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Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is famous for meticulously storyboarding nearly every shot of his movies during preproduction. On Dune, his epic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal 1965 sci-fi novel, the director spent months dreaming up the story’s visual progression with storyboard artist Sam Hudecki, a fellow French Canadian he has worked with on six films, beginning with Prisoners in 2013.
Says Dune’s production designer, Patrice Vermette, “Denis has different storyboard options for every scene, and he lives with those up on his wall during preproduction — experimenting with the mood, economy of shots and the tempo — until he knows he’s got it exactly right.”
As he shared in this interview with The Hollywood Reporter about his decades-long journey to making Dune, Villeneuve’s storyboarding method stretches to the very origins of his identity as an artist. Growing up in a small village in rural Quebec, captivated by the cinema of Spielberg and others, he knew he wanted to tell visual stories but didn’t have access to a camera. In his early teens, he and a friend, Nicolas Kadima, instead began experimenting by carefully storyboarding movies they imagined making.
“Nicolas was a very good artist, so he did the drawing, and I would tell the stories, and we just created worlds together like that as two kids,” Villeneuve says. The boys had both recently discovered Herbert’s Dune and were obsessed with the story and its world. Thus, Dune became one of their most passionate storyboarding projects — depicting the desert adventures of Paul Atreides among the Fremen and sandworms of Arrakis.
During the lead-up to Dune’s release, Villeneuve’s brother found the old storyboards in a drawer in their father’s desk. The director later scanned and shared this panel with The Hollywood Reporter.
This story first appeared in a November stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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Behind The Screen