How Dune's Atreides Family Were Modeled On The Romanoffs [Exclusive]

Denis Villeneuve's "Dune" is a breathtaking sci-fi epic, set in the distant future of a galactic empire. The sprawling tale covers everything from the rise and fall of empires to the power of destiny, and even manages a splash of colossal, extraterrestrial sand worms, threatening the lives of all who walk a particularly important desert planet. But before getting to matters of desert power or breaking down the details of the infamous sand walk, "Dune" introduces us to its core characters — the regal family of House Atreides.

You don't get to be a record-breaking sci-fi film without paying attention to the details you see, which is exactly what costume designer Bob Morgan was hired to handle. In an interview with /Film's Jack Giroux, Morgan recall the goosebumps he felt watching his work come to life on the grand, epic scale of "Dune." He also happened to talk through the decisions and inspiration that went into designing costumes for the Atreides family, to express their crucial royal status.

'A lot of wealth, a lot of power, and a bit of the Romanoffs.'

At the center of "Dune" is Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), his concubine, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), and their son, Paul (Timothée Chalamet). And between the three of them, they carry more than enough gravitas. When they first arrive onscreen, Duke Leto has recently accepted stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis, a dangerous world with a rich substance known as "spice" and lots of terrifying worms burrowed beneath the surface of the sand. Lady Jessica is royalty via her relationship with the Duke, but also happens to be a member of the mysterious, powerful religious sect known as the Bene Gesserit — a sisterhood with superhuman abilities, regarded as distinctly magical. Paul is the marriage of the two, a burgeoning leader of his aristocratic house, but also has a grander purpose he has yet to realize.

"Dune" must establish this all rather quickly, as it has much more to do. And what says more about people than their clothes? For Morgan, it was important that their status and power be reflected in his designs. So he thought of some comparable royalty and went from there. This is where the Russian royals came in, as a goal to aspire to. Speaking to /Film, Morgan described the Atreides style as:

"A lot of wealth, a lot of power, and a bit of the Romanoffs. We wanted to show they're coming from a place of age and richness and moisture and grain oceans and wealth and establishment, and that was the thought behind their dress uniforms and her [Lady Jessica's] dresses in the beginning."

The Atreides, as well as their ancestral home, the planet Caladan, were always meant to be "deep, rich and lush" from Morgan's perspective — a representation of their power, wealth and status in the world of "Dune." By contrast, Arrakis' dryness represented the Harkonnens as "oppressive and incredibly dire and dark." And importantly, these weren't separate ideas but required intersection, as the opposing worlds and characters clashed. This appeared even in the costumes; of Lady Jessica, Morgan noted,

"She obviously changes as they go to Arrakis, but you see them initially and then very kind of rich-dark colors and rich-real kind of money colors. It is a great contrast to Arrakis. They're sand colors, they're gray, and covered in dirt."

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