Oscar Isaac wasn’t supposed to have a beard in Dune at first. Critics have already praised Denis Villeneuve’s epic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s iconic science-fiction novel for its ambitious scope and visual pleasures. Dune has also exceeded the $100 million mark at the international box office ahead of its premiere in theatres and on HBO Max in the United States on Friday, October 22.
Duke Leto Atreides
Isaac plays Duke Leto Atreides in Villeneuve’s Dune, the father of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and spouse to Lady Jessica Atreides (Rebecca Ferguson). The Duke is characterised as “tall, olive-skinned,” with a slender face and grey eyes in Herbert’s novel, while no mention of facial hair is made. In previous versions, actor Jürgen Prochnow had a scant beard as the Duke in David Lynch’s 1984 film, while William Hurt portrayed the role memorably in the three-part miniseries from 2000, though he was clean-shaven and blonde to boot.
Interview With GQ
Donald Mowat, Dune’s head of hair and makeup, revealed the reason for Oscar Isaac’s perfect beard (which took an estimated 14 weeks to grow) in an interview with GQ, as well as the odd fact that he wasn’t planning on having one at all. Mowat conceived the Duke as a shaven nobleman, but Isaac and Villeneuve insisted he had facial hair, so he began researching other bearded noblemen, such as Czar Nicholas II and Prince Michael of Kent, to assist him to achieve his look. Read what Mowat had to say below:
I personally didn’t see Oscar Isaac with the beard initially. When I was working on my Photoshops and concept characters—I kind of diligently pull reference materials—I didn’t. When I heard that this could happen and Oscar and Denis had talked about it, I was a little bit surprised. I looked at it kind of with European reference, but particularly Greco-Roman. If you look at Prince Michael of Kent, who’s the Queen’s cousin, he’s the spitting image of Czar Nicholas of Russia.
When they finished stylizing the Duke’s appearance, it influenced his son Paul’s appearance as well. Mowat goes on to describe Chalamet’s “wavy, lion-like mane,” which Villeneuve joked was the film’s toughest obstacle. Mowat applied some grey colouring to Isaac’s beard and false crow’s feet to assist underline the age gap between Isaac and Chalamet and make their characters’ father-son dynamic more believable, which only took approximately 35 minutes in the makeup chair every day to prepare him for shooting.
Hair, makeup, and prosthetic designers play an important role in creating the immersive experience that these sci-fi/fantasy movies are known for, even though they are sometimes disregarded. It’s great to see Mowat gaining some attention today, and hopefully later with an Oscar nomination for Best Makeup and Hairstyling for Dune.