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Storyboarding 'Dune' since he was 13, Denis Villeneuve is 'still pinching' himself

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Storyboarding 'Dune' since he was 13, Denis Villeneuve is 'still pinching' himself

Rebecca Ferguson is Lady Jessica, mother to Paul Atreides, in Dune: Part Two.

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Rebecca Ferguson is Lady Jessica, mother to Paul Atreides, in Dune: Part Two.

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After much anticipation and delay, Dune: Part Two is in theaters March 1. It’s been a long time coming for Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, who remembers reading Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel Dune for the first time when he was 13.

“The idea that a boy finds home in another culture, that he feels comfortable in a foreign country — that really moved me at that time,” Villeneuve says.

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As a kid, Villeneuve dreamed of making Dune into a movie. He and his best friend would write and draw stories from the book. Then, in 1984, David Lynch’s adaptation of Dune came out, and Villeneuve felt excited — but also slightly unsatisfied.

“There were some choices that were very far from my sensibility,” he says. “I remember watching the movie, saying to myself, someday someone else will do it again.”

Villeneuve went on to become a filmmaker himself, with a string of successful hits, including Arrival, Blade Runner 2049 and Sicario. He was drawn to science fiction, which he describes as a “very poetic way” to digest and explore reality.

Throughout his career, Villeneuve kept expecting someone to revisit Dune — he just never imagined he would be the filmmaker tasked with the project.

“I’m still pinching myself,” he says, of making Dune: Part One, which came out to critical and commercial success in 2021, and now Dune: Part Two.

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Villeneuve describes Dune: Part One as a meditative film, centering on Paul Atreides, a young man (played by Timothée Chalamet) who finds himself stranded on a strange planet after his father is murdered by a rival family. In Dune: Part Two, the character becomes more active, taking control of his own destiny. “The second movie was meant to be more of an action movie,” Villeneuve explains.

Timothée Chalamet and Denis Villeneuve confer on the set of Dune: Part Two.

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Timothée Chalamet and Denis Villeneuve confer on the set of Dune: Part Two.

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Interview highlights

On why he prefers as little dialogue as possible

If I could’ve made movies without any dialogue, it would have been paradise. Dialogue for me belongs to theater or television. I’m not someone who remembers movies because of their lines. I remember movies because of their images, because of the ideas that unfold through images. That’s the power of cinema. For me, it’s not about dialogue. I hope one day I will be able to make a movie with as little dialogue as possible. That’s why silent movies were so powerful and … still today, the best movies. Normally, a great movie — you should be able to watch it without sound. And that’s the ultimate goal.

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On the complications of shooting in the desert with hundreds of crew members

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The heat was our enemy. I mean, there was a period of time in the middle of the day where it was the soup mode, you felt that your brain was cooking. I had to bring the crew away from the sun in the middle of the day. … I wanted to shoot the movie as much with natural light as possible. We shot exclusively with natural light in the desert, which meant that, in order to make no compromise aesthetically, it drove my first assistant crazy because it meant that you had to, according to sun positions, deconstruct the whole shooting schedule according to the sun’s position. And that was for my senior cinematographer and for the actors [and I] quite a crazy puzzle.

“I was in love with the idea that you could know the presence of the sandworms just by seeing suddenly the landscape shifting in the distance,” Dune filmmaker Denis Villeneuve says.

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“I was in love with the idea that you could know the presence of the sandworms just by seeing suddenly the landscape shifting in the distance,” Dune filmmaker Denis Villeneuve says.

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On figuring out how to portray the desert tribespeople known as the Fremen riding sandworms

I was in love with the idea that you could know the presence of the sandworms just by seeing suddenly the landscape shifting in the distance. You didn’t hear [anything], but just suddenly a sand dune appeared. I absolutely love how it’s more frightening not seeing the beast than actually seeing it. Jaws was a very important reference for the sandworm.

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This moment where someone rides a sandworm, it’s a very important moment in the book, but it’s kind of suggested. … [But it’s] quite vague how you actually get on the worm. So that was one of the first things I had to do [was] decide how I will make this believable. … First of all, I had to decide to think about the behavior of the beast. For me a sandworm is a powerful creature, but it’s a very shy creature … it’s a creature that doesn’t want to be at the surface … a creature from the underground. It wants to expose itself as little as possible. …

I studied extreme sports, like people who are jumping on skis … or a motorbike racer. And so I designed the way someone could jump on a worm. I did the diagrams, and I explained that to the crew. [It] was like a seminar where I explained to my crew how to ride the sandworm.

On the sandworm riding scenes requiring their own film unit

I didn’t want to make any compromises. I wanted to be as real as possible. And in order to do that, we had to use the most powerful tool that we had in our hands, which is natural light. It meant that this sequence would be shot over the course of many weeks. In order to do so, I had to figure out a way to split myself, because if I had [filmed] that worm ride myself, I would still be shooting right now. So it meant that I would need to be at two places at the same time. I was directing my main unit [and] there was what we called a worm unit. … That was the most difficult thing for me to do. Because cinema is an act of presence. I’m used to working with one camera at a time. I’m very old fashioned in that regard. And [having] to split myself in two was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

On how Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Duel inspired him to become a filmmaker

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There was always a name attached to these movies and this name was Steven Spielberg. And then I started to be more interested about what it meant to be a director. At 13 years old or something like, absolutely fascinated by the idea of, the power of, the tool of the camera. I didn’t have any camera in my life, but I was fascinated. There was something so romantic, so powerful about making movies. I became obsessed with the idea of [becoming a] filmmaker

Heidi Saman and Susan Nyakundi produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Beth Novey adapted it for the web.

