Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic is already being hailed as a masterpiece – a stunning sci-fi spectacle which retells the story of Frank Herbert’s classic novel. But with a talented array of A-listers, it can be tough to keep track of the Dune cast. Do you know your House Atreides from your House Harkonnen?
Here are all the key figures and why they’re so important:
Played by: Timothée Chalamet
Young Paul Atreides is heir to the family throne and a very special boy. After years of training with his father’s military, Paul is a dab hand with a blade. Not to mention, he has a very special ability known as ‘the voice’ – a mystical skill which allows him to bend others to his will. Oh, and a prophecy says he’s destined to save his people from extinction – and the desert planet of Arrakis too.
Is he good? Chalamet brings a perfectly understated performance to play – bearing the weight of responsibility as he finds out his destiny has long been mapped out. It speaks volumes that the 25-year-old still stands out from what is a stacked cast of star talent.
Who played him last time? Paul was originally played by Kyle MacLachlan in the 1984 David Lynch version of Dune. Although Twin Peaks may disagree, there’s just no contest here – Timothée Chalamet is much better suited to the part.
Duke Leto Atreides
Played by: Oscar Isaac
Duke Leto Atreides is a man of duty and honour – albeit filtered through the military-industrial complex. Tasked with ruling and protecting the desert planet of Arrakis, Duke Atreides soon finds out that his new assignment is a poisoned chalice. Jealous of the family’s power and influence, the emperor has masterminded a plot to destroy them. But can the Duke find a way out for his family and his people?
Is he good? Oscar Isaac is brilliant as always – playing a noble peacekeeper who would rather broker an alliance with the locals than conquer them. But beneath the stoic dignity lies a burdened man who knows all too well that this is a trap. However, his pride and obligation bind him to the emperor’s will.
Who played him last time? Jürgen Prochnow took on the regal part in Dune 1984. However, Isaac plays the role with a grim sense of responsibility that really sets his interpretation of the Duke apart. It’s far closer to the Duke Atreides in Frank Herbert’s novel and for that reason, some may argue, it’s clearly the better performance.
Played by: Rebecca Ferguson
The Duke’s concubine, Lady Jessica, is Paul’s mother – raising him in the ways of the Bene Gesserit. The mysterious quasi-religious order is usually made up entirely of women, with Lady Jessica implored to give birth to a daughter. In defiance, she had Paul – teaching him their weird abilities as he grew older. Now, it’s up to her to keep him on the right track.
Are they good? Fergusson takes the role of Lady Jessica to new heights – pushing Paul to grow as part of his Bene Gesserit schooling, while also caring for him as his mother.
Who played her last time? Francesca Annis, but Ferguson redefines the role in Villeneuve’s version, adding subtlety amid her internal conflict.
Played by: Jason Momoa
Duncan Idaho is one of the Duke’s right-hand men. An expert swordsman and regular advance scout for House Atreides, Idaho is also a mentor to young Paul. In fact, their bond runs so deep that he and Paul clearly consider themselves to be surrogate brothers.
Are they good? Jason Momoa makes the role his own in every possible way. Idaho was originally more of a blank slate, but Momoa adds bucketloads of charm and charisma, turning Idaho into a swashbuckling hero for Paul to look up to.
Who played him last time? Richard Jordan was Idaho in Lynch’s film – and ended up one of the most unremarkable characters in that movie. Momoa is without doubt the superior Duncan.
Played by: Josh Brolin
Another of the Duke’s trusted aides, Gurney Halleck is a seasoned swordsman and weapon master who trains Paul in combat while Duncan is away on missions. A more stoic figure, he brings a level head and determination to House Atreides in the face of danger. More of a realist than anyone else, Gurney Halleck is the first to suspect a trap – and is the first on the frontline.
Are they good? Brolin reimagines the character for a modern audience – giving him a grim determination that provides a counterbalance to Idaho’s more adventurous temperament. It certainly makes a lot of sense and fits in nicely with the claustrophobic aesthetic of Villeneuve’s Dune. But it’s wildly different to the novel.
Who played him last time? Patrick Stewart! A much more faithful adaptation his was too. The book paints Halleck as a bardic figure, playing instruments and regaling the troops with a song. But while Brolin’s version couldn’t be further from this, it’s a refreshing change and one that works in the context of the modern movie.
Played by: Zendaya
A young Fremen warrior, Chani is largely seen in visions Paul has been having about his future. Eventually, they do meet and it seems their destinies are more bound than he realised. Originally a minor character in the novel, Villeneuve has promised that Chani will be more of a “co-protagonist” in the next film.
Are they good? Zendaya plays Chani with an air of irreverence, remaining mysterious and aloof inside Paul’s dream sequences, while bringing a rugged honesty to her performance as the real Chani.
Who played her last time? Sean Young’s Chani was only a supporting cast member and much like the earlier Halleck, he was more of a blank slate. Zendaya’s version is much more interesting.
Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
Played by: Stellan Skarsgård
Introducing the main villain of Dune – Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. As the leader of his house, the Baron previously ruled Arrakis, farming spice from its surface for the good of the empire. Chased off-world, the Baron wants his planet back, and agrees to help the emperor kill of House Atreides in return.
Are they good? Stellan Skarsgård plays the Baron for all he’s worth –a despicable, twisted villain for the ages. Physically deformed and downright monstrous in form, he resembles Hellraiser’s cenobites more than a human being.
Who played him last time? Kenneth McMillan‘s Baron is best remembered for the many disgusting boils and pustules that covered his face and body. Skarsgård’s take is a deeper character whose lust for power is rivalled only by his hunger for violence.
Glossu ‘Beast’ Rabban
Played by: Dave Bautista
A beast of a man who leads House Harkonnen’s forces, Glossu Rabban is a formidable foe. Responsible for subjugating the Fremen natives during Harkonnen’s occupation of Arrakis, Rabban is also the Baron’s nephew, putting him in a position of great power within House Harkonnen.
Are they good? Bautista isn’t seen much in Dune part one. His presence is mostly felt during flashbacks of Harkonnen’s occupation of Arrakis – but despite minimal screen time, you get enough of a sense that he’s not one to cross.
Who played them last time? Paul L. Smith’s Glossu is far more human than Bautista’s creepy henchman, though the latter’s commanding stature makes him a far more effective ‘Beast’.