The Spice

Dune: Part 2 finds its perfect Princess Irulan with Florence Pugh

The Dune sequel just cast its most important character.

A beginning is a very delicate time. In the novel and the 1984 film version of Dune, these words are ascribed to Princess Irulan, the de facto narrator of the entire first novel. With Dune: Part Two scheduled for release in October 2023, it appears the hotly-anticipated sequel has found the right actor to play this pivotal role.

Here’s who is (probably) playing Irulan in Dune: Part Two, why she’s so important, and why this casting sounds perfect. Mild spoilers for the novels Dune and Dune Messiah ahead.

Florence Pugh at the premiere of Black Widow.Getty

Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan

According to Deadline, Marvel fan-favorite Florence Pugh has been cast as Princess Irulan in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two. As of this writing, Legendary Pictures has not commented on this, so it is not confirmed — yet.

Pugh is a wonderful choice for Princess Irulan, a character previously played by Virginia Madsen in 1984 and Julie Cox in 2000. Because Pugh is fantastic at playing characters who have complicated relationships with power (like Yelena in Marvel’s Black Widow and Hawkeye), playing Irulan is a great fit for her talents.

In the first novel, Irulan becomes the legal wife of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) but only for political reasons. Later, her motivations for chronicling the story of Muad'Dib become more complex.

Virginia Madsen as Irulan in the 1984 Dune.Warner Bros

Princess Irulan unlocks the Dune trilogy

Because Irulan is the daughter of Emperor Shaddam IV (unseen in Dune: Part One), her political power is both mighty and complicated. Like Chani and Lady Jessica, Irulan is one of the many powerful women who push the narrative of Dune forward. However, the difference between her and the members of Paul’s inner circle is stark. Essentially, Irulan is from “the other side,” aligned with the part of the Empire who doesn’t want Paul’s forces to take over the universe at first. The fact that she becomes someone who exists in both camps by the end of the first book is fascinating.

But beyond that, her arc in the sequel novel — Dune Messiah — is even more important. In that book, Irulan is involved with a conspiracy to overthrow Paul but does retain vestiges of loyalty to him, even though she acts against him. Denis Villeneuve has said on more than one occasion that he hopes to make a trilogy of Dune films, which will conclude with a film adaptation of Dune Messiah.

So, if Florence Pugh plays Irulan in Dune: Part Two, that completes the first book's story. But if Dune Messiah is also filmed at some point after 2023, that means we’ll get even more Pugh as Irulan at the conclusion of the big Dune trilogy. Also, this wouldn’t be the first time Pugh played opposite Chalamet; they both starred in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women in 2019.

Finally, of note, in the David Lynch screenplay, Irulan gets the great line, “the spice is vital.” Hopefully, Pugh’s Irulan gets to say something just as iconic.

Dune: Part Two is expected to hit theaters on October 20, 2023.

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