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Kim Kardashian Posts Photo with Taylor Swift's Frenemy Karlie Kloss

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After years of documenting Jewish food traditions, Joan Nathan focuses on her family's

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After years of documenting Jewish food traditions, Joan Nathan focuses on her family's

After decades creating and publishing recipes, cookbook author Joan Nathan has released what she said is likely her final book, a cookbook and memoir called “My Life in Recipes.”

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After decades creating and publishing recipes, cookbook author Joan Nathan has released what she said is likely her final book, a cookbook and memoir called “My Life in Recipes.”

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Joan Nathan has spent her life exploring in the kitchen, trying new dishes and recipes all year. But every spring, for the Passover Seder, she sticks with a menu that follows her own family’s traditions. The holiday starts tonight.

“I think Passover tells us who we are, and it tells us, this is my family sharing with other families. I get chills every year at Passover, because I realized that it started in ancient Israel. I mean, it’s in the Bible!”

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Joan Nathan chops up fresh herbs for her soup and rolls matzo balls in her kitchen in Washington, D.C.

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Joan Nathan chops up fresh herbs for her soup and rolls matzo balls in her kitchen in Washington, D.C.

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Nathan has written a dozen cookbooks, documenting how food traditions evolved as Jews wandered all over the world through the centuries. Now in her 80s, her new book is her most personal work yet, excavating her own culinary history in a combination memoir and cookbook called My Life in Recipes.

“I’ve been more nervous about this book than any book… It’s sort of going into my life, you know?”

Cookbook author Joan Nathan looks through old family recipe books.

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Cookbook author Joan Nathan looks through old family recipe books.

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Nathan spoke with All Things Considered in her Washington, D.C. kitchen on a late March day, while she prepped a version of a dish she’s been eating since childhood: chicken matzo ball soup. And, like many Jewish mothers and grandmothers before her, that afternoon, she fretted over whether the matzo balls would turn out the way she wanted them to. Every family has their own recipe, whether they’re light, fluffy, hard, dense.

“So my mother’s, hers were al dente,” Nathan said. “And my mother-in-law’s were very light. You know, she was straight from Poland.”

As with every immigration story, these family recipes evolved as people relocated, fleeing wars or seeking a better life for their kids. One example is a special combination Nathan adds to her own matzo balls.

Nathan prepares matzo ball soup in her kitchen.

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Nathan prepares matzo ball soup in her kitchen.

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“I’d added ginger [and] nutmeg, which I knew was what my father’s family would have used in Germany,” she explained. “Ginger nutmeg was a very common condiment combination in the 19th and early 20th century.”

For Nathan, cooking matzo ball soup for Passover, or any Jewish holiday, just feels comfortable – like home.

“It’s the smell,” she said. “You just know that smell. Like my mother’s brisket, I know; like challah, I know. I love those smells. It knows that you’re at home, that there are people that care.”

Nathan pulls two loaves of challah out of the oven at her home in Washington, D.C.

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Nathan pulls two loaves of challah out of the oven at her home in Washington, D.C.

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While the soup simmers, Joan walks over to the living room where boxes of letters and books are laid out. They’re some of the artifacts that she’s uncovered from her family, including handwritten recipe books in German. One from her great-grandmother dates back to 1927, written in purple ink full of recipes for desserts like kuchen and caramel pudding. Nathan’s new book is full of her letters, diary entries and parts of these family artifacts.

Nathan looks through old family recipe books including one that dates back to 1927.

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Nathan looks through old family recipe books including one that dates back to 1927.

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This book is also a love story. Joan Nathan writes about her courtship and marriage of 45 years to her late husband, Allan Gerson. He died just before the pandemic. She says writing this book felt almost like a form of therapy.

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“It was my savior. I would just write. And I would include him in my life, you know? So it was a way of really making him part of my life. And I think it was really helpful to me. It really gave me strength.”

A photo of her family hangs in the living rooms as cookbook author Joan Nathan prepares matzo ball soup in the kitchen of her home in Washington, D.C.

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A photo of her family hangs in the living rooms as cookbook author Joan Nathan prepares matzo ball soup in the kitchen of her home in Washington, D.C.

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My Life in Recipes also includes anecdotes from Nathan’s prolific career, her world travels and stories of her collaborations with food luminaries that include Julia Child.

“Julia – I had her 90th birthday in this – she was sitting right here on this couch. I had a party for her. She’s somebody who just kept living,” Nathan remembered.

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“And she said to me, at 90, why should I quit if I’m doing what I like to do? And she made me realize a few things: Have people that are younger around you as you get older, be positive, don’t talk about being uncomfortable or whatever. And also, to write thank-you notes to everybody.”

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Can Celine Work Without Hedi Slimane?

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Can Celine Work Without Hedi Slimane?
After growing the brand’s annual sales to nearly €2.5 billion, the star designer has been locked in a thorny contract negotiation with owner LVMH that could lead to his exit, sources say. BoF breaks down what Slimane brought to Celine and what his departure could mean.
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