“He’s More Brutal.” Austin Butler’s Dune 2 Villain is a Lot Different from Sting’s

Austin Butler is diving into the new role bald-head-first.

A bald man with a serious expression, emerging from shadows in a black and white photo.
Warner Bros.
The Inverse Interview

Austin Butler’s ability to transform is becoming his trademark. From his voice-altering role in Elvis to his leading role in the upcoming war drama epic Masters of the Air, he brings a level of commitment that is rarely seen in Hollywood today. From the looks of the trailer, this passion will translate to his upcoming foray into the Dune universe as Baron Harkonnen’s ruthless nephew Feyd-Rautha in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune Part Two.

Feyd-Rautha was previously played by musician Sting in David Lynch’s Dune, and Butler revealed to Inverse how his version of the character differs from his predecessor.

“I'd already seen the film and I love David Lynch so much, and I'm a huge fan of Sting, so obviously, I really admire that,” Butler says. “But they're just completely different films, so that's one of the great joys is they can exist as two completely separate things. But I love Sting, for sure.”

Sting as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in David Lynch’s Dune.

Universal Pictures

His Feyd-Rautha is apparently incredibly different, especially in the way that matters the most. “He's more brutal,” he says. “We leaned into the brutality of the life that he grew up in and how that makes you interact with the world with a vicious nature.”

Introduced in Frank Herbert’s book as a foil and mirror image to Paul Atreides, Feyd-Rautha was another product of the Bene Gesserit’s breeding program — and a deadly fighter at that. He was the Bene Gesserit’s original hope for the chosen Kwisatz Haderach, until Paul came into play, making his rivalry with Paul even stronger. In Lynch’s 1984 Dune, Sting plays him a bit like an unhinged lunatic with a penchant for sci-fi speedos. From the looks of it, Butler’s version will be a lot more restrained, but no less ruthless.

Mastering the Air

Austin Butler and Callum Turner in Masters of the Air.

Apple TV+

But before he dons the bald cap, Butler takes to the air with his most recent role, Major Gale “Buck” Cleven in Masters of the Air. Buck, alongside his fellow Major John “Bucky” Egan, leads a division of bombers while keeping their own lives together.

“These two people are the complete opposites in personality. Bucky's an extrovert, Buck's an introvert, but at the core, they have this sensibility that's exactly the same,” Callum Turner, who plays Bucky, tells Inverse. “They both joined up before Pearl Harbor and they volunteered themselves to fight the good fight and stand up to evil in the face of adversity, flew out to England before most people did.”

Much like Feyd-Rautha, Buck Cleven is a powerful fighter who has his own legacy: he’s based on a real person, which meant Butler could do his own research to portray him. “I was very fortunate because I had this home movie of Cleven,” Butler said. “It was hours long, of just him telling stories and they're asking him questions and he's telling stories for hours. And so that was a gift for me.”

Whether it's real-life heroes or the most high-concept sci-fi villain, Austin Butler is an actor who will do his due diligence, whether the source material is a divisive sci-fi film or archive footage.

Masters of the Air premieres January 26, 2024 on Apple TV+.

Related Tags