In Herbert’s eyes, the rise to power on Dune is also, perhaps ironically, a fall as well. In Villeneuve’s film, Paul’s fate is full of omen and potential. He was trained in combat by a private trainer, trained in the mystical arts by the Bene Gesserit witch nuns, and trained in diplomacy by his father, a wealthy duke. He’s billed as an unrivaled Golden Child archetype, and even has a dark mirror rival in the form of Feyd, Baron Harkonnen’s villainous nephew. If he has an evil twin, then Paul must be good. Over the course of the novels, however, Paul will unleash a jihad that will massacre billions of people. His son, Leto II, will eventually evolve into a tyrannical half sandworm.
At the start of the story, however, Paul must be a bit more than capable and perhaps slightly brooding. He has to be intense, able to fight and maybe seem a bit out of his element. For the 2021 film, Villeneuve needed an actor who had the potential to become a violent dictator, but who was also an attractive teenager that an audience might be interested in watching. He opted for Timothée Chalamet, who entered negotiations for the role in 2018, shortly after the release of his acclaimed romance film “Call Me By Your Name” and coming-of-age drama “Lady Bird”.
For Villeneuve, Chalamet embodied Paul so perfectly that there would be no “Dune” without him. Villeneuve said it at the Hollywood Reporter in November 2021:
“It sounds dramatic, but I don’t know if we would be here today talking if Timothy had said no. I mean, there was no plan B. But it’s good to make radical choices like that and say, ‘It’s him or nothing.'”