Interview – Josh Brolin talks about playing Gurney Halleck in Dune: Part Two

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. Paul’s mentor, Gurney Halleck, was thought lost in the first film, but he returns for part 2. Oscar-nominee Josh Brolin plays Gurney, and we spoke with him to learn more about this warrior role.


This is your third time working with Denis Villeneuve. Do you have a shorthand at this point? And how has that relationship changed as you make each film?
When we were doing Sicario, I didn’t trust him and turned down Sicario twice. Roger Deakins had said to me, quit being an asshole, get down here. And, I said, Okay. So, you know, a lot of those times when you’re in those insecure moments, doing scenes and all that, you want to make sure that you can rely on your director, and there’s a lot that goes into that, like, what take is he going to choose, how is the editor you know what I mean? I didn’t know any of that with him. But it was so collaborative during Sicario. It was incredible; we wrote a lot of that stuff, tweaked scenes, grew things and improvised, and he created a fairly high standard on that movie.

He’s a special guy because look at the trajectory of his career now. So, when this came along, there was no need to read the script. There was no need to do any of that. And, yes, he’s my close friend. It’s not always nice. It’s sometimes tense, which I prefer. If anybody hasn’t atrophied because of the attention, it’s Denis. He’s one of the few great visionaries we still have. There are a couple showing up now. Yorgos Lanthimos is pretty fucking amazing. I am so grateful to be able to do this because it allows me not to atrophy.

Music is important to Gurney, and he didn’t get to sing in the first part. Rumour has it he does get a song in Dune 2. Can you tell us anything about it?
I sang last time, but Denis decided to cut it out and rightly because it was wrong. Denis felt so bad. He felt much worse than he needed to because I’m not that insecure. I’m a little insecure. I’m not that insecure. So yeah, he cut it out for all the right reasons. This time around, he said, Brolin write the lyrics and Hans [Zimmer] do the music and work together, which was very strange. How do you get put in the same collaborative place as Hans Zimmer? It sounds like a really bad idea, but we fought our way through it; we didn’t actually fight; he travelled his way through it. And I was in the desert eating sand through it. I think the music in what was chosen is a lot better than anything I could have done. And I think the lyrics, though short, are appropriate. So yeah, there’s something in there.

Did you look to the book for inspiration to play Gurney, and did you take any ideas from the David Lynch film? Or did you follow Denis’s lead entirely?
I saw the David Lynch movie when it came out in 1984. I was 16 years old, and it had an impact. I have always been a David Lynch fan. It’s 1984; it’s a different time; they had access to different things, and technologically, they weren’t nearly as advanced as they are now. What they were able to do on this film could have never been done then. So no, it wasn’t an inspiration, per se. But given the Dune book is the top, the highest-grossing or most-selling sci-fi book of all time, just ecologically, it’s way ahead of its time. It’s an interesting story of warring families. It’s a nice Bible to have. It’s like when we did Inherent Vice, for better or worse, you got to the book even if it’s different. I brought it up a couple of times during these interviews; my wife was reading Poor Things before we had a chance to see it because we have young kids, so we never know when we can go out to the movies. The book is very different from the movie, but my wife, who loved the book, then freaked out over the movie. Are they the same? Not necessarily.

When I was reading Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles when I was 11 years old, it just exploded my brain. It made me very happy that I didn’t have to live in this reality all the time. Denis has had a relationship with this material for as long as he has; given that anything is up for interpretation, I think the two Bibles equally that I used were the book first and foremost and then Denis’s passion for the stories.

How would you describe Gurney’s relationship with Paul? 

I think it’s very paternal. In the trajectory of this part of the story of Paul turning into quote-unquote, the one, as a parent, at least for me, you’re going to have your child surpass you. Every parent hopes to raise a child that does better than they do. And then there are those parents out there that get jealous of it. Gurney is such a spiritualist character. What you get out of it is when you see the rising stratospheric trajectory of Paul, you see the pride that Gurney has around it, as long as he can be there to fight with him selfishly. It’s a very healthy paternal relationship.

What was the most ambitious moment of filming for you in this production?
It’s a swordfight that I have to do at 55 years old. That was definitely ambitious. I wouldn’t have wished that stress on any other 55-year-old. I would like to think I’m 25, but I’m not, so pain feels different than it did at 25. I am happy to know that we pulled it off. I’m happy to know that we did it. We did a fight as an oner, and I was very happy with the results. I’ve been in that situation before on Old Boy; there was a four-and-a-half-minute fight. When I first started, within 30 seconds, I was prostrating, gasping for breath, and saying, there’s no way that I can do this, which was similar to this. We got to a place where I was able to do it multiple times, and I think we did a good job.


Interview by Cara O’Doherty

DUNE: Part Two is at Irish cinemas from March 1st 2024