‘Dune’ Star David Dastmalchian Says Script is “True to the Spirit of the Novel,” His Character “Not Like Any Human” Encountered Before

‘Dune’ Star David Dastmalchian Says Script is “True to the Spirit of the Novel,” His Character “Not Like Any Human” Encountered Before

Dune may be one of our most anticipated pandemic-delayed movies currently on the calendar. Let’s put it this way: if vaunted filmmakers such as Alejandro Jodorowsky (whose planned project ultimately fell through, though that doesn’t mean he has any shortage of Dune opinions) and David Lynch (whose idiosyncratic 1984 film of the same name, love it or hate it, is set for a 4K release) found the appeal in adapting Frank Herbert’s touchstone novel, we should be on pins and needles to see what auteur and Film Twitter favorite Denis Villeneuve has up his sleeve for his two-part blockbuster. Now, courtesy of an interview with /Film’s very own Jack Giroux, we have some more insights straight from cast member (and apparent Dune super-fan) David Dastmalchian.

Dancing Around Dune

It’s pretty apparent that Dastmalchian is admirably bobbing and weaving his way around disclosing any spoilers whatsoever while still providing plenty to reflect on. So, like many of us, the actor wastes no time at all heaping praise on Villeneuve before also signaling his familiarity with the source material:

“…I also went and filmed Dune under the magnificent guidance of the visionary, who is Denis Villeneuve. I got the opportunity to bring to life a character who I love from the Frank Herbert novel ‘Dune,’ which is by far one of the greatest sci-fi novels ever written, in my opinion.”

Dastmalchian goes on to describe his takeaways from the script, how it stacks up against the novel, gushing that “the script is so true to the spirit of the novel.” He adds,”there is an elevated sense of purpose and tone. It’s such grand science fiction storytelling, and it’s so mind-blowing visually. But then when you get down to the characters and the way they speak, you just have to approach it the way that you do with any character. And for me, finding that was very, very challenging. Because Piter [de Vries] is not like any human I’ve ever encountered before.”

Playing a Psychopath

In Dune, Dastmalchian plays the part of the twisted Mentat Piter de Vries, who is in service to the evil Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård). A Mentat, in the Dune universe, is a person who is highly skilled in logic, computing, and cognitive thinking and trained to be a human computer, of sorts. But Piter de Vries, who was played by Brad Dourif in Lynch’s 1984 Dune, is a “twisted” Mentat, one lacking morals and willing to use his intelligence to manipulate others. But for Dastmalchian, the part didn’t require much interpretation beyond the script:

“So the character, Piter de Vries, was always utterly fascinating and disturbing and a dark place to go. I took a great deal of inspiration from the book. But then when I read the script, I was like, ‘Oh, he’s right there.’ And obviously being in the hands of someone like Denis, it was kind of a no brainer, just what he wanted him to look and move and feel like. Denis is very good at communicating those things.

Dastmalchian definitely hints at it but if you want to get a feel for exactly what kind of performance to expect, well, you can probably just look at Dastmalchian’s past credits. De Vries is certainly in keeping with that, charmingly described as “an ambitious and impatient sadist whose evil rivaled that of the Baron.” The monstrous Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, for context, is played by Stellan Skarsgård in the upcoming adaptation, whom book-readers know for his cruel and utterly ruthless leadership.

For his part, Dastmalchian seems well-aware of the kind of character he naturally gravitates towards and insists that there’s a method to the madness.

“I guarantee you, any other character I’ve ever played, there are things about them, that they may be extreme, they may look wacky or have some kind of crazy power, but there’s always something I can latch onto and connect to a human being that I’ve either known for a part of my own personality that I’m familiar with, obviously, because it’s me.

With Piter, there’s that psychopathy that comes from being a twisted Mentat, that is frightening and disturbing. And to put myself in his mindset was hard. So to utter a language, because Piter’s brain operates at such a high level, he is for all intents and purposes, a human computer, speaking in the highly specific way in which the language would come out was actually … It made perfect sense. It seemed to really add a great deal to the character. It felt more like an assist than an obstacle, if that makes sense.”

This all sounds absolutely fascinating and points toward the impressive attention to detail that Villeneuve is bringing to the proceedings. After several delays, Dune is now scheduled to hit theaters on October 1, 2021. And if this wasn’t enough, be sure to check out all the information we know so far on the project.

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