Despite appearing in the first film for less than 10 minutes, Zendaya’s role in Dune: Part Two will bring some extra spice to the blockbuster. Slated for a Nov. 3 release, the follow-up adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novels will explore an epic space romance between Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides and Zendaya’s Chani, aka the literal woman of his character’s dreams. Their out-of-this-world love story wasn’t quite as smooth to film, though, and presented some unique (if not practical) challenges.
“It was funny trying to figure out in this futuristic space talk, like, how do they flirt?” Zendaya explained to Vanity Fair. “What does that look like for a space warrior and the young duke of a planet? How do they show that they like each other? What does that even sound like? We were definitely trying to navigate that, which was funny because all of us were stumped. I think it’s just as foreign to us as it probably is to the characters.”
The process, she added, was “awkward and uncomfortable” — though totally relatable to most earthlings. “I was like, Does Chani get awkward? Does that happen to her? Does she know what that feels like?” Zendaya — who’s dating Tom Holland in real life — said of her Fremen warrior character. “I think something we can all relate to is just love. These characters literally live on another planet, right? They’re aliens. It was interesting finding these tender moments in such turmoil and chaos. These characters are just young people forced into really, really intense circumstances.”
Describing Dune as a “complex world of geopolitics and with tons of ecological and technological metaphors that hold up today,” Chalamet, for his part, credited Zendaya’s character as being the key to his own onscreen portrayal. “At the center, there’s this relationship where Chani sort of becomes a moral compass,” he teased to Vanity Fair, adding, “Even to say that out loud feels kind of huge, and she’s really the humanizing, grounding force to that.”
Despite Zendaya’s screen time controversy, director Denis Villeneuve previously explained that her expanded role was always in the cards. “For Zendaya, I will say Part One was a promise. I know that we saw a glimpse of her in Part One, but in Part Two, she’ll have a prominent part,” he told Variety in March 2022. “We will follow Timothée and Zendaya on their adventures in the desert. That’s the thing that excited me most about going back to Arrakis is to spend time with those characters again.”
After Dune dropped in 2021, Zendaya also said she was most looking forward to being able to “be there for longer” in the second part of the film, which will also introduce Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan and Austin Butler as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. “Anybody who has read the books knows there’s so much more to explore and deal with,” she hinted to Deadline at the time. “What was cool for me having not been around for much of the first shoot was getting to see the movie from a completely fresh perspective, because I hadn’t seen the sets and the scenes for most of the movie. And watching it felt like just the beginning of this story.”