Interview – JAVIER BARDEM talks about playing Stilgar in DUNE: Part 2

Dune Part 2 sees the return of Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides in Denis Villeneuve’s epic space drama. Paul must unite with Chani (Zendaya) and the Fremen to avenge the death of his family and prevent a prophesied disaster from destroying the lives of everything he holds dear. To do this, Paul must learn to live and fight as the Fremem do and looks to Stilgar (Javier Bardem), the leader of the Fremen, to show him the way. We spoke with Bardem, the Oscar-winning Spanish actor, to find out more.


Denis Villeneuve is undeniably a visionary director. What was it like working with him on the second film? Did it change the more immersed you become in the world of Dune?
Oh yeah, it was a different game because in the second one, my character, Stilgar, is more present, and it triggers many aspects in the story and the development of Timothée’s character, Paul Atreides. So, it was a different challenge than the first one; the first one was just like an appetiser. It was also a chance for me to see how beautiful Denis is as a person.

On the second one, we put ourselves to work in the sense that I really had to be more immersed; as you said, the most amazing thing about Denis, among many others, is that he’s directing this huge movie production, so complicated in real locations and huge sets. The amount of work that he must be doing is outrageous. And still, he makes you feel that you are shooting in a very low-budget movie, in the sense that you are free to go, free to experiment; he gives you the room not to improvise but really bring as many colours as you want. You don’t feel constricted by the fact that things have to be a certain way. But when you watch the movie, you understand that he had everything under control. He knew exactly what he was looking for.

Does the novelty wear off being on those big sets and real locations, or is it just as exciting every day?
It gives you the world; it’s one of those gifts that I guess when you make a movie such as this, you receive as an actor, the fact that you are working on an environment that is real, either it’s the landscape of Abu Dhabi or Jordan, beautiful deserts, so different from each other. One with humongous sand dunes or this beautiful rocky desert that pulls you right back in history, it really takes you to another different place in history. But then when you go to those sets, again, as an actor, you don’t have to imagine much.

The amazing set designer gave you that gift of putting you right there in the place. The whole Fremen place was made [by the team] and looked like they were carved on stone. When you were there, it was full of real sand. You don’t have to really work the imagination like in theatre, for example. That takes a lot of work out of your attention, which is good, meaning you can focus on other things.

Was filming in the sand a downside? I can’t imagine being able to walk through that, let alone make it look like you were born in the land.
That’s something that you learn. We had somebody teach us how to do the sand walk and all that. But we actors are the spoiled ones. We are taken by a car, do the scenes, and we go back to our trailer. The hard part is for the crew when they have to move those machines and cranes and tents. You see them working in those conditions, wow, it’s so hot there. You go to the desert at six o’clock in the morning, and you will see that they placed these super long ramps through the dunes, so the dunes don’t get footprints, but to realise the amount of work people have put into that was amazing. The whole team working together for just one take is amazing.

One of the things that really struck me is the ecological message in the film. It was announced that 2023 was the hottest year on record, and realistically, parts of Dune don’t seem that far off from happening. I know you are a big green activist, so what is your take on the ecological side of Dune?
I think the author of Dune [Frank Herbert] was very environmentally aware. He wrote Dune with a theme in his mind: the fact that the world is going to get warmer and warmer and warmer. It’s obviously there. When we were shooting in wintertime in those places, but it was still very hot, you will understand that we are not that far from the possibility that people cannot go outside because it’s way too hot. So, what can I say? Yes, it’s something that is present in the books; it is present in the movie, and we are aware of it. And I don’t know what to say other than really push our politicians to do better because those are the ones who have to help us and tell us how we can help. And we need to push them to understand that no economic interest should be over this. Because I mean, what about our grandkids?

I saw some footage from the film, and it seems Stilgar’s relationship with Paul is becoming a little parental. Would I be right in thinking that?
Yeah, it’s nice, it’s a nice arc of behaviour with Paul, because, as we learned, at the very end of the first one, I’m not very much interested in who he is. I need to understand. There’s a feeling that I have that he may be the chosen one, but there must be some signs coming my way for me to believe strongly. It’s a nice relationship between a man who wants him to be and wishes him to be the person he’s supposed to be. He’s also taken by religious fanaticism. He understands that he might be the one, then he sees him with different eyes, eyes blinded by faith, by the faith of him being the one that will help us get freed, and then you lose the perspective of the real person in front of you.

As the interview ends, Bardem says – “I love Ireland, and I love the Irish rugby team; congratulations on how well the team did last year.”


DUNE: PART TWO is at Irish cinemas from March 1st

Words – Cara O’Doherty