How a Dune: Part One Deleted Scene Led to Part Two Losing a Beloved Character

Thufir Hawat, you shall have your revenge.

Warner Bros.
Dune: Part Two

Despite its gargantuan 165-minute runtime, Dune: Part Two manages to feel like an admirably lean piece of filmmaking. No character is wasted and no storyline is inessential, a result of director Denis Villeneuve’s highly disciplined editing. With Dune: Part Two, Villeneuve and co-writer Jon Spaihts had to streamline the complex second half of Frank Herbert’s Dune, which dealt with various parties vying for power over Arrakis, the spice-producing desert planet, while Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) amasses a fanatical following among the Fremen. And that’s without going deep into the talking fetuses.

It’s a lot of story to condense into a more action-packed installment than Part One, which meant some things just had to be left on the cutting room floor. That included a beloved character from Dune: Part One, Thufir Hawat (Stephen McKinley Henderson). The House Atreides Mentat, which is basically a living human computer, had a role in Part Two, but was ultimately cut for time. It was a cut Villeneuve tells Inverse was “a difficult decision to make, and a very painful one.”

Stephen McKinley Henderson’s Thufir Hawat doesn’t return Part Two, despite appearing in the script.

Warner Bros.

“Thufir is a character that I absolutely love, and I love Stephen Henderson dearly,” Villeneuve says. “I wish I had been able to figure out what part of the story [to include him in], but it was not possible. It’s a movie that becomes quickly complex with the amount of characters, and I had to make a difficult choice.”

Co-writer Jon Spaihts reveals to Inverse that cutting Thufir Hawat might have been an inevitability, thanks to a plotline that was removed from Dune: Part One. “In Part One, we wrote and shot some lovely interplay in the long chess match between Piter de Vries, the Harkonnen Mentat (David Dastmalchian), and Thufir Hawat, the Atreides Mentat. And there was a lovely chess match between the two of them in Part One that didn’t make the final cut of the film... And similarly, that chess match carries on in the back half of Dune the novel.”

In Herbert’s novel, Thufir Hawat becomes a prisoner of the Harkonnens and is forced into service for the Baron (Stellan Skarsgård). But Thufir was playing his own game of deception, fostering mistrust between the Baron and his nephew Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler), and secretly breaking them down from within for revenge against those who murdered his “beloved Duke.” In the original Part Two script, Spaihts says that Henderson’s Thufir would have conducted this “revenge against the emperor, little knowing that Paul and Jessica are actually still alive.”

“There’s a lovely and heartbreaking thread of Thufir Hawat that flows through the second half of the story. And there were scenes written that would carry on and tell that story,” Spaihts says.

Denis Villeneuve directing Dune: Part Two.

Warner Bros.

Spahits isn’t sure whether Villeneuve shot these scenes or cut them in advance of shooting, but he says the cut plot “was a casualty of the inevitable streamlining of adaptation.” However, Spaihts only has only positive words for Henderson and the other actors who were cut.

“It’s always heartbreaking to see those cuts happen, but ultimately editing is a creative and a destructive act at once, and there are always losses. There are always darlings on the cutting room floor,” Spaihts says.

Dune: Part Two is playing in theaters now.

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