Long before a Stark battled a Targaryen in Game of Thrones, House Atreides battled its enemy House Harkonnen in Frank Herbert’s epic sci-fi novel Dune. Many will argue that a screen version has never lived up to Herbert’s futuristic novel about interstellar royal houses battling for control of the universe and its main resource, the spice melange, and they would be hard to disagree with. This is in part because Dune is just one in a multi-book series with incredibly involved plot lines and scope. To do the book complete justice, you would have to take on the other books in the series, as well. Perhaps because of this, there simply haven’t been that many attempts. The 2000 miniseries Frank Herbert’s Dune was mostly faithful to the source material…yet somehow managed to turn out fairly dull and colorless despite of it. The version that will be out later in 2020 has been in the works for a while (I believe it was around this time last year when I first heard about it) and the casting (which I can’t bring myself to be terribly excited about after reading the roster) was announced months ago…
For all except one character.
Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, the sadistic nephew and heir to the villainous head of House Harkonnen, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, is the enemy of Dune‘s protagonist Paul Atreides. Intelligent, but cruel Feyd is like Paul’s evil mirror, the Tybalt to his Romeo, so one must be cast correctly for the other one to truly work. 2020’s version may be holding off on naming Feyd only to reveal it closer to the release date to create suspense. Still, it’s hard to imagine anyone creating a bigger buzz than who was cast as Feyd in David Lynch’s 1984 version…
David Lynch’s Dune (1984) has something of a bizarre reputation. It was a box office flop, yet was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound. It has been panned by critics, Herbert fans, and even Lynch himself as a pretty terrible version, yet Frank Herbert himself actually seemed to like it. However, no matter what you think of it, it’s hard to forget. It has become a cult classic, more so than 2000’s faithful version and (I’m willing to bet) more so than 2020’s version will be. Lynch may have done a lot of things wrong, but casting was not one of them. Added to this some stylistic choices that, though not faithful at all to the book, were nothing short of iconic in their visual impact.
Enter singer Sting as Feyd-Rautha, his sinewy body almost nude as he steps forward arrogantly, surrounded by steam and shining with oil, grinning provocatively under a shock of spiky, bright orange hair. I am willing to be that if you left this film with one image in your mind, there’s a good chance this was it:
Sting and David Lynch had apparently both agreed that Feyd’s entrance would be of him stepping out of a steam bath completely nude, but the studio balked at the last minute at the prospect of an audience-alienating R-rating. Instead, Sting emerges in what can only be described as a winged diaper and the rest is history.
On the surface, his casting was odd. Sting’s Feyd is not even close to the character as written. Herbert’s Feyd is a moon faced, muscular, pouty, and dark haired teenager while Sting’s is a lean, angular, and orange haired thirty-something. Sting had been the lead singer of the band The Police from 1977 until the year he made Dune, 1984. Though they had just issued their most popular album Synchronicity the year before, Sting wanted to try his hand at acting and a solo singing career instead and the band ended their run. Lynch was not sold on the idea of a pop singer playing Feyd until he saw him act, while Sting was wary of being in a big budget film only to meet Lynch and be swept away by his charismatic weirdness. It was clearly a good choice. Whether he could act or not was unimportant. The visual impact of him was and is so striking that you forget he’s only in the almost 2 and a half hour long movie for about 10 minutes. It was even enough that the film’s marketing campaign heavily featured Sting to the point where he felt nothing short of used, commenting to Sky Magazine in 1987, “I quickly learned that the publicity department of any film will ruthlessly abuse whoever’s in it. I’ve done cameo roles that I thought would be interesting, where I’ve been amazed at the way my name has been exploited. ‘Dune’ for example.”
As much criticism as David Lynch’s Dune gets, I still find it incredibly enjoyable and one of his best films (whether he agrees with me or not). Certain images and scenes (Spicy lipped Piter De Vries repeating the “It is by will alone I set my mind in motion” speech while bathed in darkness comes to mind), dripping with Lynch’s darkly strange aesthetic seep in. In addition to Sting, the casting is weirdly fantastic from young hotness Kyle MacLachlan (pre Twin Peaks’ Agent Cooper), to Lynch favorites Jack Nance and Dean Stockwell, to a Patrick Stewart with hair and a Francesca Annis without, among others. It’s at least worth seeing…especially if you fancy pop stars in flying thong undies.
This entry is part of the Pop Stars Moonlighting Blogathon, hosted by Realweegiemidget Reviews