The year of Dune is upon us. On December 12, 2022, according to Timothée Chalamet (and other sources), Dune: Part Two completed filming. And yet, we’re still learning about new cast members. On January 6, 2023, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that actor Tim Blake Nelson is set to appear in Dune: Part 2. But his character has not yet been named. As journalist Borys Kit put it: “details for Nelson’s role are being kept deep in the sand.”
So who is Nelson playing? Most signs point toward one pivotal character in the first Frank Herbert novel. Then again, there might be a bigger twist that could lead to a hypothetical third Dune film. Speculation ahead.
Count Fenring in Dune: Part Two
The good money for Tim Blake Nelson’s character in Dune: Part Two is certainly Count Hasimir Fenring, husband of Lady Margot Fenring (Léa Seydoux) and childhood friend of Emperor Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken). Of all the remaining large-ish roles leftover from the first book, Count Fenring is the one person that hasn’t been announced. And because Seydoux and Walken will make their Dune debuts as Lady Margot and Shaddam IV, respectively, it would be strange if Count Fenring wasn’t in the movie, too.
Here’s why: Although Count Fenring (and Lady Margot) are mentioned early in the book, they don’t actually appear in a present until the final third of the novel. On page 521 (of the Kindle version), Fenring and Margot are hanging out in the royal court of Baron Harkonnen on Giedi Prime, watching a gladiatorial fight featuring Feyd-Rautha. Relevantly, the Fenrings are loyal to the Emperor and not on the side of the Harkonnens per se, even though the Harkonnens have colluded with the Emperor to betray House Atreides. In the book, Count Fenring’s biggest impact on the plot is to tell the Baron directly that the Emperor is mad about the way in which the Harkonnens recaptured Arrakis.
What’s super-important about this is that Fenring’s warnings to the Baron subtly shifts the larger sweep of the story. It’s not just that Paul and the Fremen need to defeat the Harkonnens, they need to dethrone the Emperor. Without Count Fenring — and Lady Margot — that shift doesn’t make sense.
It’s also possible that if Tim Blake Nelson is playing Count Fenring, we could get flashbacks in Dune: Part Two. Not only was he the childhood friend of the Emperor — and helped the Emperor ascend to power — but he and Lady Margot also lived on Arrakis before the events of the story begin.
Scytale in Dune: Part 2?
If Tim Blake Nelson isn’t playing Count Fenring, there’s an outside shot-in-the-dark chance that he could be playing a character from Dune Messiah called Scytale. In the story of Messiah, Scytale is part of a conspiracy against Paul and his family, which partly involves a resurrected ghola (clone) of Duncan Idaho. Scytale is both a face-dancer (shapeshifter) and a member of the Bene Tleilax, masters of bringing people back to life.
If Scytale were introduced in Dune: Part Two, it could indicate that the proposed trilogy of films — two movies for the first book and one movie for Messiah — might actually happen. Because the return of Duncan Idaho in the form of the ghola “Hayt” is so integral to Messiah, and, indeed, the rest of the original book series, it seems possible this could be teased in Part Two. Denis Villeneuve has said, many times, that he hopes to make a trilogy of films. If that happens, then Jason Momoa’s Duncan Idaho will return. And, you can’t have that happen without Scytale and the Bene Tleilax.
Will Tim Blake Nelson’s role be revealed before Dune: Part Two hits theaters? Maybe. But if it’s not, then perhaps the better money is on Scytale rather than the more obvious Count Fenring.
Dune: Part Two hits theaters on November 3, 2023.