Dune 2 director Denis Villeneuve explains why there is a big focus on his "secret weapon" Zendaya's Chani in the sequel, honoring Frank Herbert's original intent

Zendaya in Dune: Part Two
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

When 2021's Dune first hit theaters, many were disappointed at the lack of screen time Zendaya's character Chani received. However, fans were told to be patient as filmmakers promised that she would play a larger role in the sequel, which is now arriving on the big screen this week.

And that three-year wait has been more than worth it: Chani is at the forefront of the much anticipated Dune: Part Two, with director Denis Villeneuve turning the camera onto her. As we continue to follow the journey of Paul Atreides (played by a returning Timothée Chalamet), we spend more time with the Fremen people as both they and the young duke seek revenge on the House of Harkonnen. 

Chani is central to that story, but fans of the book will notice there are some differences in the role she plays here compared to the 1965 sci-fi novel. However, according to Villeneuve this is because he wanted to honor the original intentions of author Frank Herbert and saw Zendaya's character as the way to do so. We won't go into more details here as to not spoil anything, but for the filmmaker Chani was the key to unlocking this chapter of the epic tale.

Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya in Dune: Part Two

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

He explained to GamesRadar+ why it was crucial for her to take center stage: "It’s very important. It's fundamental. Chani is my secret weapon in this adaptation because I wanted to be faithful to Frank Herbert’s initial intention."

The director continues, "When the first book was released, he was disappointed with the way people perceived the book and Paul’s character. He wanted to make a kind of cautionary tale instead of a celebration of a hero - he wanted to create an antihero. And for that he wrote Dune Messiah to correct the perception of the first book. And I knew that, so I made this adaptation in order to try to be faithful to this idea, which are Frank Herbert’s initial desires, and I use Chani’s character, I transform her. I created a critical distance, she allows me to have distance with Paul. From her perspective I can see the trial more clearly and Paul’s trajectory."

Not only has the decision earnt Zendaya's performance much acclaim from critics, with our own Total Film review complimenting how she "invests feeling in a character smartly built up from Herbert’s vision", but it has also received praise from the author's family too. Following a screening of the movie, Herbert's son Brian tweeted that "it is gratifying to see my father's story told with such great care", adding that Part One and Two combined "is by far the best film interpretation of Frank Herbert’s classic novel Dune that has ever been done".

Dune: Part Two releases in theaters worldwide on March 1. For more on the movie check out the rest of our coverage:  

Emily Murray
Entertainment Editor

As Entertainment Editor at GamesRadar, I oversee all the online content for Total Film and SFX magazine. Previously I've worked for the BBC, Zavvi, UNILAD, Yahoo, Digital Spy and more.