Dune's Hair Designer on Timothée Chalamet's Princely Mop, Zendaya's Curls, and More
1968 had 2001: A Space Odyssey, '77 had Star Wars, and '82 had Blade Runner (the first one) — this year, we get Dune, Denis Villeneuve's version, at least. Sci-fi spectacles like Villeneuve's reimagining of the Frank Herbert novel don't come around often and rarely star so many Hollywood heavyweights, and even fewer feature heads of hair quite as famous as Timothée Chalamet's.
Despite it taking place about 10,000 years into the future, this adaptation of Dune feels more grounded and real than many of its genre predecessors. It may basically be an intergalactic version of Game of Thrones, but the characters — from Chalamet's Paul Atreides to Zendaya's Chani — don't necessarily look like they're living in your typical sci-fi world. Yes, there are giant sandworms, mystical prophecies, and space travel, but there's an absence of the typical futuristic and borderline-couture garb many sci-fi films are known for. Instead, Chalamet's natural mop largely lends to the boyish charm Paul possesses as the film's young hero, while Zendaya's loose and wind-blown curls paint the picture of what living on a desert planet could actually be like.
Villeneuve spent most of his life dreaming of making his iteration of Herbert's story and the script surely says enough — after all, the film is almost three hours long — but what can't be said on paper is said through the characters' appearances, which Villeneuve left up to hair and makeup designer, Donald Mowat. Ahead, Mowat shares his BTS secrets about bringing these characters to life alongside Villeneuve, the missing redheaded characters, and Chalamet's "problematic" hair.
Why There Weren't As Many Redheads in the Film
Any book-to-movie adaptation brings about tons of criticism from long-time fans. One major difference Herbet readers noticed immediately was that there were a lot of red-headed characters missing from the trailer. To be specific, they were referring to House Harkonnen. The antagonists of the books and films have always had red hair, like Herbert originally intended, but Villeneuve had another idea: to make them bald. When you hear Villeneuve explain why — the environment of the planet these characters reside is an artificial world clouded by pollution — it makes sense. House Harkonnen is completely hairless, so Mowat used eyebrow blockers and gave the actors, including Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård), pale and borderline sickly skin.
But the Baron wasn't the only redhead missing — so was Chani, who's been described as having tawny-red hair. So, why does Zendaya rock her natural brunette color? Although Mowat is a fan of creating fiery red looks, he admitted that it's been done before and felt like this adaptation warranted something new.
Creating Zendaya's Desert Look Required Sea Salt Spray — and Only That
Speaking of Zendaya's hair, Mowat confirms there's no wig in sight — everything you see is the actress's natural head of hair. (Note: the only wig Mowat recalls using on the main cast was on Oscar Isaac, who plays Duke Leto Atreides, for pick-up shots because he cut his hair during quarantine.) Better still, not much was done to overly style it either. Considering the fact that Zendaya plays a Fremen of Arrakis, also known as "Dune," it makes sense for her look to be influenced by her desert environment.
Most of Mowat's inspiration came from books, not previous adaptations. Instead, he sourced anthropology books all about Monasticism (see: House Harkonnen) and used photographs of Bedouin groups who are known for being desert dwellers and nomads. And Zendaya's wind-swept undone look was created using one hero product: sea salt spray.
Mowat also mentioned that, being familiar with Zendaya's work on Euphoria, he wanted to create a look for her character that didn't feel like what audiences are used to seeing, i.e. lots of Emmy award-winning glitter.
Timothée Chalamet's Hair Was Problematic, but the Right Choice
While promoting the film at the Venice Film Festival, Villeneuve was asked about the most challenging aspect of directing Dune. His answer: Chalamet's hair. He assured this was a joke, but Mowat confirmed that the actor's hair was, in fact, a little "problematic."
While there's only been one hair designer who's drastically changed the actor's famous mop of brown curls for a role (Alessandro Bertolazzi for The King), Mowat said, in the case of Dune, it was 110 percent the right choice to keep Chalamet's hair as it was. Although Mowat did consider changing it, he said that the look lent to the storytelling.
"You see [Chalamet as Paul Atriedes] kind of boyish and geeky very early on," he said. Then, Paul lands on Arrakis and the wind and dust turn his mop into a lion's mane. Mowat recalls once instance of testing Chalamet's hair to see how it would really come alive. "I just stood him in front of a fan while we were in the studio and said, 'Turn that fan on!'" he recalled. "It was the right move." He is clear, though, that it was difficult to capture Chalamet's hair in reshoots and pick-up shots.
He ends his point by alluding to the anticipated sequel Villeneuve has in mind for Dune. "I was also in my head thinking where do we go?" he said. "There's more to the story." The odds of Chalamet having a buzzcut in the next film are slim, but never zero.