‘Dune 2’ — How Rebecca Ferguson Came Around to That Lady Jessica Change

Editor’s Note: The following story contains spoilers for Dune: Part Two

The Big Picture

  • Denis Villeneuve’s decision to keep Lady Jessica pregnant throughout
    Dune: Part Two
    reinforces her pivotal role in the story.
  • Ferguson was initially unsure about the choice but came to love the idea of internal conversations with her unborn child.
  • Villeneuve hints at a possible
    Dune: Messiah
    adaptation, giving Paul’s sister Alia a chance to shine in a trilogy capper.

Denis Villeneuve made it known in the run-up to Dune: Part Two that he wanted to carve out a greater role for Lady Jessica than Frank Herbert had in the back half of his original novel in 1965. The Reverend Mother, played by Rebecca Ferguson, was originally set to take a back seat in Paul Atreides’s (Timothée Chalamet) story as he unites with the Fremen, but the director decided to make one significant change that would allow her to continue playing a pivotal role. In an interview with Screen Rant leading up to the film’s release, Ferguson detailed her thoughts on Villeneuve’s choice to leave Jessica heavily pregnant throughout the film and how she came to love the decision.

Herbert’s novel takes place over a longer span of time than Villeneuve’s two-part epic. While the events of Dune: Part Two occur in several months, the novel covers years, meaning Jessica originally gave birth to her daughter Alia, who is hyper-intelligent thanks to her exposure to the Water of Life before birth, before Paul took control of the Empire. This sadly means that viewers can’t see Stellan Skarsgård‘s Baron Harkonnen being assassinated by a two-year-old, but it allowed for Ferguson’s Lady Jessica to stick around and speak telepathically to her pre-born child in the womb. The decision reinforces her position of prominence in Dune‘s story and emphasizes the extraordinary circumstances of her pregnancy. On top of everything, it created the opportunity for Anya Taylor-Joy to make a surprise appearance as a fully-grown Alia in Paul’s visions.

Ferguson was initially unsure about the choice to have her remain pregnant throughout the entirety of Dune: Part Two, but she loved the idea of her internal conversations with Alia. She described the process of trying to “balance crazy with not crazy” when conveying the dialogue on-screen as large-scale action unfolded around her:

“For me, I was so excited when Denis came up with the idea. He basically said, number one, ‘You’re going to be pregnant through the whole film, and I’m going to cover you in veils.’ And I was like, ‘Great, two seconds, I’m going to call my agents. Did I sign for the second one?’ And then he said, ‘But you’re going to have internal conversations with her.’ And I was like, ‘That’s interesting.

We tried it in different ways. I don’t know how much Denis has talked about this in previous interviews. If not, he might get really annoyed at me, but I don’t care. He loves me anyway. We had voices; we actually had conversations. We had to balance crazy with not crazy. But I had so much fun. Whilst they were on their battlefield doing their stuff, I was having internal conversations. Which I anyway have, so it was just a normal day for me, really.”

What’s Next for the World of ‘Dune’?

Although Alia is given a much-reduced on-screen role in Dune: Part Two, Villeneuve’s time in Arrakis may not be over. The director has been eyeing a trilogy capper with an adaptation of Herbert’s follow-up novel, Dune: Messiah, which would give Paul’s sister a greater chance to shine. While the ending of his second film seemingly paves the way for a sequel with the Fremen’s holy war only just beginning, he told Collider’s Steve Weintraub earlier this year that he plans to take his time with such an adaptation. A script is apparently nearly ready, but Villeneuve needs time to get everything in order, especially after the many years he took to adapt Herbert’s original novel. In the meantime, the prequel series set 10,000 years in the past, Dune: Prophecy, will further flesh out the world of Dune on Max this fall.

Dune: Part Two is currently in theaters, and it is being hailed as a must-see cinematic event by critics. Collider’s Therese Lacson similarly lauded the film with an 8/10 score, though added that it felt more like the first part in a much larger epic that has yet to be completed. Check out the trailer below.

Dune: Part Two

Paul Atreides unites with Chani and the Fremen while seeking revenge against the conspirators who destroyed his family.

Release Date
March 1, 2024

Denis Villeneuve

166 minutes

Main Genre

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