Austin Butler is Having All the Fun in 'Dune Part Two'

This article, as you might imagine, contains major spoilers for Dune: Part Two.

The first Dune film was a momentous step in Timothee Chalamet’s career—leading his first big-budget blockbuster—but by plot design, it was a film that played him off a bunch of OGs, each imparting different kinds of wisdom to his ascendant hero Paul Atreides. Dune: Part Two is a different story, with Zendaya now fully front and center, Florence Pugh in the mix, and most crucially, Austin Butler—a vibe shift Timmy clocked early on.

“It started on Zoom, when we did a cast reading,” Chalamet told GQ’s Dan Riley last year.

Was Butler still talking like Elvis? I asked him. “No, here’s the thing, he was already talking like Stellan Skarsgård.” That is, on day one of the first read-through, Butler had already dialed his way all the way into the character, the heir to Skarsgård’s Baron Harkonnen. “And you could see everyone was, like…”—he laughed a little nervously—“I can’t overstate how inspiring it was to me personally.”

Make no mistake—Dune: Part Two is no less Chalamet’s movie, with a performance that finds him putting levels of Bene Gesserit-approved bass in his voice that I heretofore didn’t know he was capable of. But Austin Butler? He’s having so much fun that with say, 15 minutes more screen time, he could’ve reasonably stolen the show.

He certainly washes Stellan Skarsgard and Dave Bautista—no small feat especially given that the whole first film practically coasts on the dread their imposing figures inspire. Butler plays Feyd-Rautha, the younger brother to Bautista’s Glossu Rabban and youngest nephew to Skarsgard’s Baron Vladimir. The whole Harkonnen family strikes fear in the rest of the empire, but from his first scene Butler immediately rises to the challenge of being this film’s primary antagonist, a more directly-matched opponent to Paul.

We meet Feyd-Rautha in the film’s much-hyped black and white sequence, where he takes part in a gladiator match for recreation—then vehemently insists that the stakes be truly life-or-death. The implication is clear: this is a guy who’s evil for the love of the game, who’s practically horny at the thought of bloodsport. And with his raspy voice and gnarled black teeth, Butler makes his glee feel palpable. When Feyd is promoted to whip Arrakis into shape, Rabban is reduced to a blubbering mess, and the Baron looks at him the way Prop Joe used to look at Marlo when he tried to take him under his wing: This little motherfucker’s good for business, but he might try and kill me.

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