The Casting Of Princess Irulan Suggests Denis Villeneuve Is Gearing Up For Dune Messiah

Denis Villeneuve is definitely walking the golden path. He petitioned hard for his "Dune" film to get a sequel (and even went as far as adding "Dune: Part One" to the movie's title card) and now it looks like he's blowing some big bucks on casting for the finally greenlit "Part Two." You can't deny his passion for the series, which fills every interview he does about the movie, and frankly, jumps right off the screen. If Villeneuve's star-studded casting of one of the most background characters in "Dune" is a sign of anything, it's that he's still got some sneaky tactics up his sleeves when it comes to convincing a studio to let him make a sequel. Essentially, it feels like he's gunning for more than two "Dune" movies. It's got big God Emperor energy.

Who is Princess Irulan and why does she sound so familiar?

The "Dune: Part 2" casting news comes straight from THR, which reports that Florence Pugh ("Black Widow," "Little Women") is in talks to take on the role of Princess Irulan. While it sounds like an exciting role, the princess doesn't make much of an appearance in the first "Dune" novel until the very end of the story. Author Frank Herbert loves to end his books with a sweet reveal/cliffhanger, and while the princess is definitely involved, she's not quite an agent of change.

If her name sounds strangely familiar to you, it might be because her main contribution to the first book comes in the form of chapter quotes. Almost every chapter of "Dune" is introduced with a quote from one of a series of books written about Paul by the princess. There's the "Manual of Muad'Dib" and "A Child's History of Muad'Dib" and "The Humanity of Muad'Dib" and there are truly so many more I could list. Not off the top of my head, I 100% had to google that. It's just one of those fun and confusing "Dune" things. You start the book and you're like, "Who is this woman? Why is she telling me about a book within this book?" And by the end of the novel she feels like an old friend. Think of it this way, if you started "Dune" and quit halfway through chapter three, you've read her name at least three times!

"Dune Messiah" is another story. Princess Irulan has much more of a speaking role in the second "Dune" book and is intricately involved in the plot, both romantically and politically. Pugh is an incredibly talented and popular actress, casting her in a role that can be relegated to a background character, or one that could even be cut for a film adaptation, might be a waste. But giving her a sliver of time in a movie to tease her appearance in a subsequent film? Now that's a good marketing move. And a good creative move. It's just a good move in general.

He who controls the sequel controls the universe

This isn't the first time Villeneuve has made his interest in adapting "Dune Messiah" known. Back when "Dune" was released in October 2021, Villeneuve told Entertainment Weekly:

I always envisioned three movies. It's not that I want to do a franchise, but this is "Dune", and "Dune" is a huge story. In order to honor it, I think you would need at least three movies. That would be the dream. To follow Paul Atreides and his full arc would be nice.

It makes sense that Villeneuve would want to see Paul's story arc through. The "Dune" series might stretch way beyond the confines of "Dune Messiah," but in many ways, the sequel wraps up Paul's grand storyline and strikes a darker, more adult tone. If the book "Dune" is a surreal coming of age tale, "Dune Messiah" is a severe reminder that growing up and having responsibilities absolutely sucks. And I'm not kidding, one of Herbert's prevailing themes is "Dune" is the deconstruction of the superhero archetype and the exploration of power's total corruption. With "Dune," Herbert extends the storyline of a typical hero's journey, and shows us what happens after everyone supposedly lives happily ever after. Turns out, there are far more giant worms involved than you thought.

As a fan and reader, I would love to see Villeneuve continue to get an insane budget to adapt a trilogy... But I've been thinking about this for a while, and hear me out here, why stop there? Let the man adapt them all. I want to see murder space tigers (not a spoiler) and worm presidents (also not a spoiler) and drug orgies (still not a spoiler) on the big screen! Let's ride this baby all the way to "Chapterhouse: Dune" and then let's stop there. I mean it. No more, no less.