Dune Part 2 hires superstar actor for its lead villain role

A screenshot of the Dune Part 2 logo as revealed during the film's announcement on Twitter
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Dune Part 2 has reportedly hired superstar actor Christopher Walken to play the movie's key villain.

According to multiple outlets, including Deadline, Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter, Walken has been tapped to portray Emperor Shaddam IV in the sequel to Denis Villeneuve's sci-fi extravaganza.

Walken, who recently starred in Apple TV Plus' critically-acclaimed sci-fi TV series Severance and Prime Video show The Outlaws, adds some serious star power to an already stacked A-list cast. 

The iconic actor will star opposite the likes of Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin in the follow-up flick. Meanwhile, Marvel star Florence Pugh will portray one of the daughters of Walken's Emperor – Princess Irulan – alongside Elvis actor Austin Butler and Stellan Skarsgård, who play villainous duo Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen and Baron Vladimir Harkonnen respectively.

Principal photography is expected to begin in July, with Dune Part 2 currently set for an October 2023 release. Given that production is set to start in the next few months, it's unsurprising that Villeneuve and casting director Francine Maisler are moving quickly to cast actors for the film's major roles.

Walken's casting in Dune Part 2 seems somewhat prophetic now. The award-winning actor famously starred in the video for Fatboy Slim's 2001 song Weapon of Choice, with Walken dancing his way through an abandoned hotel lobby. At one point, the lyrics of the song go: "Walk without rhythm, and it won't attract the worm" – an obvious reference to the gigantic sandworms that inhabit the planet Arrakis in Dune. Over two decades on, hopefully we'll get to see Walken's Emperor Shaddam IV fully embody those lyrics. Well, maybe in a deleted scene, anyway.

Analysis: who is Emperor Shaddam IV?

An official image of Christopher Walken staring at the camera with his fingers pressed against one another

Christopher Walken will star in Dune Part 2. (Image credit: Stephane De Sakutin)

Major spoilers follow for the first Dune movie, plus elements of the novel on which it's based.

For the uninitiated, Emperor Shaddam IV is the ruler of House Corrino and the Known Universe in Frank Hebert's iconic sci-fi novel. The 81st Emperor of the galactic empire is the puppeteer of much of what occurs in the Known Universe, regularly pulling the political strings among the numerous Houses, including the Atreides and Harkonnen families.

Emperor Shaddam IV was conspicuous by his absence in the first Dune film. However, diehard Dune fans, plus movie goers, will know that Emperor Shaddam IV joins forces with House Harkonnen to try and wipe out House Atreides; the former seeing the latter as a major threat to his dominion of the Known Universe. The two Houses combine their military forces to attack House Atreides on Arrakis, the home of the universe's spice mining operation, after Emperor Shaddam calls on House Atreides to take charge of the vital substance's production.

Of course, we all know that Chalament's Paul Atreides, alongside his mother Lady Jessica, survived the Corrino/Harkonnen attack on House Atreides. Expect the pair, plus the Fremen and any other survivors (cough cough Brolin's Gurney Halleck), to take the fight to Shaddam IV in the sequel, then.

It's likely that Dune Part 2 will follow the story plotted out in Herbert's seminal works, so we already know the fate of Emperor Shaddam IV. We won't spoil it here for you, though, if you haven't read the book.

For more Dune-based content, check out our interview with director Denis Villeneuve about the production of Dune Part 1. Additionally, read our chat with the film's chief creative team to learn about how they brought Arrakis to life.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

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