Zendaya’s Role In Dune Isn’t What You Think

In a recent interview, Zendaya let on that her role in Dune might not be what many were expecting. It would make the trailers misleading

By Doug Norrie | Updated

zendaya chani dune

With Dune set to hit screens in what looks to be pretty epic fashion this fall, fans have been speculating on how this story will play out in the movie version. Considering the size and scope of the Frank Herbert classic, we know that this first movie won’t be telling the entire story of the novel. One of the ways the early trailers might be misleading is how much of a role Zendaya will have in this film. While a big part of the early looks and promotional material, she could end up having a much smaller beginning role than previously thought. In fact, in an interview with Empire (via CinemaBlend), Zendaya said she was only on the Dune set for four total days of shooting. 

This comes as a major surprise considering how much Zendaya’s Chani Kynes plays in the opening trailers for Dune. It would appear that her character plays a vital role in the early story and that she and Timothee Chalamat’s Paul Atreides form their alliance early on. Here is what Zendaya had,  in part, to say about her time on set and what it could mean for how this original movie begins to play out around her character. 

I was only there for four days and I did not want to leave! Denis understands what he wants from us but he’s also very collaborative, allowing me to have my take on the character as well. I don’t want to jinx anything but I can’t wait to explore her more. 

In movie production timelines, especially regarding a film of Dune’s size and scope, four days is almost nothing. It doesn’t take much to surmise that because of this Zendaya has a very small role in Dune to start. And she goes on to say that she is excited to explore the character more in the future. This would imply the character’s story grows considerably in future films. 

We know that when Denis Villeneuve’s Dune hits the big screen in October it isn’t going to cover the entire first novel in Frank Herbert’s series. In some ways, this is a relief. Dune is such a dense and rich novel with a winding and intricate story that fitting the entire first novel into one long film to start would have been tough if trying to do justice to all storylines. And seeing as how Zendaya plays Chani, a Fremen woman who becomes linked to Paul later in the book, having her in a major role in the first film wouldn’t have made tons of sense. 

In Dune, Paul is aware of Chani’s presence on Arrakis, seeing her in a series of visions/ dreams he has early on before actually moving to the planet. Once there, it is some time before their paths ultimately cross. There is some chance that the scenes for Zendaya were those original dreams and then the first film ends with them actually meeting for the first time. In terms of the book’s overall arc, this timing would end up making the most sense. 

With a $165 million budget, Dune is setting up as an absolute epic that looks like it could actually do justice to the original novel. Joining Zendaya in the cast is Timothee Chalamat as Paul, Rebecca Ferguson as his mother Ledy Jessica of the Bene Gesserit. Plus there is Oscar Isaac as Duke Atreides, Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, and many others. And this will be a big fall/ winter for Zendaya who will also be up on the big screen in another potential blockbuster when she reprises her MJ role in Spider-Man: No Way Home.