To successfully bring the visions of Paul Atreides to the screen in “Dune”, Denis Villeneuve said that a personal experience helped him enormously, an experience involving his son and a “very spicy” banana cake.
Dune Denis Villeneuve’s demonstration
At the end of the summer of 2021, Denis Villeneuve delivered his magnificent cinematographic representation of the cult SF novel Dune. A movie to Dantesque ambition, interpreted by a cast of stars (Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Stellan Skarsgård, Javier Bardem, etc.). Also with a monumental composition by Hans Zimmer and exceptional photography by Greig Fraser… Everything has been said about Dune and now that the focus is on Dune, part two, we can talk about the first film with more distance. And reveal some secrets and anecdotes that make you smile.
This is how in a recent discussion between the nominees for the DGA (Directors Guild Awards) that the Quebec director told how he had found the inspiration to put into images the visions of Paul Atreides. This one, interpreted by Timothée Chalamet, has indeed premonitory hallucinations linked in part to the famous Spice of the universe Dune. A conversation that brought together Paul Thomas Anderson, in contention with Licorice PizzaJane Campion director of The Power of The DogKenneth Branagh, and Steven Spielberg, respective directors of Belfast and West Side Story. Excuse a bit.
Inspiration is drawn from a “bad trip” due to a space cake
During the conversation, director Jeremy Kagan, who moderates the conversation, asks Denis Villeneuve how he designed the powers of the characters of Dune, and in particular the famous visions. The latter then politely feigns embarrassment before giving an answer involving his son and banana cake mixed with marijuana (at 1’14”44 in the video below). A pastry of the famous category “spacecake” so.
One thing that helped me enormously in directing Timothée was my son who had baked a banana cake a few months before the shoot. And this cake was very “spicy”. I had the worst “bad trip” of my life (laughs). It sounds silly but it’s important to experiment yourself sometimes. And this “bad trip” with marijuana helped me a lot to explain the visions to Timothée, and the state of consciousness that I was looking for for the character.
Strangely, when I mentioned the banana cake experience to Timothée, he understood right away. (laughs). This is the truth. Don’t try.
In California as in Quebec, marijuana is freely available and its consumption is legal, which explains why the director can open up freely on the subject. This is obviously not a recommendable way to be inspired, as Denis Villeneuve himself says it was indeed the worst “bad trip” of his life. But we can observe that in this case, his film has benefited from it.