The Dune: Part Two Scene That Had Florence Pugh 'Dead Terrified'

At the beginning of David Lynch's 1984 adaptation of "Dune," Princess Irulan (Virginia Madsen) narrates directly to the camera, laying out the mythology of Frank Herbert's psychedelic universe as concisely as she can. She talks about the Pashisah Emperor Shaddam IV, the valuable spice Melange, the planet Arrakis, the Fremen, and the foretold coming of a Messiah. "A beginning," she says, "is a very delicate time." Her sentiment is reflected by the filmmakers, who have their work cut out for them visualizing everything Irulan talks about. 

In Denis Villeneueve's 2024 adaptation of the same text — "Dune: Part Two" — Princess Irulan is played by Florence Pugh, and she, too, finds a beginning to be a very delicate time. One of the first times audiences see Irulan in Villeneueve's version, she is likewise dictating the events of the film, this time into a strange cylindrical dictaphone. Villeneuve's version of "Dune" eschews the story's magical, psychedelic elements in favor of political intrigue and Bene Gesserit subterfuge. Irulan, then, keeps track of the massively complicated conflict between House Atreides and House Harkonnen as a matter of diplomatic training. She, like the audience, is just trying to keep up. 

It seems that Irulan's scrambling to keep track of the plot was also felt by actress Pugh. In a recent interview with Collider, Pugh admitted that her first day on set, speaking into her dictaphone, was the most stressful of the shoot. Given what was about to happen in the story, Pugh felt a lot of weight on her shoulders; it was going to be her job to make sure everything was clear for the audience. That was no small task. 

A beginning is a very delicate time...

More than anything, Pugh was intimidated by the responsibility of starting a massive, 165-minute epic. The actress said: 

"I think one that I was nervous about, but that kind of really naughty, excited nervous, was actually my first day shooting, which was the opening scene where she's reading the diary. I was dead terrified about that. [It was] the first day of the shoot. And also, I knew that it was like the first page in the script, and I was like, 'Wow, this is intense knowing that this is going to be opening the movie.' So that was high pressure."

Having seen "Dune: Part Two," I can say that Pugh availed herself incredibly well. It also wasn't the first time Pugh opened a film; she appeared in almost every scene of William Oldroyd's excellent film "Lady Macbeth," and starred in the emotionally harrowing horror film "Midsommar" in 2019. The actress has been in her share of high-profile and low-profile projects and seems completely at ease in big-budget films. Indeed, "Dune: Part Two" wasn't even her most expensive job; the superhero film "Black Widow" cost about $100 million more than "Part Two," and she is currently filming the MCU movie "Thunderbolts," which will likely also have a massive budget. 

Pugh's nerves likely had more to do with responsibility to the story than with the cost of the film. She had to set the tone, recap the story of "Dune: Part One," let audiences know where all of the players were, all while serving as an introduction to the Emperor absent from "Part One." One can indeed see why a performer might be nervous.