How A James Bond Delay Blessed Dune With A Crucial Crew Member

Denis Villeneuve's "Dune" films are an embarrassment of riches. With a strong ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, an arresting story, and production design to die for, the filmmaker's take on Frank Herbert's epic sci-fi saga is firing on all cylinders. The movies also have fantastic effects makeup; a talented team is responsible for turning Austin Butler into a scowling, pale villain, etching runes onto the faces of the Bene Gesserit, and making everyone generally look both hot and windswept.

Oscar-nominated makeup artist Donald Mowat is credited as head of the makeup department on both 2021's "Dune" and "Dune: Part Two," but in 2020, he told Inside The Film Room that he nearly didn't get to work on the movies after all. Mowat previously collaborated extensively with Daniel Craig, doing his makeup on films like "Cowboys & Aliens" and "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" before joining the Bond franchise for "Skyfall" and Spectre." When the opportunity to join "Dune" came up, Mowat says he was already set to work on "No Time To Die," but began rethinking his plans after multiple delays set the film back.

"It was very difficult for me because I left the Bond franchise to do 'Dune,'" Mowat explained. "I made a huge, huge change, and it was very hard for me. I love working with Daniel Craig. I truly mean it. Daniel Craig is about one of the finest-tuned human beings I know, and we have a very nice way of working." While Mowat said his creative side jumped at the idea of being able to work on "Dune," "the other part of me was like: Bond, come on."

'Maybe I am available'

The artist had already worked with Villeneuve multiple times before coming on board the film, beginning with 2013's dark and tragic drama "Prisoners." After that, the pair reteamed for "Sicario" and "Blade Runner 2049," so when "Dune" was announced, he got the call asking if he was available.

"I was in London and doing 'Spider-Man: Far From Home,' and every time I opened a newspaper, Bond was delayed," Mowat explained. "No Time To Die" was initially postponed after original director Danny Boyle and co-writer John Hodge exited the project, and its planned April 2020 release was later pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The movie eventually hit theaters in September 2021, a month before "Dune." Mowat told the outlet that his great working relationship with Craig and producer Barbara Broccoli made returning for the actor's final Bond movie feel appealing, but ultimately, "it was the safe choice." "I've never played it safe my whole life," the artist intimated, noting that he "used to turn down TV because I thought if you're going to do movies, you can't do TV."

So when the "Dune" team called, Mowat found himself thinking, "'Well, maybe I am available.'" He recalled he was at some point told to expect a 5-month delay until he could work on "No Time To Die," and in that time, he "sat there going, 'Well, I could be doing 'Dune.' I've got to do this. I don't have that many more years left; I'm in my fifties now.'"

Mowat's work scored the film one of its Oscar nominations

The actual "Dune" shoot, which took place partly in deserts that could hit 120-degree temperatures according to Timothée Chalamet, was grueling, too. "Once I got to 'Dune,' and I was there exhausted, trudging away in Jordan, I went, 'Am I insane? I could be in Capri, sipping a cocktail, doing nice makeup on Daniel Craig,'" Mowat recalled thinking in his interview with Inside the Film Room.

Still, the makeup artist said the challenge is "what [he's] about," and he clearly relished the opportunity enough to return for the second installment. His "tough choice" also paid off: Mowat won a Saturn Award for his work on Villeneuve's first "Dune" film and earned his first Academy Award nomination for the movie as well. He also got to do some creative problem-solving. In a 2022 interview with Awards Daily, Mowat said he and Villeneuve spent plenty of time deciding whether or not the look for Stellan Skarsgård's hulking ruler Baron Harkonnen could be achieved with just practical effects. They decided he could, and assembled a team to make it happen. "It's a huge makeup job; it needed a lot of preparation," Mowat told the outlet.

In the end, Mowat's team did 16 weeks of preparation for the Baron's prosthetics and makeup, which took four to six hours to apply with a crew of five people working in sync. That sounds like a far cry from sipping cocktails with Daniel Craig, but like the rest of the artist's work in the film, it turned out cool as hell.

"Dune: Part Two" (read our review) is now playing n theaters.