Deadline Hollywood reports that star Jason Momoa—who immortalized Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo in the first season of —is in negotiations to portray another science-fiction warrior, Duncan Idaho from , Frank Herbert’s beloved 1965 science fiction novel. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, this new film adaptation is expected to begin shooting this year.
(Mild spoilers for original novel below.
is set in the distant future (where else?), and follows the fortunes of various noble houses in what amounts to a feudal interstellar society. Much of the action takes place on the planet Arrakis, where the economy is driven largely by a rare life-extending drug called melange (“the spice”) that also conveys a kind of prescience. There’s faster-than-light space travel, a prophecy concerning a messianic figure, giant sandworms, and lots of battles, as protagonist Paul Atreides (a duke’s son) strives to defeat the forces of Shaddam IV, Emperor of the known universe.
That brief synopsis hardly does justice to the sweeping grandeur and enormous cultural influence of Herbert’s novel. When it was first published, the Chicago Tribune called it “one of the monuments of modern science fiction.” Astronomers have used the names of many fictional planets in to identify various topographical features on Saturn’s moon, Titan. Herbert wrote five sequels, and the franchise also includes board games, computer games, and numerous prequels and sequels written by his son, Brian Herbert, with Kevin J. Anderson.
It took 20 years before was finally adapted into a film in 1984 by director David Lynch, starring Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides. As an exercise in world-building, it was an impressive accomplishment, bringing so much of Herbert’s original vision to vivid life. But the plot veered away from the novel in significant ways, the acting was leaden, and the film was critically panned. (It hasn’t improved over time; the film is almost unwatchable.) The author pronounced himself pleased with the result, acknowledging the liberties taken but insisting he could “hear my dialogue all the way through.” It failed at the box office, however, grossing just $30.9 million on a $40 million budget.
In 2000, SyFy adapted the novel into an Emmy-award-winning six-part miniseries, , followed by a sequel miniseries in 2003, Both are among the channel’s most highly rated programs.
In the new adaptation by Legendary Pictures, Momoa will play Duncan Idaho, swordmaster to House House Atreides and trusted advisor to Paul. As our own Lee Hutchinson puts it, “Idaho is basically the C-3PO/R2D2 of —he’s the one character who’s present for every single book, no matter how implausibly.” (The late Richard Jordan played Duncan in the 1984 film, and James Watson played him in the SyFi miniseries.) He joins an already stellar cast, including Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Dave Bautista, Stellan Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin.