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Is Tim Blake Nelson Missing From Dune 2? How His Absence Quietly Changes the Book

Wherefore art thou, Count Fenring.

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 01: Tim Blake Nelson attends "Nightmare Alley" World Premiere at Alice...
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Dune: Part Two
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In Dune: Part Two, one major player from the novel is totally absent, and many fans are wondering if the actor who was thought to be playing this character was cut from the final version of the movie. Although it was previously confirmed that Tim Blake Nelson would have a role in Dune: Part Two, he doesn’t appear to be in the final film. On top of that, the character of Count Fenring is missing, too.

So, what does it all mean? If Tim Blake Nelson was playing Count Fenring in Dune: Part Two — and it sounds like he was — how does his absence change the basics of Dune canon? The answer might surprise you.

Spoilers ahead for all versions of Dune.

Count Fenring is missing from Dune 2

Austin Butler as Feyd and Léa Seydoux as Lady Fenring in Dune: Part Two.

Warner Bros/Legendary

We didn’t spot Tim Blake Nelson in any scenes in Dune: Part Two, and if he is there, he has a very small role. While it might seem like a bit of a leap to say that his absence is connected to the absence of Count Hasimir Fenring in this movie, the good money was always on Nelson playing this character. In fact, in an interview with Kee Chang at Anthem, Nelson confirmed he was playing Count Fenring in Dune: Part Two, but that his scenes were cut.

“I was in a scene and the scene’s no longer in the movie,” Nelson said. “I had a really cool cameo. It was a fun little part. But as it happens, movies are too long and they have to remove some stuff. “

Having said that, Lady Margot Fenring is very much in Dune: Part Two, played brilliantly by Léa Seydoux. As in the book, Lady Fenring seduces Feyd, as part of a Bene Gesserit plot to create a bloodline that could produce a backup Kwisatz Haderach. This plotline doesn’t impact the endgame of Dune: Part Two, but the absence of Lady Fenring’s partner does create an interesting wrinkle with the Bene Gesserit plans more broadly.

How Count Fenring’s absence changes Dune

Is Count Fenring hiding in this scene...somewhere?

Warner Bros/Legendary

Count Fenring was one of those rare people in Dune who is totally invisible to the power of spice-boosted prescience. But from a movie adaptation standpoint, grounding Lady Fenring in the narrative and eliminating Count Fenring makes a lot of sense. Because Denis Villeneuve’s take on Dune tends to spotlight the Bene Gesserit machinations in favor of other book details, choosing Lady Fenring over Count Fenring is a no-brainer. On paper, he’s a slightly less interesting character, and, in the final confrontation between Paul and the Emperor, Fenring becomes famous for not following the order to kill Paul. Putting a character in a big movie who is famous for not doing something might have dragged down the brisk pace of Dune: Part Two, so, it’s pretty clear why he’s not in there.

And yet, because Count Fenring was aware of his connection to the Bene Gesserit’s plans overall, his position in the story of Dune is interesting, even if he, as a character, isn’t. Plus, in the first novel, Count Fenring is pretty much the only person who is invisible to Paul’s prescience, which is why Fenring was, at one point, considered a kind of bargain-bin Kwisatz Haderach. Basically, he’s a failed dead-end power player, who, is nonetheless the ultimate insider.

Léa Seydoux is terrific as the scheming Lady Fenring.

Warner Bros.

Long term, in the second trilogy of novels — God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune — the idea that certain people need to be born with a power that makes them invisible to prescience is literally the most urgent thing in the universe. In God Emperor of Dune, a woman named Siona Atreides, a descendent of Paul Atreides, becomes a big deal because she has “prescience-cloaking genes.” This notion becomes the focus of the final two Frank Herbert-penned Dune books, because only by freeing themselves of the power of prescience can humans avoid oppression.

Dune: Part Two ends with the beginning of the end of the tragedy that is the life of Paul Atreides. And one of Paul’s biggest downfalls is, of course, his power to see the future, and then, be locked into that future. In the novel, Count Fenring gives the reader a kind of shadowy version of Paul, because Fenring would have been immune to Paul’s visions, and thus, in a good position to kill him. But, Fenring doesn’t, and instead, is eventually exiled with the Emperor.

The new film isn’t necessarily poorer without Count Fenring. In fact, including him may have bogged down the thrust of Dune: Part Two. But because Count Fenring has the ability to be invisible to Paul’s vision, maybe that’s why he’s not in the movie. Maybe, on some level, Count Fenring is still in Dune: Part Two. We just can’t sense him.

Dune: Part Two is out in theaters now.

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