In a better dimension, we would’ve seen director Denis Villeneuve‘s Dune by now. But the COVID-19 pandemic ran roughshod over an entire year of movie release schedules, so the science fiction epic’s December 18, 2020 release date became an October 1, 2021 release date. It will also debut day-and-date on HBO Max, because this is the weird world in which we live now.

So instead of seeing Dune, we have to listen to the people who made it describe it. I recently sat down with actor Dave Bautista to talk about his work in the new Netflix horror/action film Army of the Dead, but we also found time to chat about Villeneuve’s upcoming film, in which he plays the villainous Glossu Rabban, a sadistic warlord. Among the words Bautista uses to describe the film: beautiful, different, dark, strange, epic. You know, the adjectives you’d hope for.

Based on the classic novel by Frank Herbert, Dune is a story of interstellar treachery and war, told on a dangerous desert planet where ruling families clash to control valuable resources. It feels like a world where fans of Game of Thrones and Star Wars can intermingle, having found something fresh to keep both parties excited.

When asked to describe Dune, Bautista grows audibly excited:

[The] world that he’s created is so far over my head. It’s so beautiful and different, and a lot of times dark and strange. But it’s something I never could have imagined. I just don’t have that mind. When I think about things, and when I think about directing, it’s all very contained, based on simple stories, a lot of times very simple and inspiring stories. And for someone to see something and create a world this big, a galaxy, a universe this big, it’s something that doesn’t comprehend, doesn’t compute in my brain. But it’s weird that he can do both. [Denis Villeneuve] can create these huge epic worlds and scenes, but at the same time just focus on the most simple things about a performance. He’s just a special guy, he’s got a special focus, and man, he’s a brilliant storyteller. Dune is special. I think people are going to be blown away. It’s going to be one of the most beautiful films that people have ever seen. But I think that people who are just diehard fans of Dune, of the novels, they’re going to be blown away. Because they don’t have anything, really, to reference in relation to the books. Now they will. They’ll have that visual reference. He took these characters, he took this world, and he’s taken them off the page and put them on screen. It’s epic.

Dune is a reunion for Bautista and Villeneuve, who previously collaborated on Blade Runner 2049. While his small role in that film is very different from the monster he plays in Dune, Bautista noted that his director’s attention to detail helped him create both characters:

[Denis Villeneuve], I always say this, and it’s something that’s really hard to convey in words, but how detailed he is in his performance. I wouldn’t have gotten nearly the love that I got from my small part in Blade Runner [2049] if he hadn’t just been all over me as far as performing. Down to the smallest details of how I walked, how I put my glasses on, how I took my glasses off. Just super up-close-and-personal and detailed. I had the most intimate conversations about putting my glasses on. [laughs] The simplest things. But that’s just the kind of director he is, man, he’s just so involved in the performance, which I loved. It was even more so on Dune. I think a lot of that was pressure that I put on myself. Because it felt different to me. Like, now he already has faith in me, he has expectations of me, so now I want to meet those expectations. So I put the pressure on myself so I can deliver for this guy. I love this guy. He’s opened the doors for me with Blade Runner, and I fought for that part, but man, that role opened a lot of doors for me. So anyway, I want to come through. I think you can find that same sentiment with every actor that works with Denis. He’s a special person and a special director, and at the end of the day, you want to hear him come out from behind that monitor and say, “I deeply love this.” That’s when you know Denis is happy.

If you’re unfamiliar with Dune on screen or on the page, perhaps the film’s official synopsis will help you out:

A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive.

Bautista can be seen next in Army of the Dead, which hits theaters on May 14, 2021 and streams on Netflix starting May 21, 2021.

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