Dune 2 Proves Why Timothee Chalamet Is the Perfect Paul Atreides


Summary

  • Timothée Chalamet’s casting as Paul Atreides initially faced fan backlash due to his appearance, but he won them over with an exceptional performance.
  • Denis Villeneuve was determined to cast Chalamet as Paul Atreides, seeing the actor as the perfect fit for the role, despite criticism.
  • Chalamet’s portrayal in Dune: Part Two highlights Paul Atreides’ transformation into a powerful leader, showcasing the actor’s skill and range.



For nearly a decade, Denis Villeneuve has reshaped the modern cinematic landscape of the science-fiction genre. The characters he’s created and adapted, and the actors he has cast for those roles, have since become trademarks of their respective franchises. Ryan Gosling is now just as synonymous with Blade Runner 2049 as he was with romantic comedies during the 00s. Most recently, Dune: Part Two has cemented Timothée Chalamet as the definitive Paul Atreides.

The entire cast of Dune and Dune: Part Two are now culturally synonymous with their respective roles. Austin Butler portrayed a terrifying Feyd-Rautha, Zendaya was perfect as Chani, and it felt like Jason Momoa was born to play Duncan Idaho. At the top of that list is Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides. So much so, that it’s now hard to imagine that many fans were upset when the actor was initially cast in the role.


Dune: Part Two

4.5/5

Release Date
March 1, 2024

Runtime
166 Minutes

Main Genre
Sci-Fi


Why Dune Fans Didn’t Want Timothée Chalamet to Play Paul Atreides

Before Denis Villeneuve brought his version of Dune to life in 2021, the main visual reference for the characters was David Lynch’s Dune, released way back in 1984. Lynch’s version featured Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides. The actor was 25 at the time of shooting and brought an adult-like appearance to the role. While he was far from your typically muscular hero, he still had the appearance and presence of a fully grown man and imbued that in his performance as Paul.


As a result, some fans were quick to dismiss Timothée Chalamet as being too young and boyish-looking for the role when he was cast in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. These fans believed that Chalamet’s naturally smaller frame would detract from Paul Atreides’s power and presence as the Lisan Al Gaib. Before he was given a chance to prove himself, Chalamet was already labeled unbelievable as Paul. And then, opinions drastically changed following the release of Dune. Timothée Chalamet gave a career-best performance in both films and is now inseparable from his role as Paul Atreides to many Dune fans.

Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides & Austin Butler as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnin in a blade fight in Dune: Part Two
Warner Bros. Pictures


2021’s Dune cemented Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, but Dune: Part Two confirmed why he was so perfect for the role. Paul’s character arc in the first two films is that of a flawed, reluctant leader. Paul Atreides is a whiny, undisciplined teenager in the first movie, much like many teenagers who don’t have as large of a weight on their shoulders. Then, in Dune: Part Two, Paul begins to grow as he is faced with the reality of life on Arrakis after his house falls victim to the Bene Gesseritt’s political scheming. Chalamet gives an excellent performance as a character torn between wanting a ‘normal’ life and being pushed down the path as a leader dictated by grand prophecy.


Villeneuve also began to hint at Paul Atreides’s more villainous nature in Dune: Part Two, and Chalamet’s performance helped realize these elements on-screen. After Paul drinks the Water of Life in Dune Part Two, his entire presence changes. Despite still having the physical appearance of a teenager, Paul Atreides carries the psychological weight and aura of a powerful leader and warmonger. It takes incredible skill as an actor to pull off such a drastic twist of character. But Chalamet navigates it perfectly. Following Dune Part Two, Chalamet’s performance was one of the first things critics and audiences praised as masterful, in a franchise filled with masterful moments.

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Timothée Chalamet Was Denis Villeneuve’s First & Only Choice for Paul Atreides


Hilariously, while Timothée Chalamet was the last choice of some Dune fans, he was the first choice of Denis Villeneuve. As discussed by Villeneuve when talking about the casting process for Dune in an interview with Total Film Magazine. When developing 2021’s Dune, Villeneuve said that Timothée Chalamet was the only actor he wanted to play Paul Atreides.

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Part of this casting decision came from Chalamet’s acting talents, and part of it was due to Villeneuve’s own connection with the actor. Villeneuve (indirectly) addressed the criticisms thrown at Chalamet’s casting. He told Total Film that he looked like Timothée Chalamet when he was a teenager. He then wanted to incorporate this aspect into Paul’s character in his adaptation of Dune. Villeneuve said, “So maybe it’s like vengeance [laughs]. I created my hero. He looks like what I used to look like, and he’s kicking the ass of the big guys, you know? It’s like Revenge Of The Nerds.”

Denis Villeneuve was so certain that Timothée Chalamet would make the perfect Paul Atreides, he didn’t plan around the actor potentially saying no. Villeneuve famously had no Plan B if Chalamet rejected the project, as he couldn’t imagine another actor in the role. In the same interview, Villeneuve went on to comment:

“Honestly, if he had said no, I don’t know what I would have done. There would be no Dune, maybe.”


Ironically, Timothée Chalamet better resembles the Paul Atreides in Frank Herbert’s novel than Kyle MacLachlan. In the book, Paul Atreides is only 15 years old. While Hollywood teen dramas might say otherwise, most 15-year-old boys aren’t very big, and Chalamet’s natural slight frame adds a layer of realism to Paul’s character. Paul Atreides’s imposing dominance as the Lisan Al Gaib isn’t formed from the actor’s build but from the character’s actions. The juxtaposition between Paul Atreides’ teenage appearance and his quick wit and brutal combat skills builds his sense of power and awe as a messianic figure.

Timothée Chalamet is now synonymous with Paul Atreides. Dune Part Two is one of the actor’s highest-rated and highest-grossing projects. And, with Dune: Messiah beginning to loom over the cinematic horizon, fans cannot wait to see Timothée Chalamet bring the unfettered and villainous aspects of Paul’s character to life.




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