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Denis Villeneuve and Timothée Chalamet: ‘Dune’ Dynasty

The director Denis Villeneuve and the actor Timothée Chalamet bound into the room talking at, and over, each other in rapid French. Villeneuve is from Quebec; Chalamet was born in New York City but has dual American and French citizenship. Together, they’re a dynamic tag team dressed near-identically in head-to-toe black, although Chalamet’s shiny leather layers have more swagger. The topic of the day is galactic genocide and dubious messiahs, central themes in “Dune: Part Two,” the second installment of their cerebral space epic based on the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert. Yet, the pair are prone to giggle fits.

“We didn’t see each other since a while, so it’s like a holiday,” Villeneuve, 56, said apologetically, switching to English. When coffee arrives at the room at the Four Seasons hotel in Los Angeles, the two clink mugs. “That’s our spice,” he chuckled, referring to the psychedelic substance found only on the movie’s planet Arrakis.

In “Dune,” spice is the most valuable resource in the universe. Herbert conceived of it as a glittering dust with the power to expand minds, fuel interstellar travel and incite bloody battles over its distribution. Combine the brain-melting effects of peyote, the geopolitical strife over oil and the violence of Prohibition-era bootlegging. Multiply that by the number of stars in the sky and you get the idea.

The previous “Dune,” released in 2021, won six Academy Awards. It climaxed with Chalamet’s sheltered scion, Paul Atreides, abducted from his family’s spice-mining compound and left to die in the scorching Arrakis desert, patrolled by fanged sandworms the size of the Empire State Building. To survive “Part Two,” Paul’s mother, Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), encourages the Fremen, a tribe of desert-dwellers, to believe that her son is their long-awaited savior. The danger is that Paul might be swayed to believe it, too, even as the hallucinogenic spice peppers him with visions of a jihad waged in his name.

Heavy stuff. Not that it’s weighing down their mood. As Chalamet, 28, grinned, he said, “The great irony of working with a master like Denis is it’s not some pompous experience.” The two spoke further about the next potential sequel, the impossible quest for onscreen perfection and those infamous “Dune” popcorn buckets. Here are edited excerpts from our conversation.

Scenes may look simple, the director said, but he took pains “to make sure that we have the right rock at the right color at the right time of the day.”Credit…Warner Bros.

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