harkonnen.

"[Fellow costume designer Jacqueline West] mentioned Colonel Kurtz from 'Apocalypse Now.' It made so [much] sense, like, oh yeah [Laughs]. He is that kind of brooding guy. Just that sweat. I think that was one of those movies I saw three times as a kid, because I was so blown away by it. Little did I know, years later I'd be tapping into it. It's all derivative, right? We're affected by what we've seen and experienced in our lives. You bring all of that forward whether consciously or subconsciously."

The specific mannerisms of Baron Harkonnen wiping the sweat off his face in our first introduction to the villain in "Dune" clearly parallels Brando's Kurtz doing much of the same when we finally meet him late in "Apocalypse Now," but Morgan's comments show how the similarities go much deeper than the surface. With "Dune: Part Two" officially moving forward and more screen time opening up for those who may have been a bit underserved in the first film, we can expect Villeneuve and his team to sneak in even more references and homages to their favorite stories.

"Dune" is currently playing in theaters and on HBO Max where available.