During the 2022 Culture Summit Abu Dhabi, which began on Sunday, Hans Fraikin, Abu Dhabi film commissioner, was in discussion with Sam Kozhaya, executive vice president of operations and corporate development at Legendary Entertainment, the producer of Dune, in a panel entitled Dune: The Creation of a Blockbuster Film Franchise.
Fraikin and Kozhaya discussed the process of creating the sci-fi epic and Abu Dhabi’s role in the international success of the film.
“Abu Dhabi was an essential partner for us in the success of Dune,” said Kozhaya.
“They were a key contributor in the success and the 10 Oscar nominations, the six Oscar wins. We had such a great experience that we're back again for Dune part two.”
Based on the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert, Dune has seen a number of adaptations over the years, however none as internationally acclaimed by both critics and audiences as the 2021 film.
Much of the film’s success has been attributed to the storyline remaining faithful to Herbert’s rich novel, thanks to scriptwriters Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth, along with the uncompromising vision of writer and director Denis Villeneuve.
“To really create the world of Arrakis, first for Denis, he wanted the authenticity but grounded in reality,” Kozhaya said.
“He didn't want the audience to be taken out of the world of Dune. He wanted them completely immersed.”
A fundamental element of Dune’s success is the setting of the fictional planet. The Liwa desert, three hours from Abu Dhabi city, where filming took place, helped bring Arrakis, Herbert’s story and Villeneuve’s vision to life.
“It was the picturesque scenery, everything from the towering dunes, the beautiful vistas and really being able to capture the elements and being in the desert,” Kozhaya said.
Being close to a “well-appointed metropolitan city” such as Abu Dhabi was also crucial for filming, Kozhaya added, as the cast and crew, who were on a six-day shooting schedule, “needed a place to call home”.
“And also, having talented local crew was essential,” Kozhaya said. “And having the support that we needed and we could get in Abu Dhabi from facilities and working with film commissioners and other offices.”
Kozhaya confirmed plans to increase the size of the local crew this time around.
“We are estimating about 700 to 800 jobs we'll be creating in Abu Dhabi,” he said.
“And that's everything from local crew, extras, suppliers, vendors and the other people that will be associated with this.”
Legendary Films will also be hiring five interns from the UAE to experience first-hand what it would be like to work on the set of a film like Dune. The production company also plans to hold seminars in Abu Dhabi for aspiring filmmakers and technicians in the UAE to learn more about the different areas of film production.
“We thought it would be a great opportunity to give back knowledge,” Kozhaya said.
“We're going to have seminars on visual effects, on production, finance, producing, cinematography — we thought it'd be a great opportunity that while we're shooting here, that we can actually bring the talented crew to give some of these seminars.”
Kozhaya also revealed what audiences can expect to see from the sequel of the film, which has a planned release date of November 3, 2023.
“We'll continue with the world-building that we started in part one and really dial up the action in part two,” he said.
“We'll continue to see the warring factions, and how those stories unfold. And we'll see the returning cast like Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya and see their relationships take a more central role.”
In the session, Kozhaya also emphasised how much the crew and talent enjoyed their time in Abu Dhabi during filming.
“They learnt about Bedouin culture that they were surrounded by in the desert and they spent time learning about local culture,” he said.
“They really they felt the warmth of the people in Abu Dhabi, they felt the hospitality. And this time, it'll be a larger presence, again, with what we're doing with the internship programmes, with the seminars. So it's a great step forward.”
Scroll through the gallery below to see 'Dune' stars at the London premiere