Akira Kurosawa Was One Of The Many Inspirations For The Costumes Of Dune [Exclusive]

It's a well-known fact that the work of the legendary Japanese filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa, had a big influence on "Star Wars." It's not that hard to connect the dots between "Star Wars" and Frank Herbert's classic science fiction novel, "Dune," either. What you might not have realized is that Kurosawa also had an influence on the costume design of Denis Villeneuve's new film adaptation of "Dune."

/Film's own Jack Giroux recently conducted an interview with Bob Morgan, one of the costume designers for "Dune." In that interview, Morgan shared how House Atreides in "Dune" was modeled on the House of Romanoff, the last royal family of Russia, who were executed after the 1917 revolution.

Here's what Morgan had to say about Kurosawa's influence on "Dune:"

"Kurosawa was so inspirational to me as a young man. I think I was probably 18 or 19, I was so caught up in the story and then I also thought, they dressed all these people. They designed all of this, and looking at the masses and thinking, it's just so vivid, so beautiful and so powerful. Then when I had an opportunity to do this, I did think about Kurosawa.

"It's one thing to have one person standing there, it's another thing to have 200 people standing there. I remember the day we lined up the Harkonnen soldiers, for the first time in the uniform in the dark, wow. Now that's a wall or something. We had replicated 200 of them by standing in line or marching through the set in formation."

Morgan doesn't mention any specific Kurosawa titles there, but it sounds like he's talking more about the overall impression of seeing hundreds of soldiers in uniform than using specific design elements from Japanese costumes as a visual reference for "Dune."

Kurosawa, Star Wars, and Dune

When some viewers think of Kurosawa, their mind may go to his samurai films first, and titles like "Yojimbo" and "Seven Samurai" do continue to have an influence on "Star Wars," as evidenced by the recent anime series, "Visions." However, Kurosawa also gave us a number of other historical dramas and epics, much like Shakespeare, whose plays Kurosawa transposed into feudal Japan in "Throne of Blood" and "Ran." The scale of films like these seems like it could have been a reference point for Morgan with "Dune."

As both a Kurosawa fan and a "Star Wars" fan — and now more of a "Dune" fan — this year has given me a better appreciation for Herbert's 1965 novel and how it was all wrapped up in the genealogy of pop culture even before 2021. The book obviously pre-dated "Star Wars," and George Lucas' film has numerous similarities. There's a desert planet (Tatooine instead of Arrakis), Sand People (Tusken Raiders instead of Fremen), and magic mind tricks (played by space wizards, the Jedi, instead of space witches, the Bene Gesserit). 

"Return of the Jedi" even incorporated a sand monster — the almighty Sarlacc, in the appropriately named Dune Sea — instead of sandworms. Villeneuve's "Dune" also features a scene where Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), our resident Chosen One (or avatar of a self-fulfilling Chosen One prophecy), turns off the engine in his X-Wing Ornithopter and surrenders himself to the flow instead of the Force.

It's interesting to hear that "Dune" flows with a bit of Kurosawa's spirit in addition to Herbert's. The film is currently showing in theaters and on HBO Max.