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Talking “Dune” with Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya

On Sunday, Oct. 18th, actors Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya sat down with a panel of college journalists to discuss their latest film, “Dune.” This large-scale production takes place in the year 10191 and depicts a world of intergalactic space travel and geo-political conflicts. The lead character, Paul Atreides (played by Timothée Chalamet), journeys to planet Arrakis, where his prophecies lie in wait (if you want a longer review of the film itself, check out my latest review).

Chalamet spoke about the deep relatability of Paul’s circumstances despite his intergalactic citizenship. Said Chalamet, “I think Paul’s circumstance within House Atreides is otherworldly. But I think the character that we meet in the beginning of the movie, the young man who is struggling with his identity… who he is in the world, not only to himself but to his loved ones, to the people to planet Caladan and after that planet Arrakis, I think those are things that all of us struggle with when we’re at that age.” “Dune,” at its core, is a coming-of-age story that focuses on the relationship between mother and son, as well as self and other. Chalamet’s acting performance rose to meet this challenge with grace, as he understood the lengths at which people would identify with this character. 

For Marvel alum Zendaya, joining this project felt crucial. “This felt like a no-brainer,” she said, “you have such a dream team of people that you could possibly be able to work with and I was like I’ll do whatever, let’s figure this out! So I’m very grateful to be a part of this.” Accompanied by actors such as Rebecca Ferguson, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem, and Oscar Isaac, these young co-stars expressed that they felt a bit out of their league; however, this only served to help Zendaya connect to her character, Chani. Zendaya said of her relationship with her character, “I think that she’s probably been through more than I have, but there’s a sense of a deeper wisdom to her. I’ve always been called ‘old lady,’ I’ve always been [like a] grandma since I was born. And I think [Chani] has that wise spirit, I think due part to both of us having to grow up in a more adult space and always, constantly, working with people who are so much older than us or being thrown into situations where you’re the youngest one in the room I think causes you to grow up a little bit faster. So, I think I can relate to that sense of… not necessarily just being able to be a normal teenager. There’s something I don’t just get to do.” While being on set in the deserts of Jordan and Abu-Dhabi certainly made these characters feel more tangible, Zendaya explained, “I don’t know why, but I just feel close to her.”

Adapted from Frank Herbet’s 1965 novel, “Dune” was almost certain to attract older audiences and original fans of the classic. Chalamet and Zendaya’s presence in this film has undoubtedly brought “Dune” to an entirely new generation of audiences and readers. While Herbert’s novel and the original 1984 film adaptation were suited to a different audience, many of the themes still remain relevant. Chalamet said, “fighting for what’s right socially, fighting for what’s right environmentally, standing up for groups that are easily oppressed or don’t have the agency to fight back… the movie is about many things and there’s many qualities to it but if young people can relate to what Chani or Paul are going through at the center of it… then we really succeeded.” 

While filming, Zendaya expressed the overwhelming moments that would take hold of her as she took on this project and faced the full burden of telling this story. She shared that, “my mom said this to me… I was stressing and… I always think really deeply about those things and ask a lot of people a lot of questions because I want to make sure I’m always doing the right thing for people and she said, ‘Zendaya, not everybody cares as much as you do,’ in a good way, right? You have to think about that and how to care without completely destroying yourself. I think a lot of young people feel that way with climate issues. That’s a common feeling and sometimes can feel a little helpless.” This film deals with the violence and hardships that come with a scarcity in natural resources and speaks to society about the social and environmental justice that comes along with this conflict. Young audiences today will relate to Paul, Chani, and their devastating circumstances. 

The relationships formed on and off the screen are central to captivating audiences. While Zendaya and Timothée shared many moments on the set of “Dune,” Zendaya expressed that Chalamet was not just a co-star, but “someone that [she] appreciate[s] and find valuable in [her] life.” They credited the closeness of the cast to the culture director Denis Villenueve created and are hopeful to be able to work with him again in the future.

It was a pleasure and privilege to get to hear these stars speak about a project they are so passionate about, and you certainly will be too! See “Dune” in theaters on October 22 and on HBO Max beginning October 21, 2021. 

View the photo above to catch a glimpse of the the college panel roundtable featuring Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya!

Alia Davis

CU Boulder '23

Alia is the Director of Outreach and a writer for Her Campus CU Boulder. She is a third year student majoring in International Affairs and Anthropology. When she isn't articles, she can typically be spotted on a run, watching Wes Anderson films, or re-reading Dune.
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