The Spice

Hold Your Horses: Dune 3 Probably Won't Arrive For At Least 5 Years — And It Shouldn't

There is an “expectation” that Denis Villeneuve will direct Dune Messiah. But let’s not mark our calendars yet.

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The story of Paul Atreides will end in darkness. Or maybe not. If and when director Denis Villeneuve tackles Dune 3 — an adaption of the second novel in the series, Dune Messiah — the world of the Atreides and the Fremen will get even more chaotic than it is at the end of Dune: Part Two. Then again, because of how much Villeneuve and co-screenwriter Jon Spaihts deviated from the original novel, it’s possible we don’t actually know what will happen in Dune 3 at all. Either way, using our spice-boosted prescience to accurately predict the arrival and shape of Dune 3 is foolish. Or, right now, it’s at least premature.

Variety recently confirmed that Legendary “ working with Villeneuve to develop a third Dune film.” This announcement was primarily focused on Villeneuve being attached to a possible adaption of the nonfiction book by Annie Jacobsen’s, Nuclear War: A Scenario. Variety stopped short of saying that Villeneuve is 100 percent directing that hypothetical movie either, beginning their article with the caveat: “Following the massive success of Dune: Part Two, director Denis Villeneuve may [emphasis mine] have found his next project.” None of this constitutes Dune 3 officially starting production, but it does give us a clue as to when this Dune movie could be released. And, clearly, it’s going to be a while.

Why Dune 3 won’t be released for at least five years

Denis Villeneuve and his partner Tanya Lapointe. Both are in talks to develop the book Nuclear War into a film.

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As of this writing, Villeneuve has at least two film projects in the works before we even start talking about Dune 3 or Nuclear War. Since 2023, Villeneuve has reportedly been developing a Cleopatra film, which, some rumors suggest, will star Zendaya in the title role. There’s also the possibility that Villeneuve will tackle the Arthur C. Clarke novel Rendezvous with Rama. In all likelihood, at least one of these movies will happen before he begins Nuclear War. According to Deadline, “The expectation is that Villeneuve would take this one [Nuclear War] as another giant project after he completes Dune: Messiah, which he and Legendary are developing as the conclusion of the trilogy.”

So, there’s a few scenarios here. The first is that Denis Villeneuve directs Cleopatra, and Rendezvous with Rama before Dune Messiah, and then, directs Nuclear War. But that could take a lot of time. To put it in perspective, the 1963 version of Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth Taylor, took roughly three years to complete filming. In the present, Villeneuve has now been working on Dune movies since 2019, that’s already been five years for him, which is why he’s said that he might need a “break” after Dune: Part Two.

Denis Villeneuve will likely make his rumored Cleopatra movie with Zendaya before Dune 3.


The second scenario is he directs all three — Cleopatra, Rendezvous with Rama, and Nuclear War — before he circles back to Dune 3. This outcome means there’s a pretty big gap between now and Dune 3, which, you could generously say is at least five years, perhaps even more.

The only scenario in which Dune 3 comes out earlier is if Denis Villeneuve backburners both Cleopatra and Rendezvous with Rama and then agrees to do Dune 3 before Nuclear War. This is of course, possible, but it seems to fly in the face of what Villeneuve has actually said. In February he made it clear that in regards to working on a Dune Messiah movie: “I don’t want to rush it... The danger in Hollywood is that people get excited and only think about release dates, not quality.”

So, Villeneuve taking on Dune 3 before any of these other movies certainly sounds like rushing it, and would 100 percent be because Hollywood people are thinking about earlier release dates.

Why Dune 3 shouldn't be rushed

The cast of Dune: Part Two. Will we miss them still in a decade? Yes!

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Other than the fact that Denis Villeneuve is correct about not wanting to rush this third Dune movie, there’s also the in-canon time jump to consider. Although the original novel has about two years pass while Paul and Jessica settle in with the Fremen, Dune: Part One and Dune: Part Two all take place during the same year. The next book, Dune Messiah, takes place 12 years after the first, but now, since Dune: Part Two covered less time than the book, you could be looking at a Dune Messiah movie set 15 or...even 20 years after the first movie.

Why would the time jump be as long as 20 years? Well, Dune: Part Two teased Anya Taylor-Joy as an adult version of Paul’s sister Alia, which seems closer to the time frame of the novel Children of Dune, not Dune Messiah, in which she’s still a teenager. If Dune 3 pulls elements from both books (like the 2003 Children of Dune miniseries did) then, we’re still dealing with a movie in which Zendaya, Florence Pugh, and certified baby-face Timothée Chalamet will all need to look older than they do now.

Despite Paul’s growth in Dune: Part Two, Timothée Chalamet remains eternally baby-faced.

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Sci-fi shows like For All Mankind have demonstrated that this kind of thing can be done convincingly with artistic care; Krys Marshall is 35 in real life, but she’s playing roughly 60 in the show’s fourth season. So, Dune 3 doesn’t necessarily need to wait a full decade for Chalamet and company to look a bit older, but it can’t hurt.

In fact, there’s totally a case to be made that Dune should be treated like Richard Linklater films, in which real-world time passes between installments. What if, instead of Dune 3 getting fast-tracked to come out in 2028, it came out in 2038? And then, what if another Dune movie came out 20 years later, and covered the events of Children of Dune?

Unintentionally, this kind of thing has actually happened with the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises; stories about aging and legacy have landed in more convincing ways because the actors have aged in real life, and time has passed for the rest of the world, too. Right now, the idea of Dune 3 feels like a hot, exciting sci-fi sequel. But, in just a little more than five years, a third Dune film will create another, even more powerful feeling than mere popularity — it could feel nostalgic.

Dune: Part Two is in theaters now.

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