Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ is an epic science fiction thriller film that revolves around Paul Atreides and his family as they enter an intergalactic war for the planet of Arrakis, also known as Dune. Based on Frank Herbert’s groundbreaking 1965 novel of the same name, ‘Dune’ is a heady mix of feudal politics, colonialism, space adventure, ecology, and religion. It is also a deep dive into humankind’s obsession with power, resources, violence, and destiny. It stars Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, and Josh Brolin, and many others, in pivotal roles.
Environments and landscapes play a major role in the story and character arcs of ‘Dune.’ Just like the novel, the movie demonstrates how the environments of different planets determine the culture and future of various factions. In particular, the film focuses on Arrakis — a barren desertland that is the only source of the extremely sought-after drug melange or “the spice.” Needless to say, many are curious about where this Villeneuve directorial was filmed. Where did they bring Herbert’s fantastically detailed universe to life? Well, here’s everything you need to know about filming locations of ‘Dune!’
Dune Filming Locations
‘Dune’ is set in futuristic outer space, but surprise, surprise, it was filmed right here on Earth! It was shot in multiple locations across several continents and countries; these include the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Hungary, Norway, Austria, and Slovakia. Clearly, going by the sheer number of diverse locations, it seems evident that Villeneuve was striving for visual authenticity. Filming began in March 2019 and wrapped up in late July 2019. Additional scenes were shot in August 2020. Let’s take a closer look at the particular filming locations!
Abu Dhabi, UAE
‘Dune’ was filmed in Liwa Oasis, Abu Dhabi. Located on the northern edge of the great Rub’ Al Khali desert known as the Empty Quarter, Liwa Oasis is around 100 miles southwest of Abu Dhabi. It served as the backdrop for the planet of Arrakis because what’s better than using an actual desert for a desert planet? The fictional Arrakis is known for its hostile desert wasteland, with a severe lack of water and vegetation but an abundance of melange. Liwa Oasis is known for its magnificently large sand dunes and desert expanses as far as the eye can see.
‘Dune’ took 11 days to film in Liwa Oasis, during the hottest months of the year. Talking about the location, Villeneuve stated, “There’s a scale to the dunes and the desert in a variety of shapes that we thought was absolutely mesmerizing. There’s also some climatic conditions there that were perfect for us because of the proximity to the city. It’s like a strange kind of haze in that air that I was looking for that matched totally with the look of the film.”
Seeing the characters of ‘Dune’ against the gritty sands and harsh desert sun of Liwa Oasis really does help one in soaking in the idea of Arrakis and the Fremen people. We’ve certainly got Villeneuve to thank for this realism pertaining to the backdrops, as he insisted on avoiding greenscreens and prioritized shooting in real locations. ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens,’ ‘Sonic the Hedgehog,’ and ‘Bang Bang!’ were also filmed in the Rub’ Al Khali desert and Liwa Oasis.
Wadi Rum, Jordan
‘Dune’ was also filmed in Wadi Rum, Jordan. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wadi Rum, a protected desert valley situated in southern Jordan, also served as the planet of Arrakis. Villeneuve chose this location for its fantastical rock formations that worked beautifully as the abodes of the Fremens. His team even collected sand from Wadi Rum in order to match its color to the sand of Liwa Oasis — all for the sake of visual continuity on screen. Talk about dedication!
Filming in Wadi Rum was a deeply moving experience for the cast and crew. “There is this thing that hits you — you’re humbled by the magnitude. It was a spiritually amazing experience just to be there,” said Production Designer Patrice Vermette, talking about his first impression of the place. “I’ve never seen a desert like that. I’m a rock climber, but I’ve never seen rocks like that,” said Jason Momoa.
Clearly, Wadi Rum inspires all those who visit it, and it’s no stranger to the production of shows and films either! Several movies, such as ‘The Martian,’ ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,’ ‘Prometheus,’ and Villeneuve’s ‘Incendies,’ were filmed in this beautiful sandstone and granite rock valley. Combined with the sand dunes of Liwa Oasis, the rock formations of Wadi Rum manage to convincingly portray the home of the Fremen people.
The science fiction film was shot in Budapest, Hungary as well. A large number of interior scenes were filmed at the Origo Studios, one of the biggest film studios in Europe, located precisely at Felsőkert u. 9, 1151, Budapest. The Hungarian government granted the filming crews, including that of ‘Dune,’ entry permits at a time when the world was shutting down due to the pandemic. World-class infrastructure and talented industry professionals must have undoubtedly attracted the production team of the Denis Villeneuve directorial to Origo Studios, as well as Hungary’s 30% tax rebate.
The sets inside Origo Studios are large enough for the actors to immerse themselves into the atmosphere of ‘Dune.’ Indeed, the realistic quality of sets constructed on the production complex encouraged the actors to slip into their characters both mentally and physically. Movies like ‘Inferno,’ ‘A Good Day to Die Hard,’ and Villeneuve’s ‘Blade Runner 2049’ were also shot in this world-renowned film studio.
The film was also shot in the peninsula of Stadlandet, Norway, which has the Norwegian Sea to its north and the North Sea to its south. It served as the backdrop of the planet Caladan. Known as an ocean world, Caladan is the ancestral home of House Atreides and features a lush landscape full of mountains and rivers. Thus, it is easy to see why Stadlandet was chosen to be the on-screen version of Caladan. Stadlandet is known for its deep blue waters, white sandy beaches, lush green hills, and windy climate.
A portion of ‘Dune’ was also filmed in Austria. Commonly known as the birthplace of Classical Music, Austria is a landlocked country located in southern-central Europe. Surrounded by mountains and water bodies, the country is frequented by many for its hiking trails, wildlife parks, and river rafting. Well-loved movies like ‘Before Sunrise,’ ‘The Sound Of Music,’ and ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation‘ were filmed in this country known for its rich culture and ancient architecture.
The production team of ‘Dune’ had cameras rolling in the landlocked country of Slovakia as well. It has Poland to its north, the Czech Republic to its northwest, Hungary to its south, Austria to its southwest, and Ukraine to its east. Known for imposing mountains and vast pastures, Slovakia is a scenic delight. The small country is especially prized for its castles and rich aristocratic history, with almost 120 ruins still accessible.
‘Behind Enemy Lines,’ ‘The Auschwitz Report,’ and the 1997 film ‘The Peacemaker’ were filmed in Slovakia. ‘Dune’ is indeed a film of epic proportions. With a highly talented star-studded cast, fantastic filming locations, and Villeneuve’s artistic vision, this movie is a visual spectacle we won’t forget for a long, long time.