'It was really surreal': Timothee Chalamet on filming 'Dune' in Abu Dhabi and Jordan

The sci-fi epic, which also stars Jason Momoa, Oscar Isaac and Zendaya, was partly filmed in the Abu Dhabi desert

In Frank Herbert's 1965 novel, the fictional planet of Arrakis is an arid, desert landscape dominated by creatures called sandworms.

In the 2020 film adaptation of his book Dune, however, those sweeping deserts found a real-life home in the UAE.

The upcoming blockbuster, directed by Denis Villeneuve, has just unveiled first-look images ahead of the film's release in December. The cast has also opened up about shooting in the Middle East.

Dune is set on Arrakis, an inhospitable fictional planet that is home to the galaxy's most prized resource, a life-extending drug named "spice". The film revolves around a young royal who not only has to battle hostile native creatures to mine spice, but also uphold his family's stewardship of the land against other interstellar noble houses.

The protagonist, Paul Atreides, is played by Academy Award nominee Timothee Chalamet, who this week recounted his experiences filming in the region.

"It was really surreal," the Call Me By Your Name actor, 24, told Variety, of shooting a scene at dawn in the south of Jordan. "There are these Goliath landscapes, which you may imagine existing on planets in our universe, but not on Earth."

The film chose the otherworldly location of Wadi Rum, a spectacular red-rock desert pockmarked by granite and sandstone canyons, that has also featured in Hollywood hits The MartianStar Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Aladdin.

Shooting, which took place in the summer of 2019, then moved to the desert outside Abu Dhabi, with the UAE's dramatic sweeping sands forming the backdrop of Arrakis.

Filming in the summer heat presented new obstacles for the cast, Chalamet recalled.

“I remember going out of my room at 2am, and it being probably 100 degrees [37.7°C],” says Chalamet. “The shooting temperature was sometimes 120 degrees [48.8°C]."

As part of the sci-fi film's wardrobe, actors wore rubber bodysuits, nicknamed stillsuits, which only further exacerbated the sweltering conditions.

Quote
I remember going out of my room at 2am, and it being probably 100 degrees

“In a really grounded way, it was helpful to be in the stillsuits and to be at that level of exhaustion," said New York-born Chalamet.

In Dune, which is set to be released on Friday, December 18, Oscar Isaac and Rebecca Ferguson take on the roles of Atreides's parents, while Stellan Skarsgard portrays the head of House Harkonnen, the longstanding enemy of House Atreides.

Zendaya plays a Fremen woman, one of the native inhabitants of Arrakis, while Jason Momoa and Josh Brolin take on the roles of elite warriors who help train up the young Atreides. Dave Bautista, Charlotte Rampling and Javier Bardem round out the star-studded cast.

The film, helmed by Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 filmmaker Villeneuve, is the second silver-screen adaption of the Hugo Award-winning novel, following David Lynch's much-criticised 1984 take.

Villeneuve's take will tell the story across two films.

"I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie," the director told Variety. "The world is too complex. It's a world that takes its power in details."

Dune was the first book in Herbert's multi-layered saga, which eventually resulted in five sequels and has also spawned video games, board games and a series of follow-up books, co-penned by the author's son, Brian Herbert.