Dune 2: What the Anya Taylor-Joy Scene Means for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune 3

Exclusive: Denis Villeneuve discusses Anya Taylor-Joy's surprise Dune 2 character and why he believes she “is not from this world.”

Anya Taylor-Joy
Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

This article contains massive spoilers for Dune: Part Two (and possibly Dune: Part Three).

If you have seen Dune: Part Two, then you know that Anya Taylor-Joy (Furiosa, The Witch) pops up for a very brief, and very important, vision of Paul Atreides’ yet-to-be born sister, Alia. It is a nice bit of seed-planting for an eventual Dune 3, which will be based on Frank Herbert’s novel Dune Messiah. In that book, a teenage Alia plays a critical role where she is almost as deified by the populous of Arrakis as Paul himself.

When we spoke to director Denis Villeneuve, he was thrilled with Taylor-Joy’s casting and how perfectly she will match up with her onscreen brother Timothée Chalamet once cameras roll on the next Dune film, be it titled Dune Messiah, Dune: Part Three, or something else altogether. 

“The first thing is I absolutely adore her as an actress,” Villeneuve tells us. “She has features that, when you put them side-by-side, there’s a [similarity]. There’s something there. You could believe that she’s Paul’s sister.”

Ad – content continues below

The director went on to praise Taylor-Joy’s talent, which he signals will bring out the enigmatic qualities attributed to Alia, the sister of Muad’Dib, in Frank Herbert’s novels.

“Anya’s not from this world,” Villeneuve says. “She’s really from some other dimension as a human being. I adore her, and she has that kind of ethereal quality. She’s a free spirit like Alia. I was so pleased when she agreed to play that phantom character, that easter egg.”

Taylor-Joy’s casting as that easter egg is one of Dune: Two’s biggest secrets and surprises—although it more or less leaked to the internet when Taylor-Joy appeared at the Dune: Part Two premiere last month. When we spoke to Villeneuve before that event, though, the filmmaker beamed over the entire production team’s hard work at concealing the twist.

“I cannot believe we were able to keep a secret,” he said. “It was a secret. Nobody knew on set, nobody knew in the crew. Nobody. A very small amount of people knew about it. And I’m amazed that we were able to keep that secret in Hollywood where it’s the most gossiped town on Earth. It’s a test; it’s a game I’m playing with reality. Will I be able to keep the secret? It’s very exciting for me.”

But the reality is now here, as are the implications of what Alia represents for the future of the series. In Dune: Part Two, Alia remains mostly off-screen as a fetus who is in sentient communication with her mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson). This is because Alia, like her mother, drank from the psychedelic and reality-altering properties of the Water of Life, which gave both the ability to remember the past lives of countless reverend mothers who lived on Arrakis.

Film fans can expect this will lead to an Alia in a third Dune film who is wise beyond her years. Like Paul she has centuries’ worth of knowledge at her fingertips and in her mind, but this wisdom has cost her the innocence of childhood and perhaps ever really knowing her own humanity. There are some among the Fremen who even whisper she is an abomination.

Ad – content continues below

Furthermore, one major bone of contention many readers have had since the first sequel novel Dune Messiah came out in 1969 is that when that book catches up to Paul Atreides 12 years after he and the Fremen’s victory in Dune, he has changed. He’s no longer a hero; he’s a dictator whose fanatical armies have slaughtered 61 billion people across the universe. This aspect is upsetting for many of those who perceived Paul as a noble leader, yet it is central to Herbert’s ultimate theme. Paul’s “terrible purpose” is something Villeneuve certainly leans into for Dune: Part Two, and plans to continue the trend in Dune Messiah… whether it is commercial or not. 

“I think you cannot avoid Paul’s terrible purpose, that’s the structure of this whole enterprise,” said Villeneuve of the overall trajectory of the character. “Saying this, I do not like to comment on Dune Messiah because I’m writing it, and when I’m writing, I love to shut up because it’s a very delicate time where things are fragile, ideas evolve. I like to talk about movies when they are alive, finished, and strong enough to walk by themselves. Dune Messiah is barely an embryo.”

Despite being tight-lipped about that particular “embryo,” the filmmaker was able to elaborate on the fact that Warner Bros. and Legendary are 100 percent behind his envisioning the Dune trilogy as an epic tragedy. There are no plans to go soft or tread lightly around Paul’s ultimate heel turn in Messiah.

“Everybody was on board with my vision,” Villeneuve confirmed. “If you’re a Dune expert, you probably know that Frank Herbert was destabilized by the way the audience perceived Paul when they read Dune, and he was disappointed that people thought he was a heroic figure. He wanted to create the opposite, so he wrote Dune Messiah in order to correct this perception of Paul, to make sure that people will understand that Frank Herbert’s will was to make Dune a warning against charismatic figures, religious figures, and the savior coming out of a colonizer.

“Having that perspective in mind, it was for me easier to write this adaptation to be closer to Frank Herbert’s initial idea, which is that Paul Atreides is not a hero. Paul Atreides is a tragic figure that becomes negative at the end. It’s something that was at the epicenter of my preoccupation when I wrote this adaptation.”

Dune: Part Two is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Ad – content continues